I am so humbled by the interest and enthusiasm you’ve all shown for The List – I have inhaled every comment that has been posted on my blog or on Facebook in response, and have been encouraged (and even pressured… eek!) by the constant “What’s next on The List?” that I am met with from the people in my world.
While I’d love to keep revealing chapter after exciting chapter of The List on a regular basis, the reality is that there are a number of things on The List that cannot simply be posted as a single event – there are things that involve a process. (Don’t you hate that word? I learnt a long time ago that it’s just a diplomatic way of saying something is going to be long, difficult, and sweat and tears will in all likelihood be shed along the way!)
My initial thoughts were to reveal the “process” items on The List (of which there are quite a few) once I had reached the end goal, or achieved what I had set out to do in the particular process. (Because, being a generally determined and positive (aka stubborn!) person, I know that I’ll achieve these things if I set my mind to them.)
A few days ago, however, I was confronted by some less-than-desirable thoughts about one of the processes on The List and my progress (or lack thereof) in this particular process. The thoughts were ugly and self-deprecating, and involved me criticising myself in a way and using words that I would never dream of saying to any other human being. So notwithstanding the nagging voice in my head that was telling me to hide those less-than-attractive parts of myself and to only show the good stuff here, I’m not going to do that.
One of the items on The List is to enjoy my 40th birthday party in an outfit that makes me feel confident and sexy, with my hair blow-waved to perfection, and with beautifully manicured nails. So what’s the problem? you may ask. Well, while I like to believe that I’m a relatively well put-together professional woman, this image unfortunately falls by the wayside when your glance falls to my hands and, in particular, my nails. After 39 years, I am ashamed to admit, I still haven’t been able to kick that nasty habit of biting my nails.
When I refer to the habit of biting my nails, please understand that I’m not a girl who says she bites her nails and by this she means that every now and again, she may innocuously lift a finger to her mouth with no real damage done. Don’t picture the glamorous images of nailbiting that you may see in ads like this one to the right. If all nailbiters looked like this girl and had nails like hers, there would be no issue, no necessity to kick the nasty habit – in fact, it probably wouldn’t even be classified as a nasty habit then! Unfortunately most pictures you see in the media depicting some form of nailbiting are entirely removed from any semblence of reality. The truth? Most nailbiters often chew on their nails until they bleed, even tearing into the skin of the nailbed at times. (Sorry – perhaps I should have issued a warning for sensitive viewers at the outset!) So in addition to suffering the ugliness of nails chewed to the quick, nailbiters often suffer the accompanying physical pain of torn and sensitive skin, which throbs, bleeds and aches for the following days.
Now that I’ve drawn the curtain back on the ugliness of nailbiting, you can understand why I am so keen to kick this habit once and for all – and to enter my forties without having to hide my hands behind my back whenever I meet new people. And so, immediately after finalising The List, I embarked on this nail biting (or rather…NOT nail biting) journey!
A few days ago, however, reality ploughed into my plan of achieving the goal of the beautiful (or at the very least, not unattractive) manicured nails I had dreamed of. I found myself in a situation where I was overcome with anxiety and almost unconsciously began chewing on a nail. And the more anxious I became, the more nails I chewed on….another nail, then another, then …. And as I realised what I was doing, and that it was not the plan, I should have immediately stopped. You would think so, right? But no, I couldn’t stop. It was seemingly the only outlet for the anxiety I was experiencing and the inclination to bite my nails had a force of its own which could not be countered. (I think it’s a bit like when you’re on a diet, and you have a little cheat, and then the voice in your head tells you that you may as well eat whatever you want for the rest of the day, because you’ve cheated anyway!). So instead of stopping midway through this anxiety-driven nailbiting, I carried on. 😦
The result? I woke up the next morning with painful and throbbing fingers, raw skin and – perhaps the most painful of all, regret and self-loathing that I could not do this one seemingly simple thing that I should have outgrown in my childhood.
But why am I telling you all of this? The point is that I immediately felt ashamed about what I’d done. Once again, I had to sit in a meeting at work the next day with my hands under the table, because I was embarrassed. I was too embarrassed to even take notes in the meeting for fear that someone looked over at me writing in my notebook and saw my shameful hands. I’ve heard it said so often that you can judge a woman by the way she looks after her hands, and that her hands show her level of grooming. If that’s the case, then my grooming leaves a lot to be desired (which I somehow don’t think is true). The reality is, though, that I failed myself. And although it’s not a big issue (certainly not anything that anyone will remember next year, next week or even tomorrow), I wanted to hide my hands (and my failure) from people. Because in hiding my hands physically, I could also hide my anxiety and poor self image from the world, and not have to explain myself to anyone.
So how do I get from the desire to hide my hands and the emotions they represent, to shouting it from the rooftops in this blog? It’s very simple actually – it’s because I am real. And because I’m real, I’m making myself vulnerable (again), and just saying it like it is, and revealing parts of myself that are crying to stay hidden. I point blank refuse to be a part of society that only shows its best side and avoids showing weakness or vulnerability at all costs – that is why we have so much judgment in society and why there are so many people that feel like they’ll never be “enough”. And I will not be a part of that.
As I said in a post on Facebook a few weeks ago, I don’t believe in only sharing the highlights reel of my life as so many on Facebook do – that does me no good and does the people in my world no good.
Importantly, I wanted to share that on this 40 before forty journey of mine, it’s not going to all be about achieving what I set out to do without any obstacles and detours. The last thing I want is to end up with 40 things “ticked” on The List, having created the impression that I methodically (and seemingly effortlessly) just went about merrily ticking everything off. Life is not like that. Life is tough. And life can challenge and even break you sometimes. So I won’t just be sharing the “highlights reel” of The List – but will rather be sharing the reality of it. And if that means exposing myself to judgment or criticism where I share areas where I have stumbled or fallen, then so be it.
So at the start of 2016, when we’re surrounded by “New Year, New You” sentiments, you won’t be seeing a “new me”. You will, however, continue to see a “real me” (who’s not giving up her quest for pretty nails). And if this post or any of my other posts or messages encourages even one person to be a bit more vulnerable and real, that’s worth more than any item on The List for me! So here’s to us all showing immense courage and bravery in 2016 through being real!