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Archive for the ‘comparison and competition’ Category

The trend of #liesgirlstell came up on twitter last weekend. I found a lot of retweets of this lie:

“Upload pics to Facebook, comment ‘I look so bad in this picture.'”

Made me think of why Samantha Brick was condemned. She took “bad” pictures and still liked herself.

How dare she!

When I see pictures of myself with other friends on Facebook, I usually look at myself first.  How do I look? Did those clothes work?  Whey didn’t someone tell me my hair looked like that?

Do I look okay?

A good photo can give me a feeling of security, while a bad photo can make me wonder about how well I really come across?

I know I’m not the only one. How many of us have photos in our Facebook albums that we know look better than we really look?

I do.

Right now I have this wallpaper pic on my cellphone background. It’s of me and my son. I’m smiling a typical, non-photo op smile which means the dent in my cheek is obvious and my eyes are crinkled.

It’s a smile of pleasure, not a smile of perfection. But it’s me, that is how I look when I’m happy.

I put it up because it helps me work on the reality of what I look like when I’m not posing.

Each time I pick at my cell phone I get a little reminder that I’m neither glorious or hideous. THAT this is what I look like.

Quick, I tell myself, now look inside, what is bubbling up.

When I’m feeling insecure, the picture bothers me. I don’t want to look like THAT. When I’m feeling relatively stable I think, “Hmm, that girl looks really open and happy. I like her.”

Sometimes I want to change my wallpaper to a picture of my son. It would be easier.

When we post up a picture when we have strawberries on our teeth or one eye closed then it’s fine to say, “I look funny in this picture.” Last night during our family photos I wound up with half-closed eyes for a photo. It looked really funny.

But when we scroll through pictures of ourselves and we’re looking

like we look and our friends think it looks

great

and we don’t like it.

Well, if it’s an honest picture,

wonder for a bit about why you don’t like that picture of yourself.

Do we judge ourselves for looking just plain?

Do we think we deserve less love for looking less than glossy?

“Bad” pictures are interesting for what they reveal about our own tendency to hate the working body and soul God gave us.  

Take a second and try to observe without criticizing your face.

Or try to giggle at your own photo for second, then notice the soul within.

You might find your insecurity melting into affection.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb …
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

The Message, Psalm 139:13-14


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We are hoping the readers of Let Me Be Me will weigh in on the

Samatha Brick topic!

Don’t know what that is?  Samantha Brick posted an article discussing her own beauty (worth reading). She believes she’s attractive, but, as Jonalyn tweeted it, believes it “unapologetically”.  The response has gone viral and people are responding strongly to her assertions.  Some are claiming:

  • she is not that pretty
  • she is crazy for verbalizing her experiences as an attractive woman
  • it is awesome that she has brought the topic to light

In an interview on the Today Show (worth watching and reading), she shared a few more details about the article…and we learn a bit more about this woman as a…real person.

She lives in the French countryside, has four dogs, a great group of girlfriends…and is quite surprised and hurt at some of the responses she has gotten.  Is is possible she has been misunderstood?  Is it possible that we have heard her spot-on (get it…a British saying…:) ) and that she should have posted an article on something a lot less inflaming?

In this blog on female friendship, Brick has given us some good material to work with!

So, Let Me Be Me readers…what are your thoughts?

  • Is there a little bit of Samantha Brick in you – you know your own beauty and have gotten a public response from both men and women because of it (e.g. free drinks, salty glances from other women)?
  • Do you begrudgingly tolerate women like Samantha Brick?
  • Do you have a Samantha Brick in your life?

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When I first moved to Virginia I knew I needed friends. It was easy to find girls like me.

Photo credit: pamsclipart.com

That’s a rock solid foundation for a friendship: similar interests.

I found a friend, call her Debbie, who loved French class and good tea, talking theology and breaking out of the box in loving Jesus. She cared about organization (have I mentioned that I’m really organized?) and was a true servant.

Seriously, she was always available for me. I cried in her dorm room when I found out some horrible news and I felt comfortable enough to ask for help with my laundry when I was in a pinch.

She was faithful, too. She’d stand up for me and stuck by me when a few other friends badmouthed me.

