Are We There Yet?

November 12, 2010

Recently, feeling down on myself (bummed about the change of seasons and creatively frustrated, among other things), I sat down with a notepad for a bit of self-analysis.  My blank page immediately became–

Things that suck about you:

Good Qualities:

In that order. Just like that. And I started to fill it out.

The last time I made a list like this was when I quit drinking, which was definitely a low point for me. My sobriety list inspired a complete reorganization of my personal agenda. As a language-oriented person, as well as a brutally honest Sagittarius, I find it advantageous to put thoughts into words. Throughout the years, I’ve composed a number of these self-evaluations, and like to consider myself a pretty actualized individual.

All that said, one persistent trend– more important, in some ways, than the actual traits on the lists themselves– is that my negatives list consistently dwarfs the positives. No matter what. In fact, I even ran out of room under my “Things that suck about you” and began annexing the “Good Qualities” space for such traits as “Insistent,” “Brash,” and “Impatient.” I had well over a dozen bad qualities written before I even so much as considered penning a nice thing about myself.

Then it took me a minute. Maybe even two. Before I put down “OK Writer.” Yes, just OK. And another minute, maybe two, before I came up with “Nice rack.”

Honest to Icculus, people, the second “Good” thing I could come up with about myself is my breasts. Shame on me. For real.

So, I made this list. And I cried. But, to be fair, I was pretty depressed when I started the damn thing, I wasn’t really doing it for the uplift. As I re-read my carefully selected adjectives, I added “Harsh Critic” to the end of my “sucks” list. Then wrote it again at the end of my positives.

And then I got stuck.

Suddenly my cleverly divided list wasn’t so black and white anymore.

It dawned on me that the “uncensored opinions” from the “Things that suck about you” analysis were the same opinions that made me “always truthful,” which had seemed a Good Quality. The “over-analytical” negative trait, in another light, becomes “socially observant,” an aspect of myself that I embrace.

Well, shit, I thought to myself. Now what? My intention in compiling an evaluation had been enacting positive change. A year ago, I was incredibly productive using this method. I recognized a number of undesirable qualities and was able to eliminate some degree of self-loathing via personal growth. I can actually pinpoint milestone moments and epiphanies. I consider the last year of my life, in that regard, a smashing success.

Why, then, was I sitting a year later at the same kitchen table crying over an equally lengthy bullet-point analysis? How successful is that? Where did these additional Things that Suck come from?

…Again, I am a “Harsh Critic.”

Of other people, yes, but most of all myself. I tried to remember the last time I felt really awesome about anything I had said, written, or done… and quickly I was left questioning how “awesome” anything I ever did really was…

I am my own worst enemy. I know I am not alone, either. Lots of people in the world are insecure. Lots of people think everything they do is garbage. And, most importantly, lots of people are absolutely sure that they will never be good enough. Good enough for what? It honestly doesn’t matter. It’s an insatiability. The feeling that there is room for improvement. It goes beyond “positive quality” or “detrimental trait.” It’s human. It’s a civil war of the ego, and it’s nothing unique to any of us.

If none of us ever felt like monumental failures, would we be motivated to progress? If we all walked around, confident in how we look, act, and present ourselves; confident that we were always in the right; confident that everything we did was top-notch– what encouragement would we have to improve?

At the end of the day, it became evident that although my “Things that suck about you” list was nearly double the length of the “Good Qualities,” many of these divergent characteristics were rooted in the same damn personality traits. It’s unfair to myself to count “conversationally dominant” and “doesn’t know when to shut up” as two separate negative qualities, while considering “easily social” as something I like. They represent the exact same characteristic displaying itself in different contexts.

Failure, success, perfection, hard work. All relatively defined terms. In our universe void of inertia, none of these words mean the same thing from one moment to the next. Weighing ourselves against these slippery terms is like attempting to measure love in yards.

