Words have meaning. Whether we intend or not, the words we use have power that affects even ourselves. In a recent post, I mentioned my over-use of self-depracating humor when introducing myself to others. I did this at the ADF Imbolc Retreat, when I made a light-hearted comment about the number of followers I have here on the blog or dedicated listeners on the podcast. I was attempting to make the mood light-hearted. By doing so, I didn’t lighten the mood, I reinforced my own negative self-image, and spread that out to others.
To those who know me fairly well, its not huge secret – I have a negative self-image. As a kid, I was the bean-pole-thin boy who didn’t have very many friends. I wasn’t very strong – either in strength or personality – which made me a perfect target for the bullies within the school. It didn’t take long for all of that to project deeply into who I was, forming the beginnings of the introvert that I am today. Even today, at 51, I have very few friends. Those that I do have as friends, I am fiercely loyal to. They may never see that loyalty, but it is there. Over the past four months, I am seeing where my negative self-image has come from, and I am slowly tearing down those curtains. I still have a lot more progress to do.
My self-depracating humor is a defense mechanism, designed to make my flaws into strengths. Or rather to take away the weapons of the bullies and use that as armor for myself. It works. But it cuts both ways. I take away the weapons by showing that I am not only aware of my weaknesses – such as my awkardness – but that lampooning those weaknesses to show that I am not afraid of them. But I am. That’s why I choose these as points to make fun of. It keeps these from being a weapon, because I expose those aspects and beat the bully to the punch by making fun of myself. Like I said, this cuts both ways.
In using this defense mechanism, I give power to the negative image of who I am. Many folks will not take me that serious when I do things like this. Hopefully, this drives away some of the people. Those who manage to slip through all that self-depracating humor – I provide them with an unseen badge of honor: they made it through all of that, which helps me relax around them. They want to be here and get to know me. But do did some of those folks I drove away because I was trying to be funny. And not only that, but much like Donnie, I begin to believe my own “press”. I begin to believe that I am an akward mess that people just don’t want to see or get to know. And that drives me deeper into my introversion. Because words are power. Words have meaning. Words are the magick we speak every day. What we say, if repeated enough – can be believed. Even if its not the truth.
A short while back, John Beckett put up a blog post about how Pagan Clergy need to dress their part. He’s caught some flak for it, even from me. I wear what I find comfortable to rituals, which is usually a tshirt and jeans. But John is right. Dressing for the role, for the intended audience, for the intended need can all make a difference in how you are perceived. At the ADF Imbolc Retreat, I wore my cloak to the night ritual. Still wearing my tshirt and jeans underneath. I honestly didn’t need the cloak to know I am a Priest of Crow. I have already accepted that role. But the cloak certainly made me feel a lot bolder than I normally would have. Its the same thing for the words we use to describe our own self.
Understanding how a simple description helps to evolve my own self image, my own projected self worth is something I will likely struggle with for the rest of my adult life. Being aware of it – that’s the first step. Reprogramming my brain to not do it. That’s the next step. And it won’t happen over night. Nor over the next year. It will take time. So long as I am aware of that…I can change this part of myself. That’s nearly 50 years of self-programming. It will be long, it will be complicated, and it will be tough. I can do it. And the best part? I have some damn good friends who will always be there when I stumble, to pick me up in a positive way.