Confessions of a Paranoid Woman

I dream of being *that* person, you know, the person who is comfortable in their own skin, the person who genuinely doesn’t care what other people think of them, the person who accepts themselves just the way they are.

But I am *this* person: I am insecure about pretty much every part of me. It starts as I wake up – in my comforting foetal position, I can feel my little pot belly hang over onto the bed; I’m sure it’s the first thing I am aware of every morning. And it kind of goes from there…

I have bad dark circles under my eyes, I’ve always had them, it’s just the way I am made. You think I would have moved to acceptance at the age of 41, but no, I am paranoid about them; I am convinced that people are staring at them when they are talking to me. When I arrive somewhere, I torture myself by checking how bad they look in my compact mirror, praying for natural light, knowing that harsh, changing room style lighting is my enemy. And as I get older, I now have ‘laughter lines’ competing for my paranoid thoughts (I’m thinking sunglasses at all times).

I am self-conscious about other parts of my body too, but those can be hidden behind clever dressing. And then I move on to what I am wearing: ‘Have I got it ‘right’?’ ‘ Do I look stylish?’ ‘Do I look slim enough?’ Blah, blah, blah… I know it’s tedious.

I compensate for these insecurities by taking care of my appearance: I don’t leave the house without my hair and make-up done, I always make an effort with what I’m wearing, and I work hard to stay slim. I’m not striving for perfection, I am clear that doesn’t exist (and that even if it did, I would be a long way from it). But without the hair and the make-up I look pretty rough, and if I do all these things, I feel I look, well, alright.

The only person I’m not self-conscious with is my husband. I happily let him see me au naturale, I trust that he loves all of me (I mean jeez, after everything we have been through, he must do): dark circles, muffin top, stretch marks, cellulite, silly thoughts and all (oh yes, lucky man).

I don’t want to be *this* person. I know it’s bordering on ridiculous, oh hell, is ridiculous. I am embarrassed that I feel this way; I should know better. I know there are so many other things which are more important about me, about life. And I know I miss out on making the most of the moments with friends because I am worrying about all this stuff. And when I do switch off from the crazy thoughts, of course, I have a better time.

I’m not sure how I ended up here. Did it start with the feeling I never fitted in at school? Was it struggling with my body image at University? Has it been made worse along the way by losing some of my identity in those barren CFS years? I’m not sure.

I do know though, that the bigger the social occasion, the more the paranoia comes out to play. It was my best friend’s wedding last week (congratulations Mr and Mrs Eckhardt!) and all these stressful – and unhelpful – thought patterns insisted on coming along for the ride. I wasn’t happy with my outfit, which wasn’t a great place to start; I was also giving a speech so was putting myself ‘out there’ into the limelight for extra scrutiny. And I knew there was going to be photographic evidence – I hate having my photograph taken, especially when I have no control over the save or delete button.

I have berated myself since the wedding: ‘How could I have got the outfit so wrong?’ ‘How will I look in the photos?’ ‘Did I come across okay to the other guests?’ And so on…

I don’t judge anyone else like this. In fact more than that, I take great pride in accepting people just the way they are; I love my husband and friends for all their uniqueness; I don’t expect them to be, or look, anything other than themselves.

I wish I could just switch these thoughts off, I really do. But alas, as we all know, sometimes our thoughts just do their own thing, good or bad. Maybe now I’ve confessed to the Internet how ridiculous I am, it will help me take a step towards becoming more comfortable being me. Or, maybe I should get in touch with Samantha Brick…

And you, how comfortable are you in your own skin?

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12 thoughts on “Confessions of a Paranoid Woman

  1. i have never, ever been comfortable in myself since i was a child, and i’ve got a decade of bouncing around eating disorders behind me thanks to it! i’ve found CBT really helfpul though; it took that little voice that knew i was being ridiuclous/extreme/overly harsh on myself and made it louder and more convincing. i just did it from books as i found it too hard to talk about all the things i disliked with someone else – might be worth a shot for you?

    • Hey Jacki

      This just makes me even more impressed with your recent vlog lady.

      I was lucky that I never developed a full blown eating disorder – although when I was younger I certainly had a difficult relationship with food and weight.

      You’re right about trying to change the thoughts – I have done some CBT before, and I have learnt lots of NLP techniques that I can tap into.

      Thank you for the advice… ‘I love and accept myself just the way I am!’

      Xx

      • I read this yesterday, but I was at work and couldn’t really concentrate on it (!). And then I had to pop out this morning with no make up on (it’s a long “time-and-make-up-brushes-soaking” story!) and I thought of it.

