My Self Image

I’ve been doing a lot of deep soul searching lately. I’ve been recognizing some issues I’ve seen in myself and I’ve finally voiced my thoughts on them. And I’ve figured out exactly what the solution is.

I’ve been having problems with my self image. That was the root of everything. I found a gazillion things that bothered me, that I was struggling with, that have nearly consumed me in every way. I was nearing the end of my rope and losing my mind over trivial stuff, and feeling way more emotional, lost, and depressed than I had for a while. But over the last 48 hours, I’ve done a complete 180 and I feel better than I have in years.

So back to the root of it all: how I see myself.

Summer09 112 edited sm My Self Image

So many things feed into what I was doing wrong with how I viewed myself and my life. Somehow, it got really backward and wrong. I never even noticed it happening because it was so gradual and slow. It affected my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health.

I had gotten it into my head that there was this life and lifestyle I was supposed to be living, that I should just fit into to be satisfied. I thought I needed to be a certain way to be happy and be accepted by others. It stems from a bunch of falsehoods I learned from the media and my church culture (which is an odd juxtaposition because of how strikingly opposite they are).

The Media

In the media, I see a constant barrage of idiotic celebrities who do stupid, eyebrow raising things to get attention. Just look at everything that went down at the VMAs yesterday, if you want to know what I mean. I lose all respect for celebrities who do crazy things just to stay in the spotlight. It makes me start loathing them. So the lesson I learned from the media is that I do not want to be like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Amanda Bynes, Britney Spears, or Paris Hilton, to name a few. I don’t hate people, but man, I really do not like any of them. At all. I used to like some of them, and the fact that I saw them change, from someone who seemed to be in touch with their inner goodness into attention-crazed and sexualized partiers who use their bodies and extreme actions to get attention… It just makes me roll my eyes and throw up a little bit in my mouth. They’re not doing anything for the good of society, and that’s the message they’re sending others who see them as role models. Great. Just what America needs.

So rather than trusting the media show me what I should be like, they’ve successfully shown me exactly what not to be like. But in listening to and believing in that message, I haven’t really been listening to myself. I’ve gotten so focused on the media’s what-not-to-do and how-not-to-act message instead of just listening to myself. Even though I think the message I’ve gotten from tv and pop-culture is good (because it makes me want to be an upstanding citizen and not a spoiled brat looking for free handouts or fame), the problem is that I keep getting bombarded with that same message to the point that I’ve stopped listening to my inner voice. I haven’t even bothered to examine who I want to become because I’ve gotten so caught up in having opinions about the dumb actions of these famous people. I became so involved with analyzing them and their lives that I wasn’t even looking at my own life. I have no idea how it got to that point, but it did.

My Church Culture

I’m Mormon. And I chose to be a member of this church. I believe whole-heartedly in the doctrines and principles we teach. And before anyone tries to ‘save’ me or convince me that I’m wrong for what I believe, let me just say, “Oh please, honey. I’ve heard it all before.” I grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Tennessee. I served as a missionary for my church for 18 months in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve been all over the Bible Belt and had people feed me all kinds of anti-Mormon literature and ideas. I’ve lost friends for being Mormon (or friends’ parents not allow them to hang out with me because I’m Mormon). I’ve heard every good and bad opinion about Mormons there is, and through it all, I stand firm in my faith. I’ve had some very specific and personal experiences that were answers to prayers. I’ve seen miracles happen by the hands of worthy Priesthood holders from my church. And overall, the gospel principles taught within the church ring true to my heart and mind, and answer soul-searching questions no other church or religion has been able to answer for me. I’ve done my homework. I’ve studied every religion I could find (and it took a couple of years). In the end, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one that I’ve willingly chosen with all my heart to be a part of.

Now, just because the gospel is true does not mean the people are perfect. Often there’s a culture that comes with Mormons, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t fit in it. Aside from my emotional and mental issues, my personality is way more free-spirited and rebellious than your average Mormon. I don’t break commandments and I don’t bend the rules. Well, not the important rules–the ones that affect my salvation I keep thoroughly and happily. But when it comes to something like my appearance… Let’s just say when I was attending BYU (our church-based college), I got a lot of stares and raised eyebrows in my direction. For some reason, most Mormon girls don’t have short spiky hair or fauxhawks, they don’t wear studded leather belts, and they certainly don’t listen to Operation Ivy or Rancid. I’m pretty sure I scared away more guys than I attracted during my college years.

Here’s what I see as a stereotypical Mormon girl: They keep their hair long and naturally colored (and honestly, their long, natural hair is gorgeous!). They love Disney movies, the Disney princesses, and the Newsies, and The Princess Bride. They love to cook, especially casseroles and cookies. They wear a camisole under every shirt just in case the shirt is too low cut, too short, or a little sheer. They wear natural-looking makeup. They love Mindy Gledhill and Peter Breinholt. They use phrases and expletives like, “Oh my heck!” Their childhood goal is to be a stay-at-home mom. They’re friendly, happy, genuinely sweet, and often naive. And that is great for them. If that’s who those girls are, then I don’t think they should change! If they love themselves and are satisfied with the person they’ve become, they should not change a single thing about themselves.

While I do like The Princess Bride and I can make a mean casserole and I usually prefer minimal makeup, I’m not your stereotypical Mormon girl. I don’t exactly fit in with that Mormon girl culture. I got in fights in elementary school. I took up kickboxing. I love gaming (Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Left 4 Dead are my favorites, if you’re wondering). I consider my style to be a combination of punk and bohemian (punkhemian? bohemiunk?). I’m ambitious and my childhood dream wasn’t to have kids or even get married. I was honestly terrified of both. I wanted to have a career. I wanted to do more with my skills and talents than sit at home raising children. I respect women who do that though (my mom did, and I know it was a lot of work) and I’m not disparaging that way of life. I’m just realizing it’s not exactly meant for me.

img010 copy sm My Self ImageWhen I was no longer attending college but still living in Provo, Utah (by BYU campus), I dyed my hair fire engine red a couple of times. Other times I did bright fuchsia highlights. When I went to church on Sunday with my hair like that, I got countless double takes and stares just walking the two blocks to the chapel. Luckily, it was a great ward and not only did a lot of the members there think it was awesome, but the bishop even complimented me on it.