Not to say there is no room for self-improvement, but, in the scheme of things, I have taken enormous strides toward becoming the person I want to be. The next evening, feeling a little less depressed, I sat down and, instead of creating contrast, I re-composed the exact same list of characteristics into one list titled “Things I Know about Kat”

[[Nice rack is still on there]]


6 Responses to “Are We There Yet?”

  1. Adam S Says:

    Interesting post. It seems a bit lonely to be so harsh on yourself, even if you eek out positives from the negatives. As trivial and simple as this sounds, it may be beneficial to sit down and compile the same list of ONLY positives, intentionally ignoring any negatives that pop up. Try to be a bit more substantial than “nice rack,” which doesn’t say much about you as a person (it may earn you more conversations on lot, but that’s not “you”). You owe yourself a moment to be proud, for your psychological health.

    • Adam,

      You’re correct. I mostly make jokes re: my physical appearance since I don’t really put much of my self-worth in that basket, either. More than anything, the fact that #2 on my list of “Good Qualities” was something I have no real control over, and is so laughably superficial that it doesn’t even belong on an honest self-evaluation, makes a big statement about where my head has been at.
      All throughout life, from a very young age, we are provided feedback. We are given gold stars and grades, we are congratulated for a job well done. Progress is benchmarked, milestones celebrated. As I’ve gotten older, the rewards– both tangible and otherwise– have become fewer and further between. Not that I need a cookie every time I do a good job, but sometimes it’s hard to not just throw up my hands and say

      what the fuck is the point??!

      • Adam S Says:

        Maybe so, maybe not. I submit that your emotional standpoint is temporary, and that tomorrow, you might feel very differently.

        The question is whether or not you’re truly burning out or just experiencing what every adult does. Nothing works out for you when you’re 23 and have no real space in the world. But then things happen: you get older, you’ve got some accomplishments under your belt that matter TO YOU, you start to realize who your real friends are, you start to have a real drive for a family or at least a strange companion on this ride, and suddenly, the world isn’t quite so empty and directionless.

        We all go through it, Kat. You’re not alone, or unique, for that matter, in this respect. Your blog is something of which to be proud, few people I know are so honest and dedicated enough to record their feelings, but you haven’t given yourself much credit for building this.

        I went through it at about 26 when I heard the song “The Good Life” by Weezer on the radio. I sold my house, moved in with some college buddies, and totally changed my lifestyle for a few years. I needed to at the time. I couldn’t live that way now.

        Either way, one thing is for sure: where ever it is you’re heading, having a nice rack will give you a nice head start.

  2. maureen Says:

    Things I know about Kat column Somewhere in all of us is the little person that we are and always will be. We take that little person with us through all of our ups, downs, and in betweens. That little person who was innocent, naive, and ultimately the happiest little being before we got to be big people. What changed? At the core of it we got into the big world. Little person vs. big world. Embracing that little person falls to the wayside in big world. Somewhere that little person longs to be taken by the hand, boosted up on a pair of big shoulders so that we can “oversee” the road ahead. The whole “forest for the Trees” concept. In essence we lose (or our ego won’t let us, because our supposed to be “big” person dominates thought) our little person. What I know about Kat was that before she became a big person with a nice rack, she was the most beautiful little person. She would brighten a room just by being her little self. Her presence would just take our minds off of being “big”. You are her still. You are a joy. Always have been. Treasure and nurture that little you. Despite what you see, I still see the most beautiful little person navigating the big people world. Take her by the hand, you worked for me. See it in yourself. The light you carry is much brighter than the rack.

  3. Bart Says:

    Self-evaluation is important, but don’t get too caught up in it. One woman’s perceived weakness is another’s desire. Enjoy yourself, both the good and bad, and if it’s truly an unwanted trait, ask yourself whether you can improve it, or if you’re just stuck with it. If you’re stuck with it, learn to live with it and accept it for what it is. Laugh at it.

    You’re much better than an “OK” writer. I sincerely enjoy your writings, as I’m sure many others do. Don’t be too harsh a critic of yourself. Life is harsh enough, you don’t need to add to it. Why is it we always believe the bad we hear, yet we have so much difficulty accepting the positive? That seems to be the personality’s Achilles heel. One bad word and we hurt; five kudos and we quickly dismiss them.

    You’re young. Spend less time analyzing life, and more time enjoying it for better or worse.

  4. […] said composition. Lists work great for “To-Do” and “Shopping” but I think I take it to a whole new level […]

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