Monday, April 24, 2017

Being Good...to Myself

I have this little game I play. I collect loose change that I find on countertops, dressers, in pants pockets, on the floor when it fell out of said pockets. When I reach $2.41, I take a little trip to Starbucks and purchase my favorite food item there: dark chocolate graham crackers. The milk chocolate version will do in a pinch, but I've been known to walk away without purchasing any, rather than settle.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was having difficulty allowing myself this purchase. As I sat with this for the day, I came to the conclusion that the struggle was deeper than whether I should indulge myself this small purchase. I was having trouble justifying ANY purchases. The thought of buying groceries paralyzed me, but knowing I needed to assess my wardrobe (since spring began here WAY WAY WAY too early) in order to make some needed additions was debilitating.

This was not a new recognition for me. For as long as I can remember, I've made an effort not to be a burden to anyone. I don't know if I was influenced by the frugal, conservative culture of the Midwest or if I overheard a conversation that created a misperception about the amount of money my family had (we were solidly middle class and I never had a financial crisis of any kind). Whatever the reason, I internalized very early that it was bad to have needs or desires. So I tried very hard not to ask for things.

I'm not good at being good to myself. What other women have no problem doing--buying a new outfit, getting a mani pedi, going out for lunch, or picking up the latest book by their favorite author--I have never been able to do without justifying it first. As a result, it has just become easier not to, rather than to go through the analysis.

In the end, I usually don't think I'm worth what it costs.

I want to backpedal from that last sentence and explain that I don't struggle with self-esteem issues. I think my words betray something else, though. Lately, I am more aware that I am not as self-confident as I used to be. I'm more fragile than I'd like to admit. Those who are fragile are burdens.

When this has surfaced before, I've denied it was even a struggle, spinning it instead as a badge of honor even as I secretly judged as frivolous those who could spend freely. Other times, though, I wished I could be as carefree, mindless.

I don't know how to get to the root of my issue. It seems so multi-faceted, so complicated. When I've talked about it with friends, they tell me I'm overthinking it and that the solution is to begin practicing a new way of thinking by spending. My husband has told me that all of the earnings from my most recent freelance project are available for me to spend however I want. The very thought strikes fear in my heart. I have bought things before and had buyer's remorse. I'm afraid of making more mistakes, even though undoing them is as simple as returning the purchases. I don't know what I'm even looking for, since I don't have a good sense of style or what would be good foundational pieces to have in my closet. Ack! Deliver me!

That day when I didn't think I could, I bought the graham crackers. They were a quiet declaration of war--my way of saying NO to the lies I've believed, even though I couldn't name them all in the moment. I am going to get to the bottom of this dysfunction, and I am going to be free.