I just don’t fit the standard or stereotypical Mormon girl mold. I’m not meant for it, even though I am meant to be a member of the church. For a few years now, I’ve slowly been trying to bend myself to fit into that cookie-cutter Mormon girl mold. And I’ve been miserable the entire time! When did I start trying to do that? A more important question, why had I been trying to do that?

I think I just felt pressure to do so. And I got tired of trying to be confident in the face of judgmental Mormon girls (and boys).  I found a man I actually wanted to marry (which is a miracle) and I have a son now. I felt like I was supposed to try and be that stay-at-home mom who cooks, cleans, drives the kids everywhere, does PTA at their schools, chaperones field trips, holds elaborate birthday parties, does every tradition for every holiday,  and wears herself weary being a mom. And honestly, I know it’s hard work. It’s important work. But I’m not meant to do all of it. I love my family. I love to be Graham’s mom, to teach him, watch him grow, and play with him. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. But if I only did that, I would be lying to myself and I would be miserable. I need to work. I need to use my skills outside of the home. I need to show that aspect of me. And I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore.

I used to think it would make me a bad mom. It doesn’t.
I used to think I would be breaking some rule by working along with my husband. I’m not.
I used to think that because my mom stayed at home, I should do the same. I thought wrong.
I used to think others would judge me or think poorly of me. Well, then I say, “Let them!” It’s none of my business what others think of me. That’s their issue, whether good or bad, and they’re the ones who have to deal with it.

I will go on being confident in being the woman my Heavenly Father made me to be.

That means Bob and I will both work and both take care of our home, equally. We will both raise our children equally (well, once they’re each done breastfeeding it will be more equal, anyway). We will make our family life work and we will find joy and satisfaction in it. It might not be like yours, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be what we need.

More for Me

There’s more to this whole finding and being confident in myself thing than this single blog post. There are some pretty big plans and changes in the works for our family, involving where we live (and plan on living) and what we’re doing and pursuing career-wise.

Most importantly, I’m going to keep on being me. Ever since I made that choice, I’ve been free of guilt, shame, frustration, depression, and anxiety. I’m now filled with hope, peace, happiness, excitement, and anticipation. I’m thrilled to move in the right direction in my life. That means my blog and my online presence may change some. My style and clothing choices will show more of my personality. And I’m going to be true to my passions, dreams, and goals.

Ah, this is so liberating! Why wasn’t I being myself sooner? Where did I get so lost? Well, no more!

Even though my self esteem may waiver from time to time, I’m confident in this progress and in life’s upcoming changes. I’m not going to give away too much right now, so I apologize for the ambiguity when I say: the dreams that I put away two years ago are coming out again. And I can’t wait to start working toward them once more.

5 comments to My Self Image

  • Beverly

    Well, if your description of the perfect Mormon girl is correct, I am about as far away as one can get (thank goodness)! I am mouthy, sarcastic, and irreverent at times. I’m not sweet or naive (or even friendly). I’m not 6, so I’m not interested in Disney princesses–though I do consider myself a Queen Bee! I hate to cook and wouldn’t care if my house didn’t even HAVE a kitchen. Once I realized that bread baking and sewing weren’t requirements for the celestial kingdom, I let out a big sigh of relief and quit trying to love something I hated. The world would be a better place if we’d all just stop comparing ourselves to others (and what we think we see in them) and just try to be the best we can be. Kudos to you for sharing this with us!

  • You know, something tells me that men don’t have these same pressure struggles that women do. They can truly be who they want to be and life is good. But women, we have so many roles thrust upon us that if we try to be everything to everyone, we are sure to fail.

    As the daughter of a military father and West Point graduate and a strict Korean mother, I knew that my role on this earth was to behave in public and achieve high grades academically. This would get me into a top college and secure my future. I conformed to this expectation. At West Point and in the military, I conformed even more to meet that culture (uniform, less feminine, conservative, traditional) and ended up divorced and in therapy with adjustment disorder. Totally abbreviated, I know, but the long and short of it is that my mid-20s was the first time I ever stood up for myself and decided to choose my own adventure and fate.

    I think I’m finally defining my own sense of style. I’ve taught myself to cook and learned to sew and started embracing my own weirdness. And I’m happier for it… happy that I’ve chosen to focus on my career, get my master’s, find an equal partner in love, and be who I want to be. I don’t want to be a SAHM probably ever, I don’t want to clean my apartment (confession: I hired a maid), and I don’t want to have anyone judge me for it! :)

    Beautiful blog post Janae. I can relate to an extent how much pain and heartache trying to conform can cause, especially when it comes from a place of love.

  • So brave, So beautiful. Love you Janae!

  • Kate

    Hey Janae! I love this and I love your courage. Thanks for writing this. As a pretty typical Mormon girl (I can’t help it, it’s who I am and I’m happy that way), I admire your courage for being yourself. What I love about the gospel is that Heavenly Father loves us all. All He wants us to do is love Him and obey His commandments. Everything else is left for us to choose. And your choices just make life more fun. Nothing wrong with that! Miss you!

  • [...] I recently found myself no longer walking forward in my life. I was bitter, depressed, frustrated, and completely miserable. The reason: I was trying to be someone who I am not. [...]

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