and here’s where my special penchant for introspection finally pays off

The other day I was sitting on a couch talking with a friend when all of a sudden, my brain left my body. Not physically, mind you — though that would be a great party trick.1 No, I became hyperconscious of what exactly my body was doing: torso twisted to one side, knee hiked up on my leg, right arm wrapped protectively around my own waist. I was the very picture of discomfiture and guardedness. I looked for all the world like I was at the dentist’s office, or a guest on a Fox News show, instead of happily catching up with an old pal.

What was up with that?

Some people ooze natural confidence like a leaky barrel of industrial waste. I am not one of those people. No matter how hard I fight it, a core part of me will probably always believe that I am the weirdest-looking, awkwardest person in any given room. If you handed me a set of crayons and asked me to draw a self-portrait, I would hand you back a finished product that would resemble, at best, a cross between a severely misshapen Mr. Bill and an illustration by Allie Brosh. My skin would be the color and consistency of old paste, my hair would be a dirt-brown stringy halo of flyaways, my face would be an indeterminate mashed-potato-like lump, my eyes would be crooked and set too far apart, my nose would resemble a bulbous Christmas ornament, my midsection would feature several dozen rolls of flab, my thighs would look like grainy stills from the 1969 moon landing, and each of my feet would be 10 inches wide and — mysteriously — webbed.

Self-portrait in mirror at 25. If you cannot tell from my set jaw, glum expression, and artfully messy hair, things were very serious at 25. I spent a lot of time inside the room I was renting in this house, listening to Arcade Fire's "Funeral" album and reviewing my life regrets on continuous loop.

Sounds horrific and embarrassing, right? Well, there I was, sitting in front of my friend — my pretty, petite, lovely friend — desperately trying not to let my simmering internal stew spew out across the couch and all over her. Because I mean, seriously, have you ever gotten horrific embarrassment on your clothes? That stuff never washes out.

Plainly, my reservoir of self-worth was already low and continuing to drop every moment. I unconsciously felt like I couldn’t measure up to the charming specter in front of me, and it was showing — in my body, in the way that I held myself. And that just wasn’t right.

You know, I’ve been talking a lot both on this blog and in person about the process of getting older. It’s a well-worn cliché, but something about hitting 30 just makes you reflect. And I’ve been pushing back hard against the notion that youth is the ultimate achievement. I’ve been actively seeking the positive in the aging process, because honestly, what else do I have left to hold onto?

One giant, flashing neon plus sign is that I’m a lot sharper than I used to be, and — lingering negative mental pictures of myself aside — I’m generally a hell of a lot more confident than I used to be. You could drone on about how 30 is the new 20, grey is the new black, smart is the new sexy, almond milk is the new soy, quarrelsome is the new belligerent; whatever — but I’ve made genuinely solid advances towards appreciating myself for who I am, flaws included. And that’s not something that could have happened without having the experiences of my 20s tucked in my back pocket. And even that is beginning to sound like a well-worn cliché, but there’s nothing trite about learning to like yourself even at your messiest and most doubtful. After the rocky road I’ve walked in the past decade? That’s cause for a motherfucking celebration, is what it is.

And here’s how I celebrated, in that clumsy moment of clarity on the couch: I sat up straight, squared my shoulders, unwound my limbs and opened my heart wide.

Confidence — at 30, it’s the new low self-esteem.


1 Kind of akin to that King Missile song “Detachable Penis.” Yeah? Yeah? Hmm. Right.

23 Responses to “and here’s where my special penchant for introspection finally pays off”

  1. Haahaha YES. “I woke up this morning with a bad hangover, and my penis was missing again…”

    Interesting how much our posture communicates, and yet we ignore it a lot of the time. Well done you! Looks like 25 was very serious indeed.

    • “I can leave it home when I think it’s going to get me into trouble, or I can rent it out when I don’t need it.” MY LIFE STORY. Except not involving a penis. Wait. Hmm.

  2. First- if I had known you during that phase above I would have soooo wanted to be your friend. But I wouldn’t have ever talked to you because you were clearly so much cooler than me.

    Second – now “Detachable Penis” is stuck in my head. That song always made me think I could be a recording artist. “Clearly, all you have to do is eat a lot of mushrooms and then speak in a monotone voice what is going through your mind and put it to music.”

    Third- everything in this post is so damn true. this was a great read today.

    • Much cooler than you? Can I remind you that you can wear hats? I don’t care that you were two years old, that kind of shit pays off in spades.

  3. Happy birthday (I presume)! A coworker of mine turned 30 last week and didn’t really reach it for it with quite so much grace. I can’t wait to be a fabulous old lady who’s so confident in her choices and life that other people are like, you see her? I want to be her when I grow up, she’s awesome. Sometimes I think of my younger, more angsty selves and I’m torn between pity and love and irritation that I wasted time that way. So it goes.

    • Oh, dear. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insinuate that I just turned 30. No, I’ve been 30 for just over two months but I’m still talking about it. Whoopsies.

      Dude, grace is my end goal. I’m not sure I’m ever going to attain it, especially not at the rate that I swear in these posts. But I totally get where you’re coming from with the younger, angsty selves. Sometimes I think that’s just something you have to go through in order to become who you need to be.

