[Disclaimer: this post was written and hidden in my drafts section since January. I was debating whether I should post it or not because it’s pretty personal. But I finally thought – why not? So here goes…]
Have you ever noticed there was a pattern in your behavior ever since you were little?
Not necessarily positive or negative; just a certain behavior that has been a recurring pattern or theme through your whole life. It often goes unnoticed. It’s gone unnoticed for me for all 23 years of my life.
After weeks of convincing from a friend, I finally purchased Geneen Roth’s book Women Food and God. I began reading it with the purpose of finding some solace from eating issues I’ve struggled with over the last 4 years. While the book is very insightful, I have found something interesting in myself that is not necessarily food-related.
Geneen Roth states that how we eat is a direct image of how we see ourselves and the world. She emphasizes the importance of facing the issues and emotions that may arise rather than numbing them using food. We eat compulsively because we refuse to deal with a certain emotion that may otherwise cause us pain. We want to avoid that pain, although unconsciously, so we reach for food to keep ourselves occupied, to feel comforted, to numb and dilute the feelings of boredom, sadness, loneliness, pain.
While it took me a while to follow along with what Geneen was talking about in her book, I am now starting to understand what she means. It is important that we learn to face our issues and our emotions, whether they are positive or negative. If we don’t feel- we don’t live. Because to live doesn’t mean you’re alive. Living means that we experience life rather than float through it. We notice how we struggle and deal with problems; we notice the beauty around us and within us; we learn about ourselves and we are eager to better ourselves emotionally and spiritually.
I had a slight epiphany. It does not have to do with food but it is an interesting realization anyway. It is something I have not noticed about myself until now [aka: January]. Geneen emphasized the importance of looking within ourselves: how we feel, how we act, where we came from. I looked within myself to see how I’ve always acted. What I found is something entirely nonfood-related. But just because it’s not at the root of my eating issue, doesn’t mean it’s not extremely interesting!
What I found is that I have always been tough.
No, scratch that. I have always wanted to APPEAR tough.
It’s strange because I wouldn’t consider myself a tough girl. I’m not extremely girly but I’m no tomboy either. But thinking back to my childhood, I have always wanted to have an aura of toughness around me.
Childhood: Fantasy Pet
As a child, I remember wanting to have a pet tiger so that everyone would be afraid of me. I also fantasized about having a pet alligator once but a pet tiger seemed much more realistic (really? lol). Plus tigers are faster and they are pretty. The tiger would love me and only me, and he would protect me from anyone else – no one would bother me because they would all be afraid of my tiger. I wouldn’t necessarily want my tiger to actually hurt people but I’d want him to give an impression that he could.
Childhood: Anime characters
When Sailor Moon came on TV, it quickly became my favorite anime. While most of my friends preferred the more feminine characters, I always identified the most with Sailor Jupiter. In the show, Makoto (or Lita in the English adaptation) was a tough girl – she serves as the “muscles” of the group. Her strengths were associated with electricity and physical strength. She has a strong and independent personality. She is also quite a tomboy although she has a lot of girly traits as well. As I’m reading her character profile on Wikipedia (because I don’t remember every single detail about her, after all I watched the series as a kid) it’s surprising how similar we both are. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a tomboy and I’m not very tall. But it proves another point that I wanted to appear tough. It was a fantasy of mine.
Middle School: Moved to the US
When I moved to the US at 13, I desperately hoped there would be Polish people in my school. I was terrified of going to a whole new school, at 13 – without being fluent in English. I was so afraid. Thankfully my dad lived in a neighborhood with a prominent Polish community so my middle school had enough Polish kids in it for me to feel better. Although being in ESL program helped a lot too.
I met a handful of kids but I really wanted to belong with the Polish “cool” tough-kid crowd. There was a girl who was just so “cool,” she looked older than 13, she had a piercing, talked using a lot of slang and just had this cool/IDGAF aura about her that screamed “I’m older, I’m cooler, don’t mess with me”. She was also gorgeous. I wanted to be her friend, I wanted to be in her crowd. While I never really did get into being super close with her, I most definitely tried. I hung out with a similar “gangster” kind of crowd. And take the word gangster here very loosely – we were 13-15 years of age, we were white, we were Polish speaking, we rode bicycles, we hung out at a park, we drew graffiti – on paper, not walls. Some of the kids in the group smoked cigarettes but I didn’t try my first one until I was 15 and was confused why they did it at all. It was so gross. It didn’t stop me from feeling cool though. And tough.
The kids in the group loved to talk trash and while I didn’t feel like I belonged. They were too “tough” for me – they actually lived it, whereas I just wanted to appear to live it. I’m not sure if that makes sense but that’s how it was. I really didn’t belong with them, I am smart, I cared about school and grades and I listened to my parents, while many of the kids from the group did not. I think being a member of the group and being acquainted with these kids made me feel that I appeared tougher as well while I did not actually want to BE tough in the sense that they were.
