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So, I Got a Patch

Do you have a feature you hate? A birthmark or other imperfection that makes you different from the people you see on TV? I do. Actually, I have several.

So does this woman named Sara who wrote the book I’m now reading called, I Can Tap Dance. In it, she offers lessons from her life in little vignettes and one of my favorites occurs when she’s two years old.

One of her eyes does not work properly so her doctor puts a patch over her good eye to strengthen the weak one; and this results in her bumping into things, a lot. It also makes her look a little like a pirate and she actually remembers people saying, “Oh that’s such a shame, she’s such a pretty girl.”

Her mom didn’t think it was a shame; her mom thought it was a chance to get crafty. She turned Sara’s patch into a ladybug, and just like that, her imperfection became a source of self-esteem. Instead of being defective, she was different in a unique and special way. She had a ladybug on her face and others didn’t; that made her cool.

What an awesome attitude huh?

After telling this story, Sara asks the reader to think about an imperfection they have that became or could become a source of strength– something that makes them unique.

As I mused over the insecurities I’ve battled—my nose that makes me look like Meryl Streep, my tiny breasts that all but disappear in a bathing suit, my clumsiness that guarantees constant bruising, I was comforted by the fact that these superficial characteristics no longer played a role in my self-image.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s taken YEARS for me to get over the fact that my nose has a gentle downward slope, or that I will never (ever) have cleavage, but I would no longer consider plastic surgery. I like that I don’t look like every other generic blonde out there and at the end of the day, I’d rather run a marathon without chaffing.

So I must be perfectly well-adjusted, right? I thought so.

But as I sat with this question a little longer, I realized that while I have matured beyond the point where looks and lifestyle determine my self-worth, the root cause of these insecurities is still very much at home in my psyche.

I don’t care if I have trendy clothes or look like a model, but I still waiver on whether or not I actually deserve to have good things to happen to me. In fact, any time something comes up that I really want or even need, I subconsciously ask myself, “Have I earned it?”

“It” could be anything from a job I want to unconditional love, and every single time I doubt my worthiness.

Off the cuff you might read these words and say, “Of course you deserve to be loved! What’s wrong with you??” But when you look at your own relationship patterns, do you, yourself, ever fall into the trap of trying to earn the love of the people around you?

I do. I always have. Since I could remember, I have felt that in order to receive love from my parents, friends and the men (or more often, boys) I dated, I needed to be well-behaved, get good grades, excel in sports, wear cute clothes, maintain a polished outward appearance, “be fun”, etc. etc. In a word, I needed to be perfect.

And if I was not perfect in the eyes of my parents, friends and the men I dated, then I did not deserve their love. As a result, I have historically chosen to surround myself with people who make me feel as though I need to change, tweak or exorcise something. The required alterations are always different, but the feeling of not measuring up is always the same.

Kind of gross, huh?

This is not to say that every person I have ever dated or been friends with has made me feel badly about myself, or been a mean and awful person, I’ve just had a knack for finding these people and keeping them around… for a while…. like fungus.

So you can imagine my reaction when my current boyfriend looked at me one night and told me I was perfect.

“That’s impossible,” were the first two words out of my mouth.

He thought about it a second and responded with, “Nope, I’m pretty sure there’s not a single thing I’d change about you.”

I’m sure you’re all going, “Awwww,” in your head right now, and if I used half of my brain cells, I would have done the same thing. But since I rarely use my brain the way God intended, I chose not to believe him. Instead, I chose to assume that he had no idea what he was talking about (I mean they were only his feelings after all) and spent the following three months trying to earn his love.

Right.

Can you imagine the hoops I jumped through trying to deserve this thing that he was already giving me for free? He required no money down, no interest on purchases or cash advances, nothing at all except for me to “be me”. And since he didn’t need anything extra, he treated me the same, no matter what I did…which made me think I hadn’t earned anything yet, so I jumped through more hoops and made more concessions.

I finally got so tired and depleted from chasing my tail that I had a meltdown and blamed everything on him. The poor guy was so confused. But you know what he did? Instead of saying, “Bitch, you crazy,” and bouncing, he took responsibility for the things that were in his control and apologized.

Wow. Really? What a well-adjusted man I’m dating.

And it didn’t even occur to me that all this was going on until I sat in Washington Square Park on a recent sunny day and read that tiny little question.

Upon my epiphany, my knee-jerk reaction was to apologize and let him off the hook for everything (even the things that were legitimately his doing), but that would be following the same unhealthy pattern, right? And he’d never let me do it anyways. So instead, I choose to alter they way I function in our relationship and all other relationships going forward.

I will stop doing things because I feel like I have to in order to gain love and acceptance because I am enough, just as I am. I will stop feeling guilty when good fortune smiles upon me because everyone deserves bliss, and everyone includes me. And I will stop viewing myself through the eyes of others because there is nothing wrong with my vision.

I will do all of this because I am a badass and I deserve it.

Have you ever felt this way or had a similar pattern? You wanna take on a challenge with me? I will endeavor to make the previously mentioned changes if you work to turn an insecurity you have into a strength. Deal? Deal.

Now I need a nap.

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