Sounds like a perfect friend, doesn’t it?

Just when everything seemed to be going peachy, when I would talk to others about how great and stable, faithful and true Debbie was to me, her younger sister came to UVA.

I met and befriended her because I felt a loyally to her, through my friendship to Debbie.

Surprisingly, this angered Debbie. You can hypothesize all you want, you can call it jealousy or possessiveness. You can say I was short-sighted to expect to be friends with both sisters.

Regardless, Debbie confronted and turned on me in a verbal attack I’m glad I’ve mostly forgotten. The words were searing, they took advantage of weaknesses I had revealed and cut me off.

When I prayed and thought and in the end asked for another audience with her, it was as if I was talking to another person. She even mocked me for asking for another chance.

Debbie used our closeness to be cruel. She finished our conversation with warning me away from her sister and set me up for months and months of coldness. Anytime I tried to be warm she cut me off with sarcasm or belittling remarks.

About this time I began analyzing what I thought we had as a friendship.

Was it all my fault?

Could I do something to make things better?

Photo credit: static.freepik.com

But years later I see what was wrong. As Virginia Woolf says, “Truth had run through my fingers.  Every drop had escaped.”

I didn’t realize the truth of two major things.

First, Debbie was quick to meet any need I had, but she couldn’t share a need of her own. She never let me help her. I can’t even imagine her crying on my shoulder or letting me do her laundry. She was needless. This was the first lie in our friendship. Now, I believe Debbie thought other people would judge her if she showed her needs. She, like all of us, believed everyone was judging her as much as she was judging them.  In looking back I can see that any time I let her help me, she ended up feeling superior, stronger, more “together”. There is nothing quite so poisonous to a friendship as taking the moral high road.

Every time.

Debbie could not admit to failing, to being wrong, to needing from me.  But, ironically she did need something, she needed me to need her.

Second, Debbie disagreed with the cardinal rule for all my relationships: there is never a good reason to be unkind.  Dale taught me that years later, but looking back I can see that it is a principle grounded in the heart of everything good about love.  Debbie believed my friendship with her younger sister warranted cruelty. To date she remains one of the most unkind women I’ve been so close to.

Her about-face in how she treated me scared me because I felt as if I was involved with someone who had two personalities.  It shocked and sent me on a looping road of what I had done to cause this.

But if there really is never a good reason to be unkind, then I can still ask and expect kindness even if I’ve made a mistake.

Looking back it would be easy to think of the years of being Debbie’s friend as a waste, as time lost with someone I am no longer close to.

But, I feel both sadness and gratitude. Sadness over Debbie and her current friendships (I know she continues to have trouble being close to anyone).  Gratitude to God, for working a deeper awareness of love and how to build friendships. Love rejoices in the truth, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13. And I didn’t let the truth about Debbie come into my belief in how great she was.

I know I need to find women who really rejoice in the truth . . . about themselves.  I need . . .

1- Friends who will let me help them as well as who will help me.

2- Friends who follow their unkindness with humility and apology.

3- Friends who don’t secretly believe they are better than me. Friends who I feel lucky to be close to and who count themselves lucky to hang out with me.

Good friendships will be natural in one way and hard work in another. But the naturalness will grow and the hard work will feel like a highway going somewhere, not a looping track.

Virginia Woolf described that naturalness well at a dinner party where she beautifully writes about the rich yellow flame of good conversation.  “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

What poor foundations have you found in your friendships? Will you share with us so we can build stronger friends for the future?

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She’s Not My Type

As part of our January “Authors” month, we wanted you to see a bit more of who we are and how we make our friendship work.  We both completed a personality test – The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which organizes personalities into different types.

This test is well-known and widely used…you might even know your own type!  What you learn from a test like this can be helpful in understanding yourself and others – the results are useful in all types of settings – career planning, social tendencies, ways of thinking and planning, relationships…and friendships!

Jonalyn (purple) & Sally (blue): A Quick View of How our Personalities Line Up

In comparing our results, I learned what I already knew.  Jonalyn is not my type – literally.  As you can see in the chart – there are places we overlap and have similarities…and there are places that leave plenty of room for miscommunication and misunderstandings.