High School: Cars
When I was a teenager, many of my peers would discuss cars.
What was YOUR dream car as a teenager?
Although I didn’t have a car, I did not pick the typical girly car as my dream car. I picked the mean modern muscle machine, I wanted a Hummer.
But then I learned how terribly anti-environmental these cars are and I picked something else, a Dodge Charger or Dodge Challenger.
They are beastly. They are sexy. These cars are attractive and mean. The modern muscle car. I felt they were the toughest choice and similarly as with my tiger fantasy, I felt that I would be portrayed as tough if I was to own one.
High School: Career fantasy
Around sophomore and junior year of high school I started fantasizing that I could go to the army or the marines. I have no idea why. We had these recruiters at our school almost every day post up a stand during lunchtime and talk to kids about joining.
I never actually spoke with them. I was shy.
They had a push up challenge where you could see if you are strong enough to go to the army and if you did a certain amount you could win prizes. No, I didn’t enter. I could barely even do 2 push ups! I was not exactly your definition of strong. But I had this strange fantasy that I could go to the army. It would be the ultimate toughness challenge – it would portray my strength as something on another level. Even though that “strength” wasn’t actually there. Such a strange thing to think about.
High School: Partying
The last years of high school are usually the years where kids start experimenting more – there is more partying, more alcohol, more fun. While I’m not going to get into details in this perspective, let me just say that I was sometimes rather competitive in this regard (although still smart). I have had occurrances where I’ve simply had too much. Why? I wanted to show that I can handle it. I wanted to hear the cheers, the pats on the back. I wanted to appear tough. I wanted to show off that I am strong and I can handle anything, I’m just like one of the guys. Don’t mess with me. I’m not one of those little girls that you can break easily. (Jeez, am I glad I outgrew this phase *shakes head*)
College: one of the guys
When I went to college, I began hanging out with majority of guys. I had a couple of girlfriends but not nearly enough to be considered a “girly girl.” I felt more in my element with guys, I liked hanging out with guys, joking around with them, partying with them. I was often the only girl in the group and I was seen as one of the guys. I liked the title. I wanted to be one of the guys. I would even talk with the guys about other girls – listen to them talk about other girls, and comment on how hot other girls were, in a totally non-sexual way (to me). I wanted them to be comfortable with me.
Why did I gravitate more towards guys as friends? Is it because of nature – traditionally men are supposed to be the tougher ones – men are not supposed to be weak, they are strong and powerful. Being “one of the guys” might have given me an opportunity to feel like that too. Did it actually make me feel tougher? I’m not sure. I don’t think so but as you might imagine, all the “toughness” was entirely subconscious. As I mentioned before, I didn’t even realize I was seeking this until right now.
Sophomore year of college, I found an activity that really bumped my toughness level to another high, I started doing boxing. Now boxing is an amazing workout, it burns so many calories and you get to punch things. I haven’t done sparring and worked solely on a heavy bag (although my MMA fighter friend did teach me some moves prior to starting in the classes so that was cool). This is where I truly feel like I can conquer it all. I have never felt more bad ass and more tough than during a boxing workout. These classes were amazing. Unfortunately, my membership ended and I didn’t have more money to spend on the boxing gym in addition to my regular gym (and I don’t want to quit that one – it came with too many cool features, like other group classes, machines, sauna, etc).
Why have I always sought to feel and appear tough? I can’t help but wonder why I had this need. Why do I aspire to appear tough? This probably deals with something that stems way back to my childhood – things I probably don’t even remember. Was I bullied as a child? Was I teased? Did I want to learn to be able to defend myself? I don’t know, I don’t remember. But the fact is there – I always sought to appear tougher than I really was.
I wanted to appear to be tough. I wanted to create an illusion of being a bad ass tough girl that no one should mess with. I wanted that feeling. But the truth is – I hate violence, I have never been in a fight (nor do I ever want to be), I respect the authorities, I follow rules so I don’t get in trouble, and I don’t talk behind people’s backs nor do I pick fights with people. So really, I’m not that tough. I’m actually a little fluffy thing – I’m weak, I’m fragile, I’m a scared little being putting up a “tough girl” front to my audience.
I friend recently asked me “Why do you always act so tough? Stop it, it’s not cute.” That took me by surprise. I never thought I acted tough. I was just being me. My independent self. I didn’t realize I was putting a front of being tough – talking tough, acting tough. He is the only person that actually called me out on this and even then, I was confused and thought he was just bluffing to get my attention.
I don’t why why I act this way. I don’t know what it means or whether it’s good or bad. I think it’s good that I noticed this pattern of behavior because I might now be able to address it properly.
Vulnerability is not always bad.
It’s what allows us to feel emotions.
Maybe that’s why it’s always been so difficult for me to open up to people? Who knows. There continues my journey to knowing myself better… To discovering myself.
Kammie wants to know:
- Do you have any patterns of behavior you noticed in your life?
- What do you think about this? I would really love to hear your feedback on this.
Let me know in the comments below!