"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Far From Perfect and Loving It

"Know your enemy" has always seemed like a maxim to me, but sadly, in the past year, I have found that "ignorance is bliss" has resonated more strongly as I desperately tried to put the genie back into the bottle. Lately in a somewhat hopeless state, I have found myself slipping back into unhealthy habits that dominated my life in the past.

In her book "The Gifts of Imperfection", Brené Brown writes "From the time we wake up to the time our head hits the pillow at night we are bombarded with messages and expectations about every aspect of our lives".

The messages surround us; from programming and advertising on television, articles and advertising on internet and magazines, and so on. Brown quotes Jean Kilbourne; "Advertising is an over $200 billion a year industry. We are each exposed to over 3000 ads a day. Yet, remarkably, most of us believe we are not influenced by advertising."
I find that so many of these messages are gender-targeted and of course my wiring causes all those that are targeted 'female' to hit me hard. It may be that others are not even aware of them, but those who fight the pull of the "wrong gender", cannot escape ourselves when exposed to these constant reminders of our inadequacy.

As though my maxim at the beginning is mocking me, my lack of self-control brings another even more painful shame. If I can understand how insidious these distracting messages are, why can I not find a way to ignore them.

And so, like any cis-female, it seems I need to develop effective means to build a positive self-image that does not depend on fighting against, or at least, is somewhat more impervious to the assault by media on our psyche.

As Brown points out, the natural response to the pain of our feelings is to look for a way to numb them, whether it be by the application of "alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, staying busy, affairs, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet". I do not know about you, but I found myself in that list several times. Some of them are obviously addictive. Some came as a surprise to me.

And so I find myself realizing that instead of attempting to put the genie back, I need to live with, or even become the genie. I find myself trying to recognize the pain, and rather than numbing at those times, remembering to 'lean into' that pain whenever I can, and when I must numb, realize that is what I am doing.

Becoming the best person you can be is a journey. The destination is unknown, but by paying attention to the scenery I am getting more out of my life right now. It may sound spiritual, but knowing that being flawed is a shared affliction helps. One thing is certain, I do not find myself judging others these days.

Finally, Brown points out that when we numb to lose the pain, we lose the joy too. More than anything, I need more joy in my life.


  1. How interesting. I'm reading the very same book at the moment. Her writing isn't aimed specifically at trans people, but it's some of the best advice for trans people I've ever seen.

  2. I lived decades of numbness to survive, what started the process was a television advertisement for soap when I was four! there were few advertisements on TV in the fifties in the UK but I recognised that my reaction to the ad. was too visceral and absolutely too feminine and I had better keep it hidden until I had worked out this gender thing. Took half a century before help came my way.

  3. @Caroline; If I only knew then! Decades of numbing indeed. It tells something of the climate of the time that we knew, even as a three or four year old that our reaction was 'wrong' and something to push down out of sight.

    @Diana; She might as well have written it for us specifically. I don't know about you, but I figure to be reading this book for the next many years, because I get so much out of each chapter and find myself going back to digest a bit more.

  4. I have always considered myself impervious to advertising hype...that is, until I began seeing those cellphone ads with the gorgeous young lady wearing the superbly feminine pink dresses. I don't remember what cellphone provider she shills for, but I sure want to find out :)

  5. It seems to be a fact of life that you can't have joy without some pain as well. That's why people with bipolar disorder sometimes refuse medication. I've seen up close what the medication does: takes away the low lows but also the high highs. Flat in the middle. There is no creativity there.

    As you said, you numb periodically, knowing that what you are doing. I doubt that many of us escape from that entirely.

  6. "... become the genie ... " represents a nice seam of thought dear Halle, an to me ties nicely to the theme of today's thoughtful post.

    The messaging out there is inescapable. Our response to it is a matter of choice though. We choose to participate in a narrative owned by somebody else, or authored by ourselves.

    Any blogger knows the pride of authorship. Why not extend that as far as it can go? To the imperfections and all ...

    Best - Petra

  7. I wondered if my friend Petra would recognize herself in the phrase "become the genie". Thank you for getting the reference. I will let you know if I attempt to flatter you with imitation; you know I will! ;)