Sunday, March 20, 2011

Things I Never Knew About Me.

A few years ago, I asked my sister to purchase a subscription for me to Newsweek as my Christmas gift. Lynn decided that was a nerdy magazine choice, so she ordered me a subscription to O, The Oprah Magazine instead. At first, I made fun of it. No self-respecting woman wants to admit that they really watch Oprah, much less subscribe to magazine bearing her image on the cover every single month.  Then, I read it from cover to cover.  Then, I found myself referencing articles that were found between her posed cover photo and Oprah's What I know For Sure. I actually found that I looked forward with anticipation to the magazine's arrival. My big sister knew what was right for me even when I didn't, and I have continued the subscription myself for the last several years. Sometimes we need other people to point things out for us about ourselves.

This weekend, my co-advisor and I traveled with a great group of students to a Student Council conference. The students spent one night with us in the hotel before beginning a home stay with local families while the advisors stayed at the hotel and drove out and back to the conference. Friday evening at the hotel, my co-advisor and I sat in the hotel lobby chatting.  I do not plan on being the Student Council advisor next year, but he feels I will continue in the role so he was offering advice. You have control issues. I do not, I said; I have high expectations and sometimes I have to step in. He then walked me through several events asking me why I felt that I needed to be the one to do this and that and even that.  It needed to be done, I said.  No one had done it, so I did. He asked why I had not asked him to do a few of the things that needed to be done.  I replied that I did not want to impose on him. When I said it, I was being totally honest with him and myself. If the choice is to ask someone to do something that would require their time and/or energy, I will do it myself. You have to let others help.  I am teary eyed by this point.  It is not that I do NOT want help.  It is that I have been raised to not ask anyone to do something that you can do for yourself. Asking for help equals weakness in my mind. My mother hates weak women.  Simply put, but it is a sentiment that was repeated over and over in my childhood and in my life.  I have to do it on my own, because if I ask you to help, it means I cannot do it. It is my official job to help you, he pointed out. Good point.  I have control issues of which I am now aware and can work on.

My co-advisor and I sat in the lobby for a little while longer and talked.  I realized he was not yet through with the great truths about myself.  You have favorites in Student Council. I denied this ridiculous allegation with a laugh.  No. You do, he said, and if a student is not a favorite, why would they work hard for you. I asked for names; he gave them.  I pointed out that those were not students, but they were the hard workers.  The alleged favorites were the ones who would do absolutely anything that needed to be done to make an event successful. I do not play well with lazy people. Again, he simply asked why would the ones who do not think they are the favorites work hard.  They are teenagers, and they are content to let the "favorites" do all the work. I have sabotaged myself... I can fix this though.

He is a bright, bright man... this co-advisor of mine... If you do not have a brilliant person sitting nearby, you can still learn things that you never knew about yourself based on my O Magazine.  Martha Beck, a life coach who has an article every month in the magazine, writes "to see yourself more clearly - all you have to do is write two simple letters." The first letter is to the person that you harp about the most often.  You know that person, that friend, relative, or co-worker, who you are always offering advice to in your head but never to their face... Write a letter to them and spell out in great elaborate detail all the things that you wish they could see.  DO NOT MAIL IT.  When you have finished the letter, cross out the name of the person to whom the letter was originally written. Now get this... Write in YOUR name, and read it. According to Martha, we see the traits that we do not like in ourselves mirrored in the people we criticize the most. If we criticize someone for wasting money and we never do that, do we waste other valuable things like time or energy? Remember all that advice, we have been giving that person in our head... Yep.. We need to take our own advice.  Wow.

You are not through yet... My co-advisor's words mattered to me because I trust him.  He also points out positive things that he sees in me.  I love my job.  I am good at my job.  He is too. I see myself reflected in his positive aspects.  I know that we are alike in a lot of ways, so I listen to him.  You need to write a second letter. Think of the person who you always smile when you think about.  The person you are most grateful for, maybe the person you are envious of. Write them a letter, an "absolutely honest letter to him or her."  Be as detailed and as adoring as possible.  Now.... you got it, change the name to yours instead.  EMBRACE this. You have a lot going for you that you may not have previously seen. We need to start treating ourselves like we treat others.

I learned about myself in our little two hour teary talk. I have some things to work on, some things to enhance, and an amazing friend.


  1. I do things instead of asking others to do them because they will be done correctly if I do them.

  2. I understand the feeling. However, if we teach others how to do the things that need to be done in the manner that we would like them to be done, maybe we would have help. I think my co-advisor was trying to get me to realize that I do not HAVE to do it all myself. He is trying to keep me from burning out, so I can continue to do the things I love.

  3. He sounds like a great friend! I am like you -- I'll do it myself before I ask anyone for help. But life thrown some things at me with which I absolutely HAVE to let others help me, and it's taught me soooooo much about trust and friendship and that whole "it takes a village" thing.

    The two letters thing makes me cringe a little, does it you? I really don't want to think that I'm like THAT person. And I could never, ever live up to the wonderfulness that is THAT OTHER person.

    But it's an interesting theory. (Eeek!)

  4. Megan, Taylor and I talked about the two letters over dinner this evening, and yes... they freak me out. I do not want to be ANYTHING like the person I criticize, but then again, I didn't notice I had control issues... Tay said he was defintely not like the person he would write the letter to, and then halfway through his rationalization, he saw that he was... The positive one will be harder to accept. The good things are harder to believe about ourselves than the bad... Why is that?