I’ve been trying to separate the ‘inner critic’ that’s telling me I’m uninteresting and not pretty from my own thoughts this week.
My therapist (MT) tells me that I can’t keep thinking of it as true or as myself / my own voice, but as my inner critic. But if it’s not true, there must be some instances where my inner critic has been proved wrong.
Well, no one has called me pretty for a long time.
No one ever tells me I’m interesting. I don’t even know what is even remotely interesting about me. I’m not even funny (this is what MT would say is my inner critic coming out).
I can think of so many times that I have felt not pretty and not interesting.
- When someone looks somewhere else when talking to me
- When a boy follows a girl around a party and doesn’t even give a second look at me
- When someone doesn’t ask me any questions back
- When someone fawns about how great my friend looks that day and not me
I could go on and on, for years and years.
I eagerly tell this to MT. I can’t even remember the good things or the times where my inner critic has been proved wrong. I just remember the tiny details and instances where I’ve felt that way instead, and have held onto them like proof. MT tells me this is normal.
We are trying to get to the root cause why I think I’m so not pretty and uninteresting, and why I think this way before I talk to boys.
I think I know why I think I’m so not pretty.
I tell her about her more about the p word – my parents. My parents were, and are always criticising me, and it started from when as soon as I was in school with people they could compare me to.
They hated that I was always the shortest in the class, and acted like I was deliberately not growing and it was my fault with their constant disappointment. When you’re under like, 10 years old, you don’t really question your parents. I just knew like I knew that the sun is hot that my parents did not like that I was so short.
They were also incredibly immigrant Chinese, who love to solve medical mysteries by hocus pocus connections, like eating fish eye balls would make your eyesight better.
They would force me to drink milk every day, so that I would have more calcium to get stronger. We wouldn’t be able to go home unless I went on the monkey bars at school, to try ‘stretch me out’. They would make me skip everyday, literally sitting in front of me and counting each step, because jumping would ‘encourage my bones to grow taller’ like how all basketballers are tall. Well no shit Mum and Dad, it can’t have been that tall people make good ballers, not ball making tall people.
And because I was short it was my fault, that I didn’t drink enough milk, that I didn’t jump enough or higher.
Same story when I had to wear glasses. Jewellery, makeup and clothes that were ‘cool’ were a waste of money. I always felt like the ugly duckling in school, forced by my parents to wear hand me downs, or parts of the uniform that noone else was wearing but that was more practical. A few of my classmates told me I seemed poor. And I hate to hold a grudge, but how is it that other children could see it but not adults like my parents? It was like they actively wanted to embarrass me.
It was like they didn’t care what I looked like. Every other girl got cooed over by their cute pigtails, their long hair and their pink shoes while I had a bowl cut, patched trousers and whatever was on sale at the Warehouse that I would wear for months.
There is not a single time in my childhood I can remember an adult, or my parents, calling me cute. My parents NEVER called me cute or made me feel pretty. They didn’t even seem to like the way I looked.
And then there’s the weight thing, their favourite topic. My parents have ever forgotten to call me fat every time they see me since I was 18 years old and had money to buy my own food. Just a few weeks ago, my mother left me like a 5 minute voice message telling me I was getting morbidly obese.
I’m not too sure where the uninteresting thing comes in. Maybe because of my parents as well, who were, and are, not interested in getting to know me. Hand to heart, I 100% believe that my coworkers would win a quiz about me versus my parents. They probably think my favourite junk food is…. chocolate (the real ones know the answer rhymes with horange whips).
But it also came in when I started high school. My friends (that were boys) that I had had so much fun with in primary – who didn’t care that my shoes were unfashionable since we could run around in bare feet, and where we spent hours giggling and talking about our favourite books and South Park episodes – suddenly didn’t give a shit about me when I saw them again in high school, now obsessed with trying to talk to the pretty girls in class.
There was just so much proof to me. My own parents, people I thought didn’t care about the way I looked, my lack of everything compared to the girls who had everything – It just felt so real. It just feels like my thoughts. And that I still very connected to my teenage self, and that when i think of me, I think of myself with a bowl cut, glasses, no makeup, angry, spiteful and a glare on my face. No one has ever seen me angry or spiteful. But I know I am capable of it, and feel like it’s a part of my ‘true self’ because I am that way with my parents.
MT reminds me that all the proof I am collecting to validate the ‘uninteresting and not pretty’ narrative is once again, a normal way the human brain works.
It’s already been an hour. She asks if I would like to do some breathing as I am crying. I agree.
As we are deep breathing and relaxing, I can feel it bubbling away at my throat. Oh no. The sobbing is trying to claw its way out. So far it’s just been a gentle stream of tears down my face. Now my body wants to do the inelegant, full body sobs and I already start to make the noises.
MT asks me what’s happening. I tell her that the realisation that my parents who are supposed to love me unconditionally and irrationally, who are supposed to find me the most beautiful and interesting person in the world, are my biggest haters and have relished in telling me they don’t. That they have made it feel like my fault that I literally can’t measure up.
And if the people in the world that are supposed to love me unconditionally don’t find me particularly interesting or pretty, how the fuck would anyone in the world feel that way about me?
MT says to let it go, but I am extremely mindful that I need to drive home and I do not want to be sobbing while driving. Shit’s tough, I’ve done it before and I don’t want to do it again. So I keep trying to swallow down the sobs, while she tells me to let go. I don’t want to! I have to drive home and have quite a bit to do today. A sob session is not on the agenda.
I walk out of the room, my throat doing those terrible sob noises, face red and wet, my eyes welling up. Honestly, I don’t have time for a breakdown today. That will take at least half an hour to get out of my body.
A man with an Auckland Council van is blocking my car in. I nicely ask him if he can move it. He tells me I can’t park there. Yeah, well I did. He tells me again that I shouldn’t have parked there. I feel like screaming at him ‘can’t you see I’m having a fucking mental breakdown and you are parked in front of a THERAPY CENTRE? Give me a FUCKING BREAK!’
Instead of sobbing in the car home I spend it thinking of ways I should’ve cussed the guy out and by the time I get home, the sobbing session has retreated and the feeling is gone.
And fuck you van man, fuck you.