Stuart Smalley for the Modern Woman
January 14th, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions can be dangerous territory for people whose confidence is shaky.  Here we sit, at the front door of a new year, and, almost like offering a secret password, we are invited to make all kinds of promises about how we will improve before we walk inside.  I’m a believer in New Year’s Resolutions because I believe that there is always room for at least modest self-improvement (also because I love a project).  But I can easily remember the dawn of 1994 when I was an insecure sophomore in high school.  I laid out an impossible list of arbitrary resolutions that encompassed everything from journaling to my weight to my golf game.

My self-destructive perfectionism at that time is a story for another day.  (And I can happily tell you now that a few months later I blew off my high maintenance list and began accepting myself as I was.)  However, each December as I lay out my best intentions for the coming year I think back on my 16-year-old self as a reminder of how depressing and overwhelming resolutions run amok can become.  I make a point to remind myself that I have lots of great qualities too.

I thought more about this premise of “what’s good about me” this week when a pair of posts got me to thinking about how we (women in particular) can be so reluctant to admit that there actually are lots of great things about ourselves.  The first post was from Kristen at Motherse who confided that she is, like many women, uncomfortable accepting a compliment.  The second post was from Julia Moulden at The Huffington Post who wrote about an exercise she conducted with a number of women wherein she asked them what quality about themselves they love and would never give up.

I find it disheartening to confront the fact that many women (and many quite remarkable women) are so hard on themselves.  We look in the mirror and we see everything that we wish weren’t.  The crow’s feet.  The smudged, end-of-the-day mascara.  The frazzled parent.  The body that doesn’t look quite like it did before we had babies.  And on, and on, and on.

But what of the things we don’t see?  What of the things we dismiss because we’re sure they don’t count?  What about our curious minds?  What about our well-honed opinions?  What about our laughing children?  What about our rich, time-worn friendships?  What about 30-odd years of experiences and wisdom?  Why don’t we count those things?

When I look at my friends I see a laundry list of admirable qualities.  I see compassion.  I see humor.  I see incredible style.  I see self-deprecation.  I see bravery.  I see shiny, bouncy hair.  I see loyalty.  I see gratitude.  I see money management skills.  I see intellect.  And I see abounding generosity.  But I’m not entirely sure that my friends see these things in themselves.

My first post of 2011 listed my resolutions for the year; things I want to change.  But having thought through it a bit further I think it’s also important to acknowledge the things I’d never change about myself.   I suppose I should follow my own rules, though, so here goes.

Things I would never change about myself:

My love of reading.  My culinary skills.  My commitment to healthy eating and regular exercise.  My upturned nose and sea of freckles.  My confidence.  My inquisitive mind.  And my patience as a mother.

There is a lot about me that I could do better.  But there are quite a few things that are pretty good already.  It’s good to remember that.   I should probably make this list more than once a year.  So should you!

Okay, yout turn.  Don’t leave me hanging.  I think we could all benefit from acknowledging our best traits.  So chime in!

7 Responses to “Stuart Smalley for the Modern Woman”

  1. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    Great post, Gale. And here’s to celebrating the things about ourselves that need no changing whatsoever!

    It’s funny: on the day I published my post on compliments, my husband and I were stuck in terrible traffic and had the chance to share a long, deep conversation about ourselves and our kids and where we are all going. In the context of our talk, he paid me what I took as a great compliment: he told me that I was the person in his life whose instincts about people he most trusted.

    And I really liked that. I liked that he said it and liked it because I think it’s true. I am good at reading others and have good instincts about whom to trust and whom to keep at a distance.

    But isn’t it interesting that it took his saying so for me to realize this quality about myself? I wonder: if I had read your post before having that talk with him, would I have picked this quality as the one I like best in myself?

  2. Gale Says:

    Kristen – I always love gaining insight into how other people perceive me. Sometimes it matches up to my own view of myself, but sometimes not. I think we’re all prone to overlooking some of our better qualities until they are pointed out by others.

  3. Cathy Says:

    Interesting. I follow Christine@CoffeeandCommutes on Twitter and the other day she tweeted something along the lines of “It’s difficult to name three things you like about yourself”. My initial reaction was to think that it couldn’t be that hard. Well, I tried and I got two – my organizational skills (I am Queen at efficiency) and my persistence.

    But the two of you got me to realize a couple more (thank you very much!) – I also am a great cook and baker, especially baker. In fact, if I had my way, I’d quit my job and just experiment in the kitchen all day long. And, like Kristen, I have a very keen sense of people – I always try to remember to trust my first instinct. It seems like every time I’ve tried to reason and ignore that instinct, I end up getting burned.

  4. Jeanna Says:

    I love the idea of counting your strengths, it is definitely something I don’t do often enough. Things that I like about myself and would not want to change: I’m optimistic, happy, flexible, creative, a problem solver, inquisitive, and always looking at how I can improve.

    As I was making this list it reminded me of a grad school project where I had to request feedback on 3 of my strengths from multiple people in my life. I was uneasy asking for the inputs, but it was rewarding to see what others thought of me. It surprised me that they were all very similar even though the people I asked were from different aspects of my life (school, work, personal, volunteer). Now I’m going to have to go back and read the report that I put together, what a great confidence booster.

  5. Anne Says:

    Great post! And a worthy challenge for us all. It’s interesting…in my job I’m constantly coaching people how to promote themselves, and women often struggle with this. What wouldn’t I change? My sense of humor, my eyes (always a point of vanity), my loyalty, and my intellectual curiosity. I’m also pretty good with dogs. That’s cool.

  6. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    Such an important post and critical reminder. You are so right that we are all compilations of good things, things we would never want to alter about ourselves. I wonder what it is about human nature (or female nature?) that leads us to focus on the things – often superficial – that we would like to change?

  7. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. We women are far too hard on ourselves, worsened by media and cultural expectations. (Could we possibly raise our daughters – and our sons – to think a bit differently?)

    My best feature? It would be a toss-up between love of learning and compassion. And if I had to pick some physical trait, it would be the eyes. (You can see the desire to learn, the compassion, and the mischief-making in the eyes.)

    Terrific post. (I was thinking along similar lines today, though sparked by a very different source, yesterday.)