Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Self-esteem, or vanity?

(This is Pete and me at our bridal shower in June. I wore a little French-flavored striped dress and bright red patent leather Guess heels. This is a typical outfit I used wear when I wanted to dress up, back before I started feeling melancholy about my job and my self-image.)

Yesterday, a coworker made a comment to me about what I was wearing that made me stop and think a second. She told me that, because I brought an extra pair of high heels with me to work in case I needed a back up, I was vain (see previous post). This put me in a bit of a melancholy mood. I wasn't depressed, but it got me thinking about what she said.

Lately—well, okay, for the last year, really—I have been in a self-esteem funk. I had stopped dressing creatively, nicely, or dressing up at all. I was slouching into work wearing beat-up old jeans, flip flops, and the same six shirts I have been wearing non-stop for seemingly ever. I didn't care what my hair looked like, didn't care about make up, didn't care about exercising and eating right and looking good in general. A lot of this had to do with my Hooveritis (undiagnosed nerve disorder/injury; name coined by a friend) and feeling sick and tired all the time, but a lot more had to do with work. It was difficult for me to drag myself in to a place where I would feel bad about my career, finances, and myself all day, every day, 8 hours plus a day (8+ hours was back when we still got OT). I lost interest in myself along the way, I got lazy, and I got depressed.

Sure, life at home was (and still is) great; I was getting married and going on a fabulous honeymoon; I had/have friends and family around me who care about me and support me (most of them do, anyhow). So why let work and the Hooveritis drag me down and affect the creative person in me, who loved to dress uniquely as a way to express herself and have fun? I'm not sure. I think after a while it just got to me, and getting up in the morning and throwing on whatever was comfortable that day was a heck of a lot easier than putting any effort into how I looked. And to be honest, it almost felt good to show up to work dressed rather drably, sort of as a silent "F*ck you!" to those who I despise there, and to my illness too. But in the end, I just hurt myself.

So lately, I decided to start dressing up again. Not necessarily in dresses and heels all the time, but in a unique and colorful way, just like I had been doing. And I was starting to feel good about myself and starting to have fun with it all, too. I can't tell you how many times people asked me, "Is that new?" and I would reply, "No, just haven't worn it in a while." A sad reflection on how I had become somewhat boring in my routine, but it was good to hear people comment on my upgraded look. And then, just when I was feeling happy and excited about getting up in the morning and looking nice, I had someone tell me that I'm committing one of the seven deadly sins by having two pairs of high heels at work. What?

Georgia receives a lot of flack for her wardrobe too, and she always brushes these insensitive remarks off, which is an excellent way of dealing with such a thing. It's amazing that people even think to open their mouths and say such things, or maybe that's just it, they don't think. But they certainly don't mind sharing their opinions and their criticisms. And if you know Georgia, you know that she is one of the most colorful and fashionable people I know. Probably THE most stylish person I've ever met in my life. And she's always kind and funny to those around her, yet this is how she is treated. So for someone like me who has a bit more of the dark side running through her, you can imagine what my chances are like with such people.

So when does it cross over from feeling good about yourself and being confident to being vain and feeling self-important? Should I revert to my former ways and not give a damn again? Should I always second guess myself and worry that I'll offend someone with how I act or dress or what I say? Hell no. I'll take my cues from Georgia and approach such moments with lightheartedness, laughter, and the knowledge that I'm not some diva, but just a girl who wants to look nice and feel good about herself. The rest of the world can do what it pleases. But just like mom used to tell us, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.


Katie said...

Heaven forbid you want to have a back-up pair of shoes in case your original pair become too uncomfortable! Let me go borrow a car from someone and I'll come out and knock some sense into that horrid coworker of yours. >:-(

Maybe it's a factor of living in the city and needing to walk everywhere, but just about everyone I know has at least one back-up pair of shoes under their desk. (I don't usually, but that's because I don't usually wear heels.) It's not vanity - it's good old Midwestern common sense! Sheesh, some people.

If I'm feeling charitable, I'd say that your *lovely* coworker is just as depressed about work as you are, and is taking out her frustrations on a target that can't fight back. But I'm not in a charitable mood this morning, so I'd say it's more likely that she's just a nasty piece of work who derives pleasure in making other people feel lower than her. If she can shove you down, then she is by default on top.

So, like I said, you want I should maybe have a quiet word with her for ya? ;-)

And we seriously need to go shopping together sometime soon! I love your clothes and shoes, and am similarly finally in a phase where I'm dressing in cute and feminine stuff, rather than just utilitarian clothes. I'm not sure about wearing high heels all the time since I walk everywhere and am a clutz, but who knows?

Love you!

Georgia (AKA g-bug) said...

you know what i think already!

i am thrilled to see how you have begun to use your wardrobe as a form of creative expression. it's not in the least bit vain! don't listen to "them"!

keep it up!

and remember what Thomas Fuller said:
"Good clothes open all doors"
(i have a magnet of this at my desk. come by and read any time you need reassurance of your new wardrobe.)

