This Kind of Girl: Inspired by Lena Dunham

I just finished reading a book for my book club. It is one I would not have picked to read since I’ve never seen the show, GIRLS. I’ve heard it’s good, though, and I hope to one day tune in. Her book is entitled Not That Kind of Girl, and in it she discusses a number of her life experiences, which are plenty for a young woman in her twenties. I related to her in many ways, and not at all in others. However, I’m so glad I read it. It inspired me to think about who I am and my own experiences, and what I’d say if I were to write such a book. Obviously, there are no publishers knocking down my door asking me to write such a thing, but hey. I can pretend.

I learned from Lena Dunham’s book that my life, thoughts, and experiences might not be all that unique and that women likely have a lot more in common than we think we do. We just don’t talk about certain details from the life experience. Her book was shocking in that it was so personal and so detailed and about subjects we don’t discuss with “polite” company, but in a number of instances, they are things that we should discuss. We should discuss the time we put ourselves in a bad situation. We should discuss the time we were sexually assaulted. We should discuss our fears and anxieties. We should discuss the douche bags we let ourselves date and why. We should discuss the time post college when we worked a crappy job and wondered who the heck we are and what it all means. I applaud her honesty and authenticity.

Writing from a place of inspiration here, I’d like to share a personal reflection of my own. In my effort to lose my ego and focus on self-acceptance and love, I’m going to throw some of my “flaws” out there in this blog post. And I’m not talking about the flaws that make people cringe. I’m talking about the job interview flaws. You know, the one that answers the dreaded question, “What is your weakness?” The one the interviewer expects to really be a strength. Because I’ve been learning lately that some of the things about me that I have considered flaws are really just me, and they are indeed strengths and gifts. I just need to see them as such. Here goes. Hoping for writing catharsis here.

1. I am dramatic. Silver lining: I’m in touch with my feelings, and I truly LIVE this life. As a child, I really got into pretend play. I remember playing with my twin brother outside one day, and we decided to play chase around the house in a game of “cops and robbers.” We were about five. I vividly recall that I was the robber running for my life as my brother, the cop, ran after me. I was so into this game that I actually became the robber, and I was truly afraid — my adrenaline was pumping. I was sure I’d lost him, and I just knew he thought I was hiding behind the tree as I found myself hiding behind a bush by the front door. I was wrong. The cop had found me, and I was toast.

The moment I saw that cop, I screamed. It was no pretend scream, but a real, “Oh my God. My life is over” kind of scream. It was so dramatic that my brother had to stop and say, “Nancy, it’s okay. It’s just me. We’re only pretending.” A few years later, I remember wanting to be Annie. I remember assuming that because I had acting talent and red hair, I should play her on Broadway. I won the school talent show in the third grade for singing “I Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma, so, obviously, the next step was Broadway. I recall trying out for the big fifth grade play and wanting the lead so badly I could taste it. We were going to do Babes in Toyland. I worked hard the week before, coming up with the perfect song to sing for the tryout, and I gave it my all, and I did.

I remember the next day at school, my friends weren’t talking to me. It hurt, and I didn’t understand. So, I approached the one that had been the most chilly while we were on the playground. She said, “I just think you should give someone else a chance.” Well, I guess I had nailed that tryout! It turned out that I did get the lead, but so did she. We split it (I performed for the evening performances, and she performed in the day performances), and suddenly, we were friends again. Once I hit puberty a couple of years later, I lost interest in Broadway and plays. I think I had some new insecurities related to my sudden new body, but that is for another post. What I’m trying to say here is that I was born with a flair for drama (thanks to my mother), and I do sometimes make mountains of molehills, but I will say that it doesn’t just mean I have a zest for life. I truly care, and when my heart is into something, it matters to me on a deep level. I don’t half-ass the things and people to which I commit myself. All in.

2. I’m a Goody Goody. Silver lining: My friendships are true and authentic. I love being around people. I love people. I love to laugh and goof off. I like to make people laugh until their sides hurt. I like to indulge in a little alcohol to relax me, but I like to stop it there. My body hates excessive drinking. I don’t get crazy and happy after a few drinks, but instead my body gets sleepy, dizzy, and sick. Not worth it. I learned this in college, and have been totally fine with this reality. But even well before college, middle and high school, I knew I was not going to be the “party girl.” I wanted to be because I liked to laugh and have fun. But it just wasn’t in the cards. I was always well-liked, for the most part, but rarely was I invited to a party that parents weren’t aware of. I was often called “sweet” by the people who didn’t know me very well. A description, by the way, that I hate this very day. The good news is that I avoided disappointing my parents because of this, but I often felt left out of some fun and excitement. But guess what? The real friends I had who sat with me while I cried over a boy… The real friends I made young who knew all about my crazy family and forgave me when I said something stupid or mean… The real friends who spent holidays with my family and I spent with theirs… The real friends who helped me laugh at myself and called me out on my b.s… They are still my friends today, and that matters more than those missed parties. I am finding as an adult mom that I’m still considered a goody goody, but I have some amazing people in my life and deep, deep friendships that I wouldn’t trade for all the partying in the world.

3. I am not interestingly mysterious. Silver lining: I’m open, honest, and real. You know that cool girl in school who everyone wants to know so they can know her secret of how to be so confident? Yeah. That was never me. I say what I feel and what’s on my mind. I don’t pretend. Everyone has insecurities. Some hide them, while others just name them. That’s me. I don’t pretend (unless I’m playing cops and robbers or Annie, of course), because what’s the point? Some people embrace this “flaw” and appreciate it, while it makes others uncomfortable. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. In high school, I remember that this didn’t always work so well in social settings, particularly when it involved my hormonal imbalances. If I felt insecure about something, I said it. If something hurt my feelings, I said it. If I liked a boy, I told someone. No mystery here. Ever. Even if I tried to seem mysterious, people would see through me. That is how strong this “flaw” of mine is. And, believe me, in the dating world, it didn’t work all that well in my favor either. If I really liked a guy I was dating, it was doomed. If I liked him okay, it lasted longer. I thank my lucky stars every day that my husband appreciated my openness and honesty, as well as my admiration of him and that he admired me in return. It truly is a miracle. Anyway, this “flaw” turns some people off. But I like to think that for those it doesn’t turn off, well, I have found my people. “Oh, you feel that way, too? You’re real as well and don’t put up any bullshit fronts that you are confident and perfect? Let’s be friends forever!”

4. I am sensitive. Silver lining: I am compassionate. I recall crying when I saw a dead deer on the road as a child. I recall seeing the movie Rocky II with my family and crying over Apollo’s death, not only in the movie, but in the restaurant after we saw the movie, and my parents thinking I was insane because “it was just a movie.” I remember thinking, “Yeah, but it was real to me, and I’m sure someone somewhere has died like that.” I recall just being sad for people I didn’t even know, just because I saw they were sad. It would affect me. It still does. My feelings get hurt easily, and I’ve been called “sensitive” before after someone has said something rude or cruel. The name calling should have gone in the other direction in those cases, but it’s important to mention that when discussing this “flaw” of mine. Reading news stories is not smart for me because I take in the pain of those suffering from the situation that made the news. I went through this recently upon reading about a horrific child abuse case that resulted in the death of a three-year-old boy. I cried and lost sleep over it. How could this have happened? But you know what? As much as I’d love to let stories about other people’s pain roll off my back or the insults directed at me roll off my back as well (I’ll keep working on that last one), I’m glad I have empathy for others and a sense of justice. Sensitive and compassionate people change the world and make it a better place. Not a flaw.

I know there are more “flaws” I could share, but I will stop there. I think there is a fine line between improving ourselves and accepting/appreciating ourselves for who we are. For this post, I’ve given love to the latter and think I’m coming close to knowing the difference between the two. I’ll never be an insensitive, mysterious, practical-minded party girl, and that is okay! 🙂

So, what are your “flaws” that are really gifts?

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