Tag Archives: self-acceptance

Exorcising my inner Joan Rivers

As I’ve blogged about earlier this week, I’ve been noticing some anxiety lately about doing things that are a bit outside of my comfort zone.

This anxiety takes a few different forms, and the ways I manage the ways that the anxiety crops up vary. One of the ways that the anxiety comes through is in thoughts meant to pull me back to my comfort zone in a very annoying way. Thoughts that if they were actually spoken by anyone else would have me pounding mad play on a loop in my head.

These include: “You’re too ugly and fat to do this. You’re setting yourself up to be ridiculed and punished.”

I tried a variety of tactics to combat these thoughts, and none of them were working for long. And then I remembered something that my new (okay, so, it’s been more than six months now) therapist said to me in her supremely comforting book- and art-filled home office. She said it sometimes helps people to externalize these thoughts and assign them to another entity, to give that entity a name and sometimes even a physical form, like a figurine, and to interact with it.

Being made of about 75% imagination, I loved this idea. I mulled it over. It came to me that what I was dealing with was my inner Joan Rivers.

I don’t know Joan Rivers.

But I hate her.

Yes, hate is a strong word. There are a few things I hate, and a few people I hate, and Joan Rivers is up there.

She reminds me of the things my grandmother, aunt and sometimes even my mom said that made me so uncomfortable and self-conscious. There’s a whole set of values that places humor above kindness, a fake “truth telling” above human dignity, a “knocking down” of people for their entirely human traits. Her success is built on cruelty. She’s the polar opposite of me in most every way I can imagine. That we are both Jewish women is not something I can control, but if she were to take up Scientology or another religion, I would not miss having her as part of my “tribe.” If you think she’s funny, I won’t judge you, but I think her form of humor is like a nasty weapon that is best used only under the most dire circumstances, not fired off at people solely for entertainment. It’s not that I lack empathy of the things she’s lived through in her life. But I still hate her.

All the harder to have an inner Joan Rivers that has me as its primary target. But when I realized that ascribing that inner annoying “don’t go there!” voice, I laughed out loud. So did new therapist when I told her. I practiced holding inner Joan Rivers in my hand, noticing how small she was. I practiced leaving her outside when I went to dance. I practiced shoving her in a drawer at work.

But then, she was quiet for a good long while. And I actually forgot about her. Until I started taking a few bigger risks. And then there she was, saying “Oh my God, you aren’t going to put that picture on the web are you?” or “Who would listen to a fat, ugly slob like you?” Only I forgot it was her. Until yesterday, and again, I found myself laughing.

So today, the goal is to identify when my inner Joan Rivers is speaking. To decide whether I want to laugh at her ridiculous tactics meant to “put me in my place” (ostensibly, like my aunt and grandma, to keep me from getting hurt by having too high expectations or being put down by others) or to tell her to shut the hell up. I have the option of putting some tape over her mouth, shoving her in a desk drawer, leaving her outside in the cold, come to think of it, I could put her in the freezer.

I do have a very hammy part of me that would love to be a stand-up comic. So, that inner Joan Rivers would be a valuable asset when dealing with any hecklers. Or unleashing on someone who truly deserves it. But not on me. And not now.

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Going too far… not going far enough

I have just a minute before getting ready for work, but I’ve been grappling with some clashes between old and new realities, usually when my time would best be spent sleeping.

As I’ve taken some risks — here on the blog, that looks like posting a full-body picture of myself, including my head, making me identifiable, and talking about political stuff (not partisan politics, but political ideas) — I start to get very anxious. I’ve been taking risks in other ways, primarily by emailing friends and family members about political stuff, too.

I don’t want to sound whiny when I talk about it (there’s some fear right there) — knowing that so many people take so much greater risks with their lives every day for what they believe in — but I do notice the impact of being in my own tiny way brave and outside of my comfort zone.

I think I am afraid of “going too far” — and also “not going far enough.”

All through elementary school, I was teased/tormented/ostracized (what now would be called bullied) by my peers, not about weight per se, but in a way that left me feeling timid and afraid to express myself. Which really, really was crappy for an extroverted, born entertainer like myself. I started to experiment with letting myself “be who I was” in Junior High, when I was in a school that was a far more child-oriented, progressive setting. And inevitably, I experienced “going too far” — and getting shut down. Stuff that would have happened in a very common way when I was younger, but it was delayed, and I was delayed from processing it until I was older than many kids are, so I took it really hard and walked away with a big worry about “being myself.” I got to experiment with being more authentic when I got to college, and it went quite well once I was at UC Santa Cruz, a progressive, student-oriented place at the time (the late 1980s).

As far as the “not far enough” goes — I think I don’t have a sense of how high to adjust the volume. Both at home and at school as a kid, I had to have my own volume turned “way down” — again, especially for a kid with a need to express myself in a way that was appreciated by others, in other words, I am and was a total ham. If I did take a risk at school, I would have been ridiculed even more, ostracized even more, risk the few friends who would spend time with me outside of school but didn’t even want to walk to school with me for fear of being targeted themselves. At home, with the craziness in my family at the time, I needed to make myself and my needs as small as I possibly could and avoid anything that looked like competition with my dad for my mom’s attention. Yeah, a particularly bad combination of factors for a kid like me. And, I’m grateful I had enough people who did give me the attention and focus I craved so I could live through that very tough time to see many more vistas open up later.

This plays into the “not going far enough” fear: If I want to do something bold — like take time off of work to attend a protest or make an appointment with one of my legislators — I can’t tell if it’s too meek or too bold. When I encouraged my friends and people here to send letters to their legislators about reinstating the taxes on candy, gum and soda, maybe that wasn’t the right thing. Too bold? Too pushy? Not the right thing?

I am not asking for reassurance from those of you kind enough to have read this far. More, I would love to know how you manage that worry about “going too far… or not going far enough.” Do tell.

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