Check Yourself Before You…You Know the Rest: Symptoms of a False Self

We had to cancel our Sunday plans other than church due to exhaustion. Well, my exhaustion.

Kevin is in denial. His throat has been hurting since yesterday but he just took Micah to Trader Joe’s with him in the spirit of, “If I don’t go fetch the milk and kale and eggs, who will?” I volunteered but he was already out the door with an excited Micah who echoed, “Yeah, who will!? And remember Dathy, I need a haircut.”

I went to bed last night at 6 pm. I meant to close my eyes as I have been experiencing some anxiety and tension lately but my eyes opened at 1:17 am when Kevin joined me. I took out my contacts and washed up. Konked out again.

Good thing I banked some sleep as we were woken up at 3 am when Micah walked over from their tiny room and climbed into our bed. He started demanding that Daddy go out to lie on the couch with him as they’d done in the past.

Kevin is exhausted too because the poor man was nearly weeping as he pleaded with his first son, “MICAH! Daddy is SO SO tired. Please. Just go to sleep in the middle of this bed!” Thankfully, Micah listened. Whew!

Then at 6 am, the other son ran over to our room, bewildered that Hyung (“big bro”) had disappeared. He climbed in. We all got to sleep in ’til 8 am though I had to spend some of the two hours positioning myself as a human guardrail so that Ellis wouldn’t fall out. He has a scar on his chin from falling out last week. Not while sleeping but while playing with Hyung.

I’m so glad I went to church this morning. My back was aching from too much sleep, though I wouldn’t rub it in by mentioning that to Kevin again.

I was hungering for a meaty sermon. Here is the link for the sermon entitled “Listening to the Small Screen” aka “Stop Pretending and Live.”

Pastor Peter Scazzero spoke from Colossians 3: 9-14:

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

I was excited to hear him speak on something I think about only daily: Where do we derive our worth from? If we want something too much and we become enslaved by our desire for it, that’s when that thing becomes an idol. And that’s when things get dangerous.

He went on to say that our Pretend Self includes the striving some of us do through name-dropping, dressing to impress, collecting the most toys and boasting about it, one-upping our peers just to feel like we are worth something.

Even something good like pride about our ethnicity can be too much of a good thing if you solely rely on that to identify you. (I may be paraphrasing him poorly here so I apologize).

Pastor Pete provided a “Symptoms of the False Self” checklist:

1) I am reluctant to admit my weaknesses and flaws to others.
2) I look for the approval of others more than I should.
3) I am highly “offendable” and defensive when people criticize me.
4) I often become harsh and impatient when things are moving too slowly or my expectations are not met.
5) I say “yes” when I would rather say “no.”
6) I beat myself up when I make mistakes.
7) I have difficulty speaking up when I disagree or prefer something different.
8) I have a hard time forgiving others.
9) My fears often cause me to play it safe “just in case.”
10) My body is more often in a state of tension/stress than relaxed.

(Pastor Pete said he will post this checklist on www.emotionallyhealthy.org.)

A lot to chew on. I don’t struggle with #1 at all. I am quick to point out my flaws and weaknesses because it’s not like they are big secrets! Yet #10, I’ve definitely been feeling tense and anxious through this entire month of July. I kept telling folks that it is because I entered a new phase of parenthood with the boys either loving on or fighting with each other from the moment they arise. And all the sounds that go along with that. But probably other things at play, too.

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Pastor Pete shared the above quote with us to conclude his sermon. He challenged us with, “How could you make more room in your life for silence in order to listen to God?”

Perfect timing: Half the family is back from TJ’s so now is not the time to seek out silence. Kevin deserves a nap.

Wishing y’all pockets of silence this week.

Be. Yourself. (Sometimes?)

I have a theory I wanted to put to the test after a recent dentist appointment:

People who keep it all business, tend to get treated better.

By nature, I am relational. Almost to a fault. Even in customer service dealings and other non-friendship exchanges, I can’t help but be relational (unless I am really not feeling you).

When we were co-op shopping while I was pregnant with my Micah in 2010, Kevin had to warn me before meeting different brokers:

“Remember, Jihee-yah. For these visits, what did I tell you?”

“Don’t be myself. Don’t be relational. I especially do not want to bond with the seller. Got it.”

My husband is, by nature, the opposite. He is private and keeps dental visits limited to information exchanges about cavities and flossing.

[Sorry, I fell asleep right quick just thinking about fact-only exchanges.]

I don’t think I can do that, even on a dare.

But I started envying how folks respond to him and other Keep It All Business people. People tend to try harder with those who Keep It All Business.

My dentist seems to enjoy my personality when I drop by once in a while with my weak teeth. In fact, she and her staff actually seem eager for me to get my gab on because they have to be more formal with their other patients. Frankly, they seem like they exhale when they realize it’s “just” me walking through the door. They’ve even turned on politically incorrect stand-up comedy on TV when it’s just me in their office.

On the one hand, I am glad that they feel comfy with me because of our chats over the years I’ve been going to her but on the other, I have to double-check that I am receiving the same manner of care and respect doled out to other patients.

When it comes time to handle business, and I ask her to please go over different treatment plans, she doesn’t like to break it down for me. Last time, I felt rushed when she didn’t go over my different options as thoroughly as she should have for me to make my informed consent.

She practically jumped when she saw a Suit waiting in her waiting area as her next patient, while she was wrapping up with me. I was quickly led to her receptionist to make my payment. I requested more information but the dentist and receptionist were short with me. It didn’t sit well with me so I called her after the visit, just letting her know that I felt rushed and uninformed.

I have an acute fear of being a pushover or being disrespected.

So I dared myself to return for the next visit more like my husband, and less like myself, in order to get more respectful and formal treatment. She saw me in the waiting area and of course, didn’t jump to make a timely appointment like she did with Suit.

She called me in after gabbing with her receptionist about some mumbo jumbo and asked, “How are you?”

“Um, I’m good. Thanks.” (KEEP IT MOVING JIHEE. The seemingly innocuous “HOW ARE YOU’s” are sure to get you. And don’t even THINK about telling her how her first, middle, and last name on her plaque all look so beautiful in script!)

“And awww, how are the BABIES!? You couldn’t bring them with you?”

So…yeah.

I failed my own dare within a record milli-second. The dare actually spurred me to be more relational than ever.

I kid you not, I even danced the (low) Limbo at one point (complete with caveman sound effects), to demonstrate an interaction with my Micah. So much for All Business. Sure, we were all laughing, but I proved once again, even on a dