The challenges to my self-opinion have come thick and fast, recently. Maybe it’s just the right time, or maybe it’s the universe kicking my ass into gear. Whichever it is, I’m glad of it.
I used to think I was good at self-analysis, and yet somehow have constantly been baffled when others’ opinions of me have been so vastly different from my own. Not to mention often at odds with the same. My low self-esteem is the stuff of textbook, originating in an abusive, undermining, bullied childhood, with scant situations where an alternative view was offered, and the strident voices of the majority overwhelmed those who tried to nurture me. The negatives were instilled, and it’s against those I’ve been fighting ever since.
WonderAunty had a soulmate – Bear – who was very wonderfully growly, and very VERY wise. She tells me he used to combat self-negativity by instructing the mea doing the culpaing to remember “Pupils, dahling – pupils”, and to acknowledge the truth in how vastly different things (and the self) can be when seen through other people’s eyes. I’m thankful, SO thankful, to have been blessed with people willing to stand and fight the self-negatives alongside me. And not just one or two, either, but positive FLOODS of people, all keen to let me know they care; they want good things for me; that I matter to them.
I matter. Something I struggled with for years. The idea that I could even have the value/temerity to take up space in someone’s heart, or in their day, if they weren’t somehow obliged to let me, was baffling. I spent years apologising for myself, hating myself when I began to care about someone new because I didn’t want to burden them with my ‘friendship’, yet still less wanted to lose them. I spent countless hours agonising about how to make my impact on the world and the people around me lighter, more pleasant, more positive, and please, somehow acceptable…
Wasted hours? No. I’m thankful for each one of them, for through those awkward, stumbling times of testing relationships, I’ve come to a place of acceptance. I now accept, with such gratefulness, that people wanted me in their lives, not from obligation or duty, but from a place of genuinely wanting to be involved in my life, and for me to be involved in theirs. They sought the connection with me. They cherished it. In the face of my confusion, they loved me. Probably in spite of their irritation at my constant uncertainty.
The latest challenge came to me in the form of Dana’s ‘Who I Am’ project – the prompt for February being to share how we seem through the eyes of people who love us. I’m NOT one of the people who loves me, not yet, but I’m getting there, and magic is being wrought from the positive input of others*.
I could easily wax lyrical about my position in the family, as daughter/niece/sister/aunty. I could rhapsodise for hours (and have done, in the past) about my friends. But…ask me to explain what they think of ME, and you’ll get a rabbit-in-the-headlights look, and a completely blank mind. It’s not that I’ve no idea, because I could probably make suggestions based on feedback, but if I’m honest, it makes me vastly uncomfortable to try to convey other people’s positive opinions about me. Partly because I’m so much more comfortable with negative ones, and partly because I’d hate to do them the disservice of over (or under) stating the facts, or missing anything out.
So I asked. I went and asked a handful of women I trust and love, whether they’d be willing to write something short I could share here in order to meet the criteria for the link-up. Thankfully, none of them laughed in my face, and all were willing to write down ‘how they see me’.
It was revelationary:
Dearest Lizzi…how I see you, through my eyes.
I drew an eye, and at the centre, the pupil, is YOU – my lovely special Lizzi, whose company I so much enjoy.
Then there’s the iris. That startling blue, with all the flecks of colour, shade and nuances. I thought of your creativity – your writing, books and poems; your way with words; your paintings, beach art, the way you make beautiful things. I also see you as a person with energy – you muck in. Your commitment to family and friends shows itself in action; like your willingness to help out with [Niece] and [Neff], and the way you get stuck in on the allotment – all that digging!
I like your enthusiasm, joy, smiles, laughter, fun. There’s a warmth in your relationships – you send parcels with lots of glitter, writer letters; there’s hugs and kisses with [Niece] and [Neff]. They adore you.
I shall always associate you with blankets and sleep! And Scrabble. You do great online stuff; 10 Things of Thankful; Being Real with your friends, and being there for them.
You’re a hard worker, pond inspector, cyclist, stylish, thrifty, unique. There’s only one YOU. Be as truly yourself as you can. That’s the richness of our being. Of YOUR being, and I LOVE all the light and shade and speckles and flecks and nuances that make you who you are.
With all my love,
from Mum xxx
When I look at you dearest Lizzi,
What do I see?
I see you as a beautiful person – giving and encouraging goodness and enabling ways of being
I see you as a courageous person – seeking to make sense of your history and heal the parts of painful past to transform into something precious
I see you as a dedicated person – committed with your heart, mind, body and soul, to others and to your values and your dreams – attaining your aims and shaping your future
I see you as a fun-loving person – creating enjoyment, laughter and fun
I see you as an intelligent person – witty and wise, knowledgable and insightful
I see you as warm and snuggly – in your blankets, napping, taking me back in a flash to the baby with colic, walked for *hours* to keep asleep
I see you as a loving person – of friends and family, all round the sides of the pond, much-loved and much-treasured
I see you as a creative person – wonderful writer, capturing moments, creating characters and narrative; finding the essence in poetry and pictures
Most of all, I see you as ‘being’ – the person I love and wish to know you are loved to your core by me and others; that you are accepted and valid; treasured and cherished – that in your face I see the years in kaleidoscope snuggled with those we love, those still with us and those whose beautiful faces we hope we may see again one day but are always in our hearts, mine and yours, our shared history of love and laughter, of family moments and poems, of shared struggled and achievements, but always * for * each other. I long for you to know that you are beautiful and loved to your core and to know deep acceptance and inner peace.