What is Personality?
Personality is the structure of who you are, how you interpret and interact with the world around you, how you go about a daily tasks, how you work with the people in your life, how you think about things, how you spend your time.

Party!

Party!

What are you like?  What are your preferences?

One great way to evaluate some of your tendencies is to think of a party.  What does that conjure up in you?

  • Feelings of excitement and anticipation, or, feelings of exhaustion and hesitation?
  • Does the idea of planning a party appeal to you?
  • What would you plan to do after a party?  Go out with friends or speed home and jump into your pajamas?

Other aspects of personality include response to how your time is spent, how you take in information from the world around you.

  • Do you like plan and structure?
  • Do you like hands-on experiences or learning from afar (e.g. let me try! vs. show me!)?
  • Are you detail-oriented or do you work better with the “bigger picture”?
  • Do you make decisions quickly or slowly?

Jonalyn & Sally

Jonalyn’s MBTI description:

  • warmhearted, conscientious, cooperative, loyal
  • likes to work with others to complete tasks accurately and on time
  • notices others needs
  • likes to be appreciated for who they are and what they contribute
  • expresses self clearly and confidently

Sally’s MBTI Description

  • tolerant and flexible
  • quiet observer
  • analytical, problem solving
  • practical, logical, objective
  • confident, independent, self-determined

You can see a wide range of attractive characteristics in both of us.  Jonalyn brings some color and energy into my world, and she encourages me to share myself without “editing” my “presentation”.  Jonalyn says about me, “Sally shows me how to be more honest about what I feel and believe.  She gives me courage to be more fully myself.”

You are SO….

You are SO....!!!

With such fabulous characteristics, how could our friendship ever experience trouble?  How could such fun and interesting people come up on times when we had hurt feelings over miscommunications or frustrations with the other’s way of operating.

In my friendship with Jonalyn, our differences sometimes land us in a place where it feels like something in our friendship has gone wrong.  These are the times that require us to calm our defensiveness, quiet our anger and insecurities, settle the stress that wells up inside.  And then, we work to embrace who the other is, doing our best to understand our “types”.

How can that happen?  Because any personality is beautiful in itself…any two personalities can bump into each other and create rough spots.  That is why to Jonalyn, I am hard to pin down when scheduling something and sometimes go quiet in big groups and was hard to get to know.  Or to me, she can seem too structured, too matter-of-fact, and a little quick to make decisions.

  • Why can’t Sally plan further ahead of schedule?  She is SO hard to get a hold of.  OR
  • Why can’t Jonalyn relax for a second?  She is SO quick to jump to conclusions.

My friendship with Jonalyn fairs so much better when we drop the “SO” and instead add some appreciation…choosing to see each other in the best light possible.

  • Sally is one of my more open and self-aware friends.  She is always able to make time for me, even though sometimes I have to ask her specifically to be available for a chat.  OR
  • I really appreciate that Jonalyn is an organized person who wants me to be a part of her life.  Sometimes she moves more quickly than is comfortable for me, but she does a great job being present when we are together.

For all personality types, there are potential areas for growth and openness to doing things differently:

For Jonalyn’s personality structure, places she could grow might be:

  • gathering more information before making decisions
  • working harmoniously in less structured situations or settings
  • being overly sensitive to situations that upset harmony in a relationship

For me, there are ways that I am challenged to grow in my personality:

  • maintaining an emotional, verbal and attentive presence in a difficult situation or relationship
  • not postpone decisions
  • embrace more structure and organization in situations and relationships

Foreclosure! Friendship For Sale!

Foreclosure!  Friendship For Sale!

Have you had an experienced this with a friend?  Your similarities create great places for you to connect, see eye-to-eye, talk endlessly, and spend time together without feeling guilt or frustration.  But then an instance occurs…something is said or done, and all of a sudden the “happy” feelings seem really far away and the only feelings you can access are defensiveness and irritation.

This is so common!  Many women foreclose on a friendship when differences surface…because those hard situations and conversations can be difficult to get through.

