If You Can't Love Yourself…

photo credit:  Ilayza Macayan/Unsplash

The moment I walked into the networking event last week, I SUDDENLY time-traveled back to my first middle school dance.

ALL the insecurities that I had at the first bloom of puberty came rushing back.

I was stripped of EVERY skill I have learned in the last few decades on how to relate to people.

And I was TERRIFIED that someone would see the nervous 12 year old I am.

I was primed for embarrassment, ready to launch. 3… 2… 1…

photo credit:  Kawin Harasai/Unsplash

After the networking event, I emerged from my fugue state, confused. Do I really have ZERO skills to manage a new social situation?

So… I took inventory.

Not only have I formed lasting friendships in my life but I have been married, happily, for a LONG time (28 years last weekend!). I have two grown kids who still like me. Oh, and I am a seasoned professional who works with… wait for it… PEOPLE… for a living!

Why did I time-travel back to the lowest point in my life as a social animal?

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

It doesn’t matter how confident I feel on the outside. There is always an internal voice, acting like a watchdog, working overtime, to steer me away from things that might cause me harm.

And apparently that inner guide sometimes takes me back to middle school!

credit: BigStockPhoto

credit: BigStockPhoto

Is he really just trying to keep me safe?

The way my alarm bells go off, it feels like every new situation is a middle school dance:

  • every person I meet is going to see the vulnerable, scared adolescent with the trembling voice

  • every new client is going to see that I’m an imposter

  • I will fumble my chance to make a first impression

  • and EVERYONE will laugh at me when they see my moves on the dance floor!

Does my inner guide have my best interests at heart? …or is he just traumatized by past crises?

Every morning I wake up to find that nervous 12 year old Robert in the mirror, getting ready for his first dance. An adult for decades, it may be my millionth day of work, but I still hesitate over what to wear and how my hair looks and… everything.

I feel like I’m in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The same day, the same feelings, the same fears, have happened a million times.

Like Bill Murray’s character, I repeatedly try and fail to “get over it.”

Then RuPaul taps me on the shoulder. She suggests that I stop trying to bully that inner guide. He’s not going away. He’s a part of me. He’s like family. I didn’t choose him and I can’t get rid of him.

by the power vested in me.jpg

RuPaul reminds me that I’m in charge. Owning that responsibility allows me to change tactics.

My new trick (that seems to be working pretty well so far!): I show some compassion for myself.

I sit down with that little guy. I put my arm on his shoulder. I try to empathize. I listen.

Could self-compassion be the one superpower that rules them all?


If you can't love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else? Can I get an A-men?.jpg

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Robert Zeitlin