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Tag Archive for ‘Self-acceptance’

RX for Insight: Silver Linings Playbook

As a therapist I am in the  habit of prescribing movies, but this is a movie that I have been prescribing with such frequency that one might think I was getting pharmaceutical company kickbacks. The movie, that is a mental health must, begins with Pat Solitano, magnificently played by Bradley Cooper, in a mental health facility. He is there because he has bipolar disorder and because he violently attacked his wife’s lover. Pat is determined to get his wife back. He is going to lose weight and he is going to be a better person. And, in an effort to better know his wife, he decides to read all the books on her high-school english syllabis. He is trying to prove to Nikki, his estranged wife, that he is lovable. I’m not going to ruin the movie for you and so I will say no more about what happens. I want you to see the movie and then I want you to come back and tell me how much you loved it and then I want to meet you for coffee and talk about each delightful moment and all of the incredible performances. I saw the movie  a couple of weeks ago and I am still enjoying a Silver Linings Playbook hangover( Bradley Cooper pun intended) and I can’t quit thinking about the deeper meanings that the film offers.

 The way that I define for myself whether I love a movie is whether or not is if  I completely forget about my life for the two-hours that I am watching it. It is a rare movie that makes me forget that I have dry cleaning to pick up or a bill to pay or its dialogue goes uninterrupted by a nagging thought that I might have forgotten to give Lily her heart worm medicine this month. Silver Lining Playbook was not such a movie. That said, even though it had me thinking about my own life it was the BIG life issues that I see in my practice and not the little piddly issues like “Did I remember to DVR Homeland“? Silver Linings Playbook had me thinking of bigger issues in my life and in the lives of my patients and I was simultaneously engrossed with the film and seeing similarities in my life.  The theme that I and, I would imagine, so many resonate with is the feeling of “If I become what they want me to become then I will deserve love.” This movie’s answer to the question of “If I become what they want me to be will they love me?” is maybe. Maybe they will love you. But maybe you don’t need to change. Maybe who you are right now in all your messed-up messiness is worthy of love. And maybe you don’t want them after all.
In my years of practice as a psychotherapist I have seen so many people who sit across from me and try desperately to convince me that they need to change to be loved and I sit there and I listen to them and I try and understand and have compassion for the urgency in which they argue for their unlovableness and yet all I see in front of me is how profoundly lovable that they are right now. Sure, many of us could benefit from some change—but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve love right now. We do. And it is so easy for me to see that for my friends or patients or Pat Solitano, however it can be a bit more difficult for me to see it for myself.  I, like maybe you, have a list of things that I sometimes use as an excuse to see myself as unworthy. If I was fitter, more successful, or more x,y or z then I would be more lovable. But it’s all a rouse, I know it is. The people who really love me don’t love me more when I have a lower body fat percentage. No one who really loves me asks for an Excel sheet as a means of determining my worth, and yet I still often strive to prove my lovability. And when I don’t feel like I am lovable, for example, last Friday when I was possessed by PMS demons and was on a diatribe of self-loathing, I, in those moments, don’t let love in. I push people away with an aura of indifference. But the truth is that I am not indifferent at all, I am just, in those moments, convinced that I am not good enough or smart enough or whatever enough, and so I self-protect by pushing others away—not a good strategy.
I love Silver Linings Playbook for so many reasons. I love that it reminds us that the really interesting people are not the one’s who seem to have it all together. Tiffany is lovable exactly for the reasons she’s sure she isn’t. Pat is lovable and interesting because he is honest and raw and broken and entirely himself. The people who love him are also broken and crazy and not at all perfect. But really, who is perfect? Who are these perfect people who require us to be perfect?  I don’t know them. And I really don’t want to know them. I like the broken and crazy people who are honest and raw and courageous, those are my people. I like them. No, I love them.
I am always telling patients that it isn’t that exciting or interesting to love the perfect. Loving the perfect doesn’t require anything of us. And if I was perfect it wouldn’t seem so amazing that Keith loves me as he does. He loves me even though I am somewhat challenging and difficult and (in my words, not his) a bit overly-emotional about things. But he loves me even though I am those things and it makes the love more meaningful. What I find more amazing is what I might describe as my most unlovable parts, he sees as delightful. He loves my smile lines and asked me to never to put filler in them. I was baffled by this and yet I can’t tell you how much I LOVE his smile lines. There are three beautiful and perfect smile lines that frame his smile. Whenever I see them I melt. Those lines tell me that he has lived a life that allowed him to smile enough to earn those and that makes me happy. There are other things about him or me that others might want us to change, we however find most of our crazy to be sort of cute and endearing.

So, dear and lovable you, do you think it is better to be loved for imperfections or for perfections? What unlovable thing has someone found lovable about you? What about you did someone love that you had previously thought was unlovable? Go and see this movie and see if you see yourself at all in it. See if you tell yourself that you need to change to be loved and maybe challenge that notion. And,  if you don’t that is okay too, you are still lovable—-just as you are.

Résumés of deserving

When I was in high school there was a boy  whom I dated who was absolutely gorgeous. I wouldn’t think so now, as my types have seriously changed since I was in junior English( he would now be way too pretty boy for my taste, but at the time I was crazy for blond  boys in Polo shirts). I think it was maybe our third time out and I felt what Molly Ringwald must have when in Sixteen Candles she got THE guy at the end.  You remember the scene when they were on the dining room table and there was a birthday cake and the kiss? It was astounding to me that dorky-old- me was dating a high school deity. I was dizzy from the altitude sickness and overwhelmed by the oxygen differential that occurs when a mortal dates a resident of Mt. Olympus.

