Do you have any strange misconceptions about yourself that when said out loud sound ridiculous and outlandish? I feel like it’s just me, but then again I always feel like it’s just me. You know Brené Brown’s first book, I Thought It Was Just Me? That should be one of my mantras — I thought it was just me…but it isn’t.

You’re probably thinking, “Here she goes with her crazy again,” and full disclosure, I have been a little manic lately, but let me try to explain. My birth experience with Lily was torturous. Thank goodness I ended up with my girl at the end of it because it was awful. A stalled labor, a failed epidural, a spinal headache that lasted for 6 days and culminated with me curled on the basement floor begging to die and required two blood patches to rectify. Throughout this ordeal, my husband said, “You’re doing great, baby.” My inner voice said: “You’re weak. You’ve got a low pain tolerance. You can’t do this.”

Since the melanoma experience started in June, I’ve gotten more bloodwork and iv’s in a few short months than in the 46 ½ years leading up to it. Before my surgery, the anesthesia resident said, “Are you afraid of the needle?” I almost said no because I didn’t want to come across as weak, but I said, “Yes.” She looked at me with empathy and kindness and said, “It’s okay. Everyone is. It’s the worst part.” Wow. I thought it was just me.

Last month when I went for my treatment, it took three nurses and 4 attempts to get a good vein. Inside, it felt like my intestines were in the spin cycle and all of my blood was pulsing in my ears instead of in my stupid arm where it needed to be. The nurses said, “You’re doing so good. This is hard.” My husband said, “You did great, baby. You never even flinched.” I felt on the verge of crying, vomiting and passing out.

When we used to drink way more, one of my girlfriends and I had a practice of talking each other out of shame spirals the day after. Have you ever had a day after shame spiral? It goes like this: You drink too much. You don’t remember exactly everything you did and said, and you assume the absolute worst about yourself. We discussed it one time, and my friend asked, “How do you think you are acting?” Mean, belligerent, saying stupid things. She laughed and said, “You are never any of those things.” Her vision is always that she was standing on the bar calling people out. She never stands up on anything and hardly ever calls {undeserving} people out. Others rarely see us this way, but our perceptions of ourselves are usually caricatures of our actual selves filtered through our experiences, views, beliefs and history.

In my family of origin, people who admitted to being sad, afraid or in pain were weak. People who drank too much were often mean, belligerent and said stupid things.

Other people’s perceptions get sifted through their own experiences, views, beliefs and history before they form an opinion. Consequently, other people’s opinions should have zero bearing on our own feelings of self-worth. I don’t live from a place of should so sometimes I forget that. Is that just me?

Yesterday a reader gave my book a two-star rating. Here’s the thing: When someone leaves a shitty rating on a novel, it might feel like: That’s their opinion, maybe they don’t like this genre or writing style or whatever. When someone leaves a shitty rating on a memoir, it feels personal. Like confirmation that everyone who ever disliked me or had a bad opinion of me was right, and all the people who love me were wrong. Seriously. Is it just me?

Because I’m obsessive, and as I mentioned previously, a little bit manic, I stalked this person’s Goodreads account. I needed to know what kind of books she DID like. Did she just hate mine? I ended up whizzing through a wormhole and reading lots of terrible reviews of books and writers I love and admire.

One person said such awful things about an author that I thought: Wow, did she sleep with your husband or bully you in elementary school? How can you say such terrible things? This is a real person not a “character” you’re attacking. I blanched as she called her bland, boring and unlikeable and pondered why she thought her life was worthy of a memoir. FUCK ALL THE WAY OFF. She had the courage, talent, and drive to write a book while you cower behind an anonymous screenname and say mean things. I know this one is not just me.

Anyway, all that to get it out of my head and also to say this:

We should question our beliefs about ourselves — and others. Where did I get the idea that I’m weak? Who told me I had a low pain tolerance? Chloe once told me, “I don’t know if I actually have a high pain tolerance, or if I just believe that because you’ve always told me that I did.” She really does, though.

Finally, it’s almost never just you. Maybe your family of origin made you feel too sensitive, too weak, or too emotional; mine did. Maybe your partner said you overreact, take things too personally, or need to lighten up; mine did — even though he is a saint who loves me very well and rarely does anything wrong. Maybe you let too much of your self-image get formed through other people’s filters; God knows I have. You don’t have to do that for one more second. Don’t settle for someone else’s opinion of you, embrace who you are, and find other weirdos who get you. We exist. I promise.

P.S. If you want to get a personalized copy of Post-Its and Polaroids for someone you love, message me! If you want to get a regular copy of Post-Its and Polaroids for someone you just like, click here.

dreamer•mystic•seeker• author, Post-Its and Polaroids•

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