        I don’t really feel the way you do about my body but I do – or did – about my personality. I second the CBT recommendation – it’s different to NLP in that you’re not repeating healthier thoughts over and over but you’re actually getting into the mechanism of how your thoughts work and pulling up the weeds (the bad thoughts) and planting new seeds (the good thoughts) rather than just affirming. I highly recommend the book CBT for Dummies.

        I also think with you it will come in time as your health improves. You’ll be busier, and maybe forced into situations where you don’t have time to get ‘done up’ or stress about outfits (that said I get up ridiculously early for work as I would be very uncomfortable going to work with no make up on, but I have had experiences where my make up’s basically fallen off and I have an after work thing and no make up bag!), also you would have less time to dwell.

        I read this really interesting blog written by a reasonably insecure person who took a picture of herself every day for a year – some without make up and some with. She said it really helped her get used to her own image in photographic form, and was quite a cool art project generally. Maybe try it for a month, you do’t have to show anyone! Also, a stompy walk and listening to That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morisette is a must!

        BG

        PS. I, too, am a be-dark-circled person. It’s a curse, and doesn’t seem to improve with sleep. But I figure, Emma Watson has them too, and she looks cute!

        • Hey BG

          I like it when I am in good company! I have chubby knees and so does Kylie (she does!) and this somehow seems to make the world seem better…

          Thank you for the thoughts and suggestions. I agree that when I am busier it is not so dominant, but even in the FT job, whilst juggling MBA, days it was still there. It is worse when I am feeling stressed, which I was leading up to the wedding (also a long story, although no make-up brushes soaking included).

          What’s interesting about your comment is that it has made me realise I am quite confident in who I am as a person, so that’s something isn’t it!

          Have a lovely day Miss Lawyer…

          Xx

  2. Ack…. thoughts thoughts thoughts.. I’ve been thinking (boom boom) about this a LOT lately. I’ve always been slightly awkward in my skin, I’m a bit overweight, tall, bigger than your average girl kind of girl. I don’t wear make up and lack in the wardrobe department but I do try and look after myself. The only time I really get antsy is if I’m going out and then I do worry about if people will judge me on my looks.

    Going through the CFS business has really made me uncomfortable in my own skin but not on a looks level, it’s all about the symptoms and the effect they have on me in public. Today for example I was feeling ever so woolly in the head. I ended up weaving in and out of departments trying to maintain my composure and not spot anyone I know. I ask you, is this the behaviour of a grown woman?? No, tis my behaviour.

    It’s easy to say that you should be comfortable; since talking with you I find you to be quite smashing on the inside and from the pictures I’ve seen, smashing on the outside too. But one persons comfort is another’s hang up.

    I think if our heads didn’t insist on the ridiculous chatter we would be just fine; maybe trying to quieten that would be the way to go. I’m just starting out and I hate it. I’m quite simply a vessel of discomfort. What is it that million bookseller lady said (no, not Barbra Taylor-Bradford) “thoughts are just thoughts and they can be changed”….

    Don’t stop sparkling beautiful lady 🙂

    • Oh you’re so funny Jo – I thank the universe for meeting you, and I think you are very smashing too.

      It’s so interesting to hear your thoughts, and the image I have of you at work is class (and seems perfectly reasonable behaviour to me!)

      Yes, you are right too – I should make more effort to switch off the ridiculous chatter. Barbara Taylor Bradford here I come…

      Thank you for sharing and hope the woolly head is better behaved today… Xx

  3. ME made me more conscious about my looks, the extra weight I can no longer do anything about, the extra lines through years of stress and worry……..then I had an awakening. I moved from the city into the countryside, bought 2 dogs, some red hunter wellies and a barbour jacket. I never take my dogs for a walk without my lipstick on and for the first time in my life I feel natural in my own skin…natural, free, caked in mud but my lippy is perfect 🙂

    We all have a journey to get to a comfortable place, harder for some more than others, but if we can open our heart and become at one with nature around us we can forget how different we are.

    Love and light

    SARAH
    x

    • I love this Sarah – matching lipstick and wellies!

      Sometimes it seems to come down to distraction doesn’t it… don’t give the crazy thoughts space.

      We were out with a group of friends last night, which was an interesting experiment after posting this article – it seems a couple of glasses of wine stopped the silliness! Not quite as healthy as your approach though…

      Thank you so much for sharing what helped you.

      Xx

  4. I’ve only just spotted this post but thought I’d add to the helpful comments already here. I’m probably in a position similar to yours right now. Recovering (I hope) from ME, not quite at a point where I feel able to work full-time and also trying to figure myself out a bit.