Think “Type”…not “Right”

Personality Type, Not Personality "Right"

One thing about personality, is that we are all made well.  There is no wrong way to bebut definitely some great places to grow.  It is easier to understand and cozy up to our strongest characteristics and offer less openness to another way of doing things.  Personality, and understanding each other as people with a style, a way of doing things and preferences, makes for a better place to breed feelings of appreciation.  Approaching a relationship with an idea of what is the “right” or “better” way to be makes it harder for you to succeed as a friend, and for your friend to succeed in being who they really are.

In an earlier post, I refer to what I call VMV.  Value, Meaning and Validation.  Things we are all looking for, but are often challenged when we reach hard situations.  This is what defensiveness is  – a quick “call-to-arms” to protect who we are and what we think.  Differences are places were we can see personality, characteristics, styles and preferences rather than problems, stubbornness and “right” ways to be.  (look closely at the picture! 🙂 )

Although old and often forgotten, personalities and friendships fit well into the adage of The Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”  In a friendship, we feel safe and loved when we can bring our whole selves, our whole “type” to the table…and welcome our friend’s type with open arms.

Interested?  Want to Try it With a Friend?

Interested in content of this post and want to compare types with a friend, spouse or relative? Contact me for more information!

Info credit:  MBTI information adapted from MBTI Manual 3rd ed. (2003).

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I was caught by the phrase when watching The Good Wife (what an irresistible show!).  The main character, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles), whose life is constantly made public by her philandering politician husband, is having drinks with a colleague…who says,

Julianna Marguiles - The Good Wife

  • I just don’t like women.  I find them uninteresting.
  • Excuse me?
  • I don’t like women.  They’re all competing with me.
  • Don’t men compete with you?
  • No, they don’t.

While this conversation is rich with content…women as uninteresting is a comment worth laughing at…and calls for a thoughtful pause.  This take on women is common…women not liking women.  Women stereotyping women, not seeing the potential that we have to support and encourage one another despite differences…which can prevent different types of friendships from growing.

There are plenty of women out there that prefer men as friends, think of themselves less as girly-girls and enjoy the company of someone who is less high-maintenance relationally and emotionally or even a little rough around the edges.

We don’t have to be best friends with everyone…or compete for first place…or hide our true selves.  The great part of being women is that friendship can grow out of differences or similarities…there is so much interesting to be discovered in the depth of any person.

The Good Wife – Season 4, Episode 5 “Marthas and Caitlins”, CBS.

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We were all eating at this small restaurant with a large bar.  My guy friend was making eyes at the waitress, my husband was pretending not to notice and I was annoyed.

When the flirting started in earnest, I protested that she was too old for him.

“You’re just jealous,” he said.  “All girls have it in for each other,” he muttered to his other friend at our table.

Catfight, girl-vs-girl, the mommy wars, call it what you like, but we’ve got this reputation that the only thing we hate more than a chauvinist is a gorgeous woman.  Men have lots of examples, my friend was about to give me some when I stopped him.

I took a second to pull into my heart and ask myself.

Was I really just jealous of our beautiful waitress?  When I thought it through I realized I wasn’t, instead I was annoyed that my friend was making a fool of himself and distracting our waitress from doing her job.  I felt that I was on her side more than his, advocating for a professional restaurant environment, wanting to give her a chance to show her competence more than her cleavage.

Maybe it was silly given that we were at a bar, but it wasn’t fueled by jealousy. I didn’t want my guy friend’s sexual attention. I wanted him to stop behaving like the dogs on Up, distracted by his “squirrel”.
We were in the middle of a good conversation about the motivations for late term abortion when his nose went up and he sniffed her, “Female!”  I wanted to keep talking and I thought I could sense that our waitress was anything but interested.In Mad Men, AMC’s award-winning series centering on workplace dynamics in the 1960’s, the marketing firm tries to sell Playtex bras.  The begin assuming each woman wears a bra for a man to notice her. Bras are for men.

They make the same mistake my guy friend made, thinking women are around for men’s benefit, forgetting his waitress had a job to do, just like the men on Mad Men forget the very practical points of bra-wearing for women in and of themselves.

My theory is that most of the girl vs. girl animosity out there begins with this false belief: women are around for men’s benefit.  If guys are the prize and your victory with my male friend means my loss, then you are automatically my enemy.

