Sugar and Spice?
Hmm, sugar… All I can think of is “sugar and spice and everything nice—that’s what little girls are made of.” But despite that saying, most of the girls I know prefer the “snakes and snails and puppy dog tails” side of life—and until recently, I thought I did too. But now I think I might have been rewriting history. As I look back, I was a girly girl when I was young. I was kind of prissy, I wasn’t into sports, I liked twirly dresses, and I was a ham for the camera. I also remember a brief period as a preteen when I thought pink and gray was the best combination ever.
I’m kind of embarrassed to write this, because I do prefer the adult me, who can hang out with the boys and work in a man’s world. But I think completely squashing parts of your self causes problems, so I’ve been trying to reflect on my own history with honesty.
As my mom would tell you, the end of the “perfect little girl” stage of my life happened when I was 12 or 13. I became less obedient, started wearing “uglier” clothes, and began to enjoy “horrible” music. (In my opinion at the time, it was actually more interesting music; however, as I look back, the music I liked as a teenager was not as interesting as I thought it was.)
But even as I began to get into more trouble—and gave up pink forever—I held on to the idea that I was “nice”. I looked down on people who gossiped, were “two-faced,” said offensive things, tried to steal the boyfriends or girlfriends of others, were slutty, were “too cool for the room” … I could go on and on.
I still don’t like those things, but I think I’ve been in denial about the fact that I don’t always meet the mark myself. Lately I’ll see people on TV, in movies, at a party (everywhere, really), and I’ll notice that the “character” is totally self-absorbed or mean and catty—and now, I also think of how many times I’ve been like that, too. I’ll think of specific events where my behavior wasn’t everything I’d like it to be.
Accepting the fact that I’m not always “nice”—that I’m not perfect—really upsets me. I guess it’s good that I’m more self-aware and likely to catch myself when I fall short, but it’s still very disturbing.
I want to be a caring person who listens to what people say instead of someone likely to forget names five minutes after I hear them.
I want to look back on my own behavior without regret.
I want to be real and genuine.
Is a life without regret possible?
One of my coworkers tells me that I need to remember the formula “±P2,” which means “More Patience, Less Perfection.” I think he’s referring to my detailed knowledge about our job and my high standards for our presentations… He has to be, right? How can less perfection be good for real life? How can I embrace “shadow” behaviors and acknowledge them as an equal part of me, as something I do?
Unfortunately, I’ve read enough Jungian self-help books to know that that’s exactly what I need to do. I believe in the concept that the attributes you close off and deny will continually reappear and haunt you until they’re accepted. But how can I accept being what I don’t want to be? Knowing what I’m supposed to do and actually finding a way to achieve it are completely different things.
For example, now and then I cry inappropriately. I’ve pinpointed it as the result of feeling mad and insulted combined with being powerless to do anything about it. I’ve also noticed that I hate crying to the point that I stop myself from doing so even when I need to grieve and it would be appropriate and helpful. But for some reason, figuring all of this out hasn’t had any impact on the problem. Why not? What do I need to do? It feels like all of this is related—my need to embrace my feminine side, my emerging recognition of my bad side, my neurosis about crying—but what am I supposed to do about it?
They say reintegrating the closed-off parts of your self is a lifetime’s worth of work. So I guess I need to remember the other part of the ±P2 formula and be patient. It’s hard to do for a perfectionist like me, but I guess all I can do is keep living my extremely lucky and happy life, try to accept that I deserve it, and keep working with the rest.
Copyright 2006, Christine Chase
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