Modesty, Validation, and Acknowledging Our Strengths

Talent. Strengths. Passion. Career. I know I’ve been waxing on and on about this stuff for a while, so depending on how you’ve felt about it in the past, I imagine you will be either delighted or disappointed to read the following. See, in my current quest to figure out not only WHAT I want to do (which, as you will probably be shocked to hear, is NOT to be stuck in a cubicle for the rest of my natural-born-life), but also HOW I’m supposed to do the things I want to do in a fiscally responsible, not-gonna-move-back-in-with-my-parents kinda way, I’ve done some thinking. Go figure. And while my recent revelations may cause some of you to be like, “Uh, duh?”, I’m going to talk about them anyway. Probably in a fairly nonsensical and stream-of-consciousness kind of way. Because I can. Thbbbt. 😉

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It actually all started when I attended the Kristin Chenoweth concert a couple weeks ago. In between beautifully-sung songs and anecdotes about how her mom accidentally (but continuously) calls Fuddrucker’s “Mudf*cker’s”, she also told us quite a few stories from her pre-celebrity days. She talked about what it was like to be little and to have her first solo in church, performing and getting her first role on Broadway and as she spoke, there was no false modesty. She didn’t fish for complements, or underplay her talent. She is, and apparently always was, an absolutely incredible singer. We know it. She knows it. And why wouldn’t she? I mean, how annoying would it be if she were to say something like, “Well, I can sing fairly well, I guess…”? I’d want to smack all 4’11” of her. Hearing her talk about herself that way didn’t make me think she was conceited or immodest, even though in everyday life, my first instinct would be to mark someone as such if they were doing the same thing.

So obviously the rules that apply to celebrities don’t necessarily apply to us regular folk, it’s true. I mean, hello? Lindsay Lohan is still getting work. Wtf. Regardless, the whole experience still sparked something that I thought deserved a little thought. Our society of polite interaction and political-correctness puts a premium on modesty. You might be extremely talented, but you’re not supposed to be the one saying “I’m a gifted artist!” or “I’m a great writer!” or “I’ve got a fantastic voice!” No, that would be bragging. Society tells us that validation is supposed to come from other people. And eventually, even if we start out believing in our own abilities, it is still discouraging not to be able to tout our own strengths. Having to rely on the validation of others’ opinions gives self-doubt a lot of wiggle room.

I feel like that doubt is what ultimately prevents us from pursuing the things that we really want. Take me, for example: I want to write. I think I know that I’m a good writer. With drive and perseverance, I might even be great someday. But I don’t feel like I can really say that. What I CAN say is, “I love to write,” or “I’m passionate about writing.” It feels conceited to even think, let alone say, otherwise. Even if my intentions are correct (though, let’s be honest, when are they ever really? Haha), it still feels like bragging. So I rely on other people instead. And when their comments don’t come, or when they’re not what I want to hear, or when I’m not constantly showered with reassurance, the doubt crawls back in. I start to think, “I’ll never make it as a writer, why bother trying?” And then the mental battle ensues once again.

This applies to more than just creative talent, of course. How many of us that are on the weight loss track didn’t really feel like you were making any progress until you started to get comments and compliments from others? I lost THIRTY pounds before I started getting regular comments from people I knew, and thus it wasn’t until I was thirty pounds into my weight loss that I felt that I had succeeded. But before I lost 30, I had lost 25. And before that, I had lost 20. And so on, and so forth. Shouldn’t I have felt proud about those accomplishments, too? That thought never even occurred to me. It was only “Well, I guess I need to keep going because nobody’s noticing.” I probably fall victim to this line of thinking more than the average person, I’m sure, because I have a long and sordid history with my self-esteem. Some of you might be reading this and want to roll your eyes, chalking up my feelings to my own self-worth issues. That’s a fair reaction, although I do honestly think it goes beyond that. I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way, after all.

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I don’t have an answer for how to really fight against this way of thinking. I’d like to be able to say it’s as simple as coming up with a mantra that you repeat as you fall asleep, or sticking a Post-It to your computer screen, or writing on your mirror in lipstick, all to remind yourself that you’re awesome! You’re amazing! You’re a rockstar! But c’mon. That doesn’t exactly tackle the root of the problem, does it? I want to be able to get to a place where I don’t NEED a constant visual reminder to acknowledge that I’m good at something. That I’m possibly — GASP! — fantastic at something. And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to feel guilty about thinking that way when I do.

Why I Love Blogging

I have to be honest with you guys. I hate the word “blog”. Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of portmanteau words (as well as more than the occasional abbrev, bahaha), but every time I tell someone that I’m a “blogger” I feel like a giant toolbag.

Maybe it’s just the stigma that’s associated with blogging as it formerly was; in the days of Geocities, then Xanga, then LiveJournal, blogging brought out the worst and whiniest in us. Everyone’s personal blog was just a way to participate in memes or gripe (with poor grammar) about utter unfairness of life:

omg my moms went like totally psycho when she found out i got a c- on mr bowmans history test even tho i totally told her about how me and my so-called friend got in a HUGE fight the night before (i mean wtf! she heard us on the fone!!!!) so i couldnt study so it totally wasnt my fault but i still got grounded anyway!!!!!!!!1!! im so depressed.

… Er, yeah.

Thankfully, blogging isn’t like that anymore! Well, not all blogging, anyway. And especially not in the healthy living blogosphere (another word I frequently use now that just screams douchebaggery to me, hahaha.) Since beginning this blog, I have never felt so inspired, motivated, or supported. So thank you all for that. Really.

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Is this post cheesy enough for you yet?

And because the one thing that hasn’t changed when it comes to blogging is a blogger’s ability to talk incessantly about him or herself, let me go ahead and break down exactly why I love blogging so much.

The obvious.


I only look happy because I know there’s 10,000 calories worth of coconut shrimp coming.

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Oh, right. Life can be healthy AND awesome. Who knew?

Writing this blog has given me the accountability and motivation to lose 57 lbs on my health journey so far! I completely credit blogging with keeping me on track for over a year now (when is the last time I kept ANYTHING up for that long?) Taking back control of my life has been the hardest and best thing that I’ve ever done, and I am so, so glad I have this standing record of every part.

I’m in the know.

I must confess, I’ve never been one that you could rely on for current events. Fitting, given that I live in the political (and actual) capital of our country, isn’t it? But c’mon, are you really that surprised? As a byproduct of blogging, I’ve become much more active on Twitter and Facebook, so I feel like I’m constantly tuned into what’s going down! While I may be a little more technologically dependent than is good for me, overall this is a positive thing.

I’ve become more social.

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I used to have this image of bloggers hunched over their keyboards for hours on end (well, actually…) with absolutely no social life. Imagine my shock and delight when I suddenly realized that I’m now more social than ever! Between my fellow DC bloggers, local readers I’ve met up with, and, of course, the incredible conferences I’ve attended, I’m forging new relationships all over the place.

I’ve come to the realization that part of the reason I got to 246 pounds is because I really wasn’t very social. Of course I had friends who have always been very supportive (and continue to be!) but the sad truth of it was that more often that not I would rather have stayed in, stuffed my face with crap, and watched TV than have fun with them. How messed up is that? I can’t lie, there are still times when I’m feeling lazy and flake out on the fun stuff, but the difference now is that I regret it when I do. (Now if only I could make myself feel the same way about exercising…) I have made so many new friends through blogging: some online, some in real life, and many that I know will be in my life for the long haul.

I’ve become a better cook.

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I love to cook, and have always been passionate about good food, but my laziness and preference for convenience would always get in my way. Now I’m a true kitchen adventurer, and am constantly finding inspiration for new recipes on other blogs, at restaurants, and at the grocery store!

I’ve become a photographer.

Purple flower eaters.Take your places!Let them eat (wedding) cake!

There was a point in time when the extend of my photography knowledge was to try not not to get your thumb in the way of the flash on your camera phone. (Need proof? Just read some of my earliest posts, haha!) While my older brother, Ben, may be the true artiste in the family (musician and songwriter, photographer, entrepreneur… no big deal.) blogging has seriously sparked my love of photography. Getting to capture the world through the lens of my camera is fun, and hearing from you guys that you like what you see is just really just gravy.

It’s my creative outlet.

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Cooking, photography, and writing. Blog has literally combined the best of these worlds for me.

I’ve always loved to write. When I was 9, I used to write stories in black and white composition notebooks a la Harriet the Spy (I was OBSESSED with that movie, btw. Just ask my family how many tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches I demanded in 1996.) I made up entire worlds of faeries and gnomes and teeny tiny people, and I loved it! To this day (nerdy confession alert!) I still love coming up with story ideas (but unfortunately, have not developed the follow-through to actually write them down quite yet.) Blogging gives me the opportunity to write, plain and simple. And I may not be crafting any elaborate potentially best-selling fiction, but it’s helping me hone my skills nonetheless. Besides, to write well, you should write what you know. Well, this is what I know. (Who can name that movie reference?)

So! There you have it. All the reasons why, even if I do hate the word itself, I love to blog. And now it’s your turn:

Why do you love blogging? Or, if you aren’t a blogger, why do you love to read them?