Teal Chic said...

I think you should do what feels right to you! Who gives a you know what about them. People are always going to talk, and there's their problem not yours! I know it's easier said than done sometimes, but how dare they! Who do they think they are. You're better than that!!!!

I hope you're doing better! I'm sorry you had to go through the health problems. Stay strong!!!!

sandy said...

I agree with "katie" and that her comment came from from a lack of self-esteem and by belittling you she feels better than thou.

In my sickness I was fiesty and hated everything about most everyone, cause it made me feel better about myself when my life was crap (fortunately I was smart enough to never say my comments aloud and they were usually towards strangers).

Healthier me would never say such a rude and inappropriate comment as she did...and if someone did to me I'd be on attack.

I'm sure you looked fantastic and I myself bring a spare set in when I know my feet may get sore (yesterday for example)!

Chris said...

Wow. Thank you all so much for voicing exactly what I had been thinking (yet perhaps doubting) and for your kind comments. I was thinking of being mean and pointing out my coworker's flaws, but then that would be stooping to her level, and I really don't care to do that. I'd rather be positive and leave the situation with a confident frame of mind.

Katie—YES! Let's go shopping. I think you caught me at a very into-fashion moment (can you tell?). If anyone knows how to shop for shoes, it's me. I might not know much about other fashion, but shoes? I KNOW shoes :)

My coworker Kate had run out to the car to bring in a pair of shoes she bought at DSW (to show to me and our coworker Karen). Even from 75 feet away, I could see through the white plastic bag in her hand and recognized the shoe box. I said, "Oh my gosh! I think those are Bandolino shoes!" And they sure were. Karen looked at me like I was a little nutty, but that's what spending so much time thinking about shoes does for you :)

Georgia—Thanks! I'll have to stop by and check out your magnet (I don't think I've seen it). Where did you get it from? I'd like to get one for myself! You're always an inspiration to me in the self-esteem category, to which I am so grateful.

Teal Chic—Thanks so much for the positive comments. I'm feeling okay now, although cold weather wakes up the pains, but a positive attitude can take you very far in life.

Sandy—I agree with you too. I find myself in a bad mood and I tend to snip at people, or be a little mean, and I'm always ashamed when these things come out of my mouth. I suppose it's weakness of character on my part, but everyone's human, I suppose. I can only strive to be a better person, and ignore those who want to darken my life.

Claire said...

I approach situations like these from two perspectives. Firstly I listen. Secondly I ask why. It is important for me not to be a stumbling block to other people. I have found that usually asking(in love) the person why they said what they said puts the ball straight back in their court and they realise that their statement was unfounded but sometimes the person has a valid reason for saying what they say, but they just did not express it in a loving and constructive manner. I listen to these and take away that which aids my growth. And yes, as the others have said... sometimes it is pure jealousy and low esteem etc and so in turn you have given this person something to think about.

I am teaching myself to learn from others every day even if it means that I have to learn through their being nasty or horrible, and if they are teachable, I hope to help them grow as well. Since I have adopted this approach I am finding that I am so much calmer in situations like this. I am able to step back and put some perspective on it.

I love your style! I wish that I could go shopping with you. I love shoes but I spend the majority of my life in flats because I am 1.84m tall (6ft) and that means that I usually tower above others. You have inspired me to start experimenting again and to start enjoying being a girl with a unique, personal style again. Thank you for that!

I have also just come through a period of "Clairitis" and I know exactly what you have been through. I find that forcing mself to get up, be thankful, to exercise and to eat well despite not wanting to eventually got me back to where I was wanting to do these things again.

Never lose the essence of you... It is beautiful.

Chris said...

You're absolutely right. I must consider why this person would say something like that, and also try to learn from the situation. I hope I present myself in a humble manner and that I'm kind and charitable to those I'm around, but I'm human and I catch myself sometimes. And perhaps it's something I say, but of course it might not be, too, so I have to be careful how I tread (in whatever shoes I'm wearing, lol).

Thanks, Claire. You sound pretty darn stylish yourself. I think you should just do heels for the mere enjoyment of them. I love flats for their comfort and style, but I also love heels because they're girly and sometimes flashy (at least the ones I have!).

I'm learning that everyone is different, and that I should express myself in an honest and creative way. Honest because I don't want to be someone I'm not, and creative because I need some way to display my artistic self-image, and what better way than through fashion?

That's interesting about the "Clairitis". Then you know how every day can be a struggle, not only to dress well or be energetic, but just get up in the morning, or be able to last all day without hurting or fatigue. Thank God I'm better now, and that the warmer weather is kind to me, but winter is coming and I have already felt the approach of my Hooveritis coming back. I guess I just have to do what you are doing (and what I try to do): take care of myself, eat right, rest, and be happy and at peace :)