YOU dearest dizzi-lahling reflecting in my pupils, held in my love, treasured and adored, finding yourself as we all do daily, redeeming the moments, sharing of your dear and loved self.
AND… with the most beautiful name and strong chosen identity, whizzing and fizzing, full of glittery-glorious-wonderfulness – Lizzi Rene Lewis ; ) Hoorah!
Sis (written nearly a year ago, and borrowed from where she put it on Facebook)
Lizzi, i have been wanting to say this to you for a while; In the past 6 months i have seen a huge rise in acts of compassion in people, in the news. Just people helping others, out of compassion. I was telling mum the other day, “She’s done it mum; she has been the one person with persistence and honesty that has truly changed the world.” So many times I have heard the phrases #1000Speak #compassion and #silverlinings #tenthingsofthankful in completely in unrelated situations (sometimes #tenthingsofgrateful – but I think they got the idea off you.) I remember when you started this blogging thing, and to look at it now, WOW! Your hard work really has paid off. Almost everyday I hear someone talking about silver linings or something on the internet about compassion. So this is too say that I am SO enormously proud of you big sis! You have made a wonderful difference to so many peoples lives, even indirectly. If I had a huge shiny, sparkly, and glitter covered (of course), golden award, it would have your name all over it! I love you, and I love how much you have loved the world through your writing. You’re the best bean xx
Hasty – my Sunset; my 1000mile heart
Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without social media and I realize I wouldn’t have met you and that is UNIMAGINABLE. I remember when you asked me to write for you and your energy was off the charts. Here was this amazing artist with words who was excited about me writing for her.
I think I blew off your comments at the time because you know my brain said all the usual stuff like “if she really knew me she wouldn’t say that”. But you stayed and you commented your way into my heart. Your words ended up reaching me. And then… we wrote together.
How can someone else so much like me exist? And then I saw (really looked) at you… and I saw me. Your smile, your eyes, the shape of your face! You were a better reflection of the person I saw in my own mirror. And the weird and impossible thing is you saw me as a better reflection of you.
You say I taught you what love means but really you taught me. Maybe we taught each other. I know I am a better person and more stable because of you. We are connected. And I know it is an always and forever kind of connection. We just get each other and our ways.
I will always be there for you. ALWAYS.
I love you ❤
Kristi – one of my ‘Lifeboats’ and longest-held-most-treasured friends here in the World Between the Wires
How do I see Mz. Lizzi?
Most obviously as somebody shamelessly preening for compliments asking those of us who she *knows* adore her “And just how do you see me?” I can almost see her bat her eyes while she looks up grinning, knowing that probably, she’s going to be really happy about what we tell her, or, when times require, bop her over the head with.
In all seriousness though, if I had a wish for our Lizzi, it would be for her to see herself the way that the rest of us do. When she’s not asking for compliments, she is an amazing friend who offers support, love, and genuine friendship to so many of us online and in real. She is generous of time and of spirit, and brightens lives hourly with her wit, her enthusiasm, and her genuine love of Her People and Lifeboats. She’s a treasure, and a rare one.
My son adores her, and why wouldn’t he? She’s fun, energetic, and willing to play and to listen. Plus, she has impressive abs and rooster hair.
(She’s also passive aggressive in getting us to give compliments. ‘Don’t worry it’s up without you’ is like being snubbed and triggers fear of missing out, so we do her bidding. She’s mostly pretty awesome though.)
Beth – my wonderful, darling BlogWife, who I utterly adore
If I were forced to fit all that is Lizzi Lewis into one word, that word would be compassionate. Luckily, I get more words. When I think of her it feels like sunshine. Warm. Nurturing. Encouraging. Protective. She is wicked smart. Determined as hell. Brave. So brave! Because of past hurt, she sometimes requires reassurance, but this is also what makes her infinitely empathetic. She’s silly, and giggly, and FUN. That girl personifies generosity. She is love and light and all that is good in the world. She is Lizzi.
It may have been a slightly ‘reassurancey’, ‘needyish’ thing to ask some of the people I love most to write these pieces for me and let me share them, but as I’ve added each one in, and brought to mind the wonderful memories I have with each writer, and the ways each has played her part in my world and influenced my life SO SO SO much for the better. All I can do is smile and feel overwhelming gratitude that I have such incredible, beautiful, loving, RIGHT people in my life. I am so, SO the most ever thankful for that, and for each of them.
This post was part of the Ten Things of Thankful hop, and also Who I Am, where the prompt was to write about the people we love, and those who love us. If you want to read the other posts linking up to Dana’s hop, click HERE to visit.
*Lest you think I’m getting too big for my boots, know this – there are (probably not as many) alternative opinions out there about me. There are people who think I’m a loser, a user, a fool. There are people who’d hold that I’m a waste of space, a charlatan, and a liar. There are people who I think would very genuinely experience me as a hypocrite, an abuser of trust, and a terrible role model. I’m trying to only pay attention to those viewpoints when they seem to be valid. If they just come from spite and orneriness, I’m learning to say “Not my zoo, not my monkey” and put distance in place, just to be on the safe side.**
**When I read this post, and this last note, to mum, she looked at me with a sad smile, and said “I can see you’re trying to keep a balance – you don’t have to, you know…”