  4. Ohmigod, not that I think 31 (where I’m at now) is so fantastic or anything (cause I totally miss my 20-something body and am totally unwilling to do anything about it), but . . . I was a total dipshit in my 20s. Seriously. I think back to how lonely and stupid I was and I’m just so happy to NOT be THAT anymore that getting older is no big thing. And then it makes me feel like a GENIUS now. I can only hope that this continues and in my 40s I’m a fucking millionaire or something, because clearly I will have figured it out by then, right? Anyway, good post. I think everyone feels that way sometimes – even our most glamorous friends.

  5. I am sort of looking forward to 30, I’ve been noticing that people do interesting things in their 30s… 20s are wasted getting out of college and/or just trying to figure out what the hell is going on. 30 is where its at! My goal is to be happy where I am right now, and to also untwist myself and try to be comfortable in my own skin (and I would bet that your lovely petite friend also has her own insecurities, if that helps…)

    • Truth about everyone having their own insecurities. And also that 30 is where it’s at. Join us when you can! You’ll love it.

  6. If you were going to listen to one album on repeat for a long time, Funeral isn’t a bad choice at all.

  7. sadly, i’m pouring myself into bed at way-too-late-to-get-up-for-work-tomorrow, so all I can say is 25-year-old Lyn was fucking rad….and 30-year-old-Lyn is just a smidge radder, you’re rocking this whole “aging with grace” schpeal lady.

  8. Girl, why’d do you have to go and write this?? I need to find the same pic of myself at 16 that I took for photography class and send it to you….

    I swear, I think I had that same moment of being intertwined with myself on a couch at a party. I had to both physically and mentally untwist.

    It took me a loooooong-ass time to totally unwind. I spent my 30’s trying to prove something to myself and everyone around me. I am CONFIDENT! I am SINGLE! I can buy my own FLATWARE! I jumped out of planes, solo-kayaked the Rio Grande, ran marathons and threw myself head-first into an all-consuming career. And I could do all those amazing things, sure, but I couldn’t settle my inside enough to find someone to do all those fun things with. You’ve done that part already. THAT is truly an accomplishment.

    On Sunday, I was cleaning the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My forehead definitely needs some Botox. The skin under my chin is sort of fleshy and weird feeling. It’s loose. There are wrinkles at my earlobes. The Candyman walked in on me, sitting on the bathroom counter, pulling at my face and lamenting youth. I asked him if he would be against me getting a face lift. He said, in the illustrious words of his Aunt June, “I don’t see anything against it. It’s just good hygiene. But you might want to wait a while, darlin’, until you actually need it.” The Candyman = diffuse.

    It’s good you’re so reflective now. It definitely puts you ahead of the game, because that next monumental b-day? It’s a fucking doozy. (Using Sarah’s “wait and see” theory here.)

    • Louise, I’d love to see that photo!

      I hear you. And I may have found someone to do fun things with now, but I never did get around to buying my own flatware. Ha!

      Big ups to the Candyman — that dude knows what’s up.

  9. Self-loathing doesn’t ever wash out.

    25 year-old you is sexay! And 30 year old you is even better.

    I go around the house singing “Detachable Penis” occasionally and it makes C semi uncomfortable.

    @30SomethingBride, the Candyman is GENIUS.

  10. “a core part of me will probably always believe that I am the weirdest-looking, awkwardest person in any given room”

    Does everyone believe this about themselves? I’m beginning to think so. Perhaps self-confidence is just when you learn to be fine with it.

    I love your unfurling of limbs moment. I’ll try and remind myself of that next time I’m in my usual arms-crossed stance, feeling awkward.

    • “Perhaps self-confidence is just when you learn to be fine with it.” That’s a killer point, Nina. I’m going to have to ruminate on that one…

  11. Yes, please. And by that I mean give me more of this! I’m probably giving the same look right now at my 25. (give me two and a half months and I’ll get to 25!) I read all about weddings and didn’t take much of the advice to heart. I’m trying to be better about life advice. Thanks for some perspective.

  12. And I thought I had “pensive” in the bag.

    I have decided that the bloggy world is the best meet-up place for the world’s wallflowers. Because I’m certain that I’ve got many similar photos floating around, although my hair was shorter and slightly, err, Demi Moore in Ghost.

  13. Yes, thirty is where it’s at. And 34, well, it rocks.
    And the photo, I have drawers full of them with the same expression. Priceless.

  14. “Because I mean, seriously, have you ever gotten horrific embarrassment on your clothes? That stuff never washes out.”

    god, I love your blog.

    also, I’m a couple years from 30 but very curious about it. it sort of broke my husband’s brain for a couple weeks so I am also very scared. happy birthday & please know you rock & I hope your newfound confidence is here to stay!


  1. i don’t think there are enough apologies for this post, and the fact that i actually published it « another damn life - February 2, 2011

    […] guys! I went to the hair salon today, and I think looking at angsty self-portraits from back when I had short hair really influenced me, because the first thing I did when I sat down […]

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