The date progressed and we were doing lots of kissing. I think the term for it was “making out”. Yes, we were making out( Do they still call it that?). And this deity started getting pushy about moving things to the next level. I stood firm in my resistance. It was too early. I didn’t know him well enough. And I didn’t want him to think I was a slut. So I continued to say no and he continued to push for yes. He grew tired of my noes and so he, between passionate kisses( as passionate as a 17 year old boy could be) began a different tact. He gave me the highlights of his sexual CV. Seriously. He did this. He began to tell me all the gorgeous and popular girls in my high school that he had slept with. The terribly and surprising and horrifying thing is that his who’s-who of high school actually worked on me. I was impressed with his impressive list of girls. I wanted to be on that list (any wonder I have needed years of therapy?) and so I slept with him.

Continue reading ‘Résumés of deserving’

The dark art of flaw finding

There are only a few stories in my family mythology of me as an infant. The first one is how big I was—that is a story I have heard a lot of. I was born big. Really big—ten-pounds-something-ounces big.  I came out of the womb full grown with a full head of hair and chubby cheeks and chubby thighs, or so the story goes. The second story I hear a lot of is that I once ate so fast that I projectile vomited across the room and how this act of fountain like evacuation scared my parents into thinking that I had brain damage. The third and final story of me as a baby is how my grandfather used to call me “obese”, as his pet name for me, and how I seemed to find him calling me this horrible name was completely hysterical. It became a thing between us, or so the stories go, he would call me obese and I would laugh. Whenever I hear that story about me laughing it always makes me seriously sad.

I am not above telling you that I was a gorgeous baby. I was. I look at the baby me, fat cheeks and fat thighs and all and I see perfection. I love her. I am mad for her. I want to hold her in my arms and tell her I love her and I want to protect her and warn her about all the bumps and bruises and battle scars that she is in for and I want to kiss her little fat cheeks and tell her she is gorgeous. It is so easy to love her. I don’t even care if anyone agrees with me, no one can talk me out of believing that I was a beautiful baby.

Me, on the other hand, I am not so easy to love. I look at me in the mirror and my eye goes straight to the flaws. I see all that is wrong with me.  I think I learned to be such an expert on flaw identification from my mother. I was trained in the higher-art of flaw finding by an expert with a black belt in flaw finding. She, whenever she meets someone or sees someone on TV, immediately sees what is wrong with them. She then shares with me their flaws. “She is a pretty girl if her jaw wasn’t so big.” “It’s a shame about her hips”, etc.  Only I pretty much kept my flaw-seeking target on myself. I wasn’t so interested in the flaws of others and mostly I didn’t notice them. I tended to notice the good in others and use their good to compare and contrast and attack myself with.  If you have a long neck I notice it because mine is short. If you have big teeth I can’t stop staring at them because I have tiny teeth. Your “flaws”— I don’t care about them and I certainly don’t see them as flaws. I find them charming and delightful and idiosyncratically wonderful, as they are what make you you—and I definitely don’t see them as something you should fix. When He-weasel once complained about his nose and contemplated for a moment that he should have it fixed I went mildly ballistic, “but I love your nose. It’s your nose.”  If only I could do this for myself. I can’t.

It took YEARS and YEARS  and YEARS of therapy to get to the place that I fully and completely understand that when my mother is finding fault with me or you or anyone and everyone it is because she is constantly doing that to herself. And it took even more years with Igor to get to the place where when I hear her tell me that she hates my hair or that I don’t look like I have lost much weight and how short my neck is that I hear a sad and insecure woman who at 80-something still thinks her highest value is about how she looks and that, to me, is heart breaking.

Now that I am at my goal weight all that self-loathing about my hips and ass and tummy and calling myself “obese” and then laughing about it is officially over. I am not fat, not anymore. However now that I am not fat my expertly trained eye is looking for new areas of inadequacies, and believe me I have loads of them. LOADS. And I am likely to point them out to you as soon as you say anything nice to me just so you know that I know how flawed I am. It is, I think, a way that I protect myself. If I say it first then maybe you won’t, not that you would—-it’s just that we all tend to expect others to treat us the way that our parents did and so I am not in fact protecting myself from you; I am protecting myself from my mother.

As soon as I hit goal weight I noticed my face had seriously lost some of its firmness. I no longer saw a fat-chubby cheeked gal when I looked in the mirror. Now I saw a fallen flan. And, as is my way, I became obsessed with fixing it. I am about to admit with no small amount of shame what I have done to fix this:

1. I had painful and not inexpensive Titan laser treatments.

2. I used Oil of Olay’s Pro X Intensive Five Day Firming Treatment.

3. I use Peter Thomas Roth’s FirmX and a host of other skincare serums, creams and elixirs.

4. I use Peter Thomas Roth’s Temporary firming mask.

Yeah, all of that stuff worked. My face is in fact firmer. And I know it would have been psychologically better if I had accepted my falling flan of a face but I didn’t. I fixed it. My darling He-weasel who has no training in the dark arts of flaw finding, even he noticed how astonishingly firmer my face is. I am tickled that I am at goal weight and my face no longer looks like a fallen flan—however  I know myself well enough to know that I am not happy unless I am dissatisfied. Ugh. I need a moment to process that last sentence. Let me say it again, for the record, I am not happy unless I am dissatisfied. That is a big one. So it is likely that I am going to go hunting for another area of imperfection and start obsessing about it. My hope is that by telling you this that maybe I won’t. Maybe I will cut myself some slack and enjoy what I have and not flaw seek. Maybe some of that unshakable love that I have for the baby me will show up for the 40-something year old version. I somehow doubt it. I will say that for today I am happy with myself. Even as I write that I am noticing how terrified I am. I am terrified that those of you who know me will think, “She shouldn’t be. She ought to work on fixing x,y and z.” Laughable, huh?

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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