    Having tried all kinds of (helpful and less helpful) things to help directly with the M.E (Optimum Health Clinic, Reverse Therapy, a short dose of CBT (although this was more for anxiety cuased by being ill), acupuncture and homeopathy) I feel like I’ve reached a point where the physical stuff is under control as much as it can be for now.

    However, the psychological effects of being ill for such a long time (again similar to you I’ve been ill since about 2005) have inevitably taken their toll and I’m now having counselling. The anxiety is still there sometimes, as are feelings of depression (which I found dfficult to recognise until my counsellor pointed it out to me). I also found myself suddenly feeling paranoid when I was out on my own recently and I couldn’t explain exactly why or where that feeling sprang from but it was horrible.

    My therapist uses a variety of approaches but one thing she has suggested to me recently was Mindfulness. I’m sure you know about it but it’s something I think is going to be helpful for me over time. The book recommended by my counsellor is good and comes with a CD of guided mindfulness meditations. You’re ‘supposed’ to do one every day but I find that a bit too much and just do them when I feel like it.

    Anyway, I think it;s brave of you to admit you feel the way you do and that in itself is no doubt the first step towards dealing with it in a constructive way. :).x

    • Hey lovely

      Thank you for joining in the discussion. It sounds like counselling is really helping you. I rarely get that horrible anxious feeling, but I do occasionally, so I know how awful it is.

      As I think you probably know, I’m a big believer in self-care and taking care of the mind and the body. I do lots of things regularly (meditation, hypnotherapy, yoga, NLP techniques, keeping a journal and so on) to keep me in balance. But I guess, even with all of that I’m still slightly bonkers!

      Maybe I need to throw something else into the mix. Jeez, maybe I should just move into the self-help aisle!

      Hope you have a wonderful day and thank you for sharing, I know these topics aren’t always easy to talk about… And I hope the counselling continues to help.

      Xx

  5. Thanks for your brave post! Most of us are afraid of being judged and condemned by others because we know how it feels to judge ourselves so harshly at times. Few people are ‘perfect’ by western media’s ideal body standards, but the thing to try and remember is that every time we judge ourselves we are doing so because we have set ourselves a standard which we somehow know we can never meet – these media generated images of mainstream ideals of beauty are designed to become internalised, so generating a yearning to become them, intended to make us disatisfied with the way we already are. This sells products of course…
    Perhaps if our criteria for setting our own standards is based on more spiritual values, i.e. only to be healthy and happy and fulfilled rather than beautiful, then ‘real’ beauty will arise naturally. If we learn to appreciate this aspect more, we will never be judgemental with ourselves or unhappy.
    My own personal fear or dislike is of not being noticed in a room full of people, knowing that good looking and young people get all the attention. As ‘older’ women we don’t get a second glance by anyone unless we are relatively stunning, and by this I mean fewer people even seem to take us seriously or listen to us properly – both men and women, and the fact that social status for women is still often defined by looks first and talent or integrity second is really appalling and I wish things were different.
    To be honest though, I’m quite a confident person, and as far as my looks go, I’m not good looking (I’m rather plain with mousy hair and a little overweight) but I just don’t care that much any more… I have friends that look glamorous with coloured hair and extensions and manage to keep in top shape, some with toyboy boyfriends and perfect teeth….But I know I’m never going to get botox or plastic surgery or dye my hair like them because I don’t want the dangerous toxins in my blood, or the risk of surgery, thanks – even if I was well enough to have it (didn’t have m.e. for example). And I don’t care whether or not I’m sexy – it just isn’t an issue for me. What a pressure to always have to be sexy and attractive! No thanks!
    The way I deal with potential rejection (which we all fear to some degree) is to reason that I have had my fair share of orgasmic, soul igniting sex in my time,and really nice relationships while they lasted – been there, know what it’s about, like visiting an exotic country, then you come home again to you, and that home is always there to welcome you back. So for me there are far more inportant things than sex, like how good I feel inside, and that’s never dependent upon the approval of another person or their ability to make me feel good. But chances are, I’ll always find someone compatible, because I’m confident and that’s generally what life creates. Perhaps I’m too optimistic? Don’t know, but I do know it’s fruitless worrying about it. 😉 xx

    • Hi Paula

      Thank you for taking the time to share so much, I’m really touched.

      And what a refreshing perspective you have; I genuinely feel incredibly inspired by what you have said and want to learn from you. It’s beyond my internal comprehension to ‘not care’, but to know that to think like this is possible makes me realise that it is possible for me too.

      I don’t think you’re too optimistic; I think you’re wonderful.

      Xx

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