But, if you offer more to this world than a man’s accessory, then you can be more to a woman than her competition.

You can be her friend.

photo credit: webstockpro.com, screenrant.com/mad-men-season-4-premiere-end-date-sandy-55399, downwithsquirrels.blogspot.com/2011/01/great-squirrel-war-beginning.html

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Fresh starts.  September is a time of new beginnings with school and crisp weather, January with New Years, the month of April welcomes spring.  New beginnings in friendship can happen at any time of year, in any season.  Our last few posts have dealt with elements of a friendship that might call for a fresh beginning, including a wrongdoing or hurt feelings that call for forgiveness and moving forward. There are a few ways that we might make fresh starts in friendships:

  • after a wrongdoing or betrayal
  • making a new friend
  • making a new friend after losing a friend
  • learning to trust again
  • breaking out of the same ‘ole, same ‘ole

As I began writing this post, the “learning to trust again” line stuck out to me.  Whether this is with a new friend or an old friend, trust is an element that softens a relationship.  Without trust, interactions and words seem to collide in both small and big ways, sort of banging together while one or both people try to protect themselves.

No Stranger To Pain

We have all been hurt.  We have all hurt someone else.  At times we focus more on how others have hurt us, and gear up for protecting ourselves from others in a “once bitten twice shy” manner.  As Jonalyn described in her vows post, we sometimes plant ourselves firmly in a determined place, declaring “that” will never happen again!

In the book Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No to Take Control Of Your Life, Cloud and Townsend compare emotional and relational boundaries to a fence.  There are all types of fences – scary barbed wire ones, chain link, white-picket, stone walls….  As women we learn different ways to build protection around us, and some of us end up with heavily guarded fortresses signaling “Enter at Your Own Risk” or run-down yards with an “All Are Welcome” feel.

Is there a way to balance a new beginning to find a way to border your “property” with appropriate fencing, allowing you to let trustworthy friends in and keep more difficult relationships in their proper location, further away from the sweet spots of your life.

Reconciliation & Trust

Reconciliation in a relationship has a lot to do with trust.  In relationships, we might decide to reconcile with someone who has hurt us (or whom we have hurt), or we might decide that the relationship is better if over. In one of my favorite books about health and relationships, Everett Worthington notes about forgiveness and reconciliation that “Reconciliation is restoring trust in a relationship in which trust has been damaged.  Reconciliation requires both people to be trustworthy…Reconciliation is interpersonal.  It is not granted but earned.”

Learning to trust in a relationship requires the knowledge that “The other person can talk back, bring up times when you inflicted hurt, push your buttons and provoke you to a blind rage.  But the other person can also be accommodating, contrite, remorseful and loving.  How you both act will determine the future of the relationship.”

What Now?

How to rebuild trust with a friend or in women in general?

  • Work through steps of forgiveness where necessary
  • Decide whether this is a relationship to reconcile
  • Watch the clock (not moving too fast, not waiting too long) – allow for healing but not hardness

Ways to Reconcile:

  • Stop hostilities – decide to move forward and put the decision into action (e.g. bury the hatchet, agree to disagree)
  • Come together – get together, plan an activity, enjoy a meal together that includes good conversation
  • Keep Forgiveness As An Option (sometimes we have to “re-forgive” if old hurts come up…forgiveness can be a process!)
  • Be positive – most hurt people have a wounded ego or wounded pride (that is what most of our energies go toward protecting)…smooth wounds with positive words (e.g. I really love that you…It means a lot to me that you are the type of friend that…You are so great at…)

Building A Bridge

Rebuilding trust between two people is a process; most of us are familiar with the phrase “trust is earned”.  Working toward reconnection through building trust allows two people meet in the middle.  In other words, if one person does all the work, it is not much of a relationship.

  • Decide to reconcile
  • Discuss what has happened
  • Detoxify (work through negative feelings of anger, bitterness, resentment)
  • Devote yourself to valuing the new beginning (e.g. not having one foot in the past while trying to move forward)

Whether starting fresh with a new friend, adjusting to the loss of a friend that moved or changed, or reorienting to life after the let down of a break-up ,there is a place for your love and devotion with another friend, space for you to let someone in and give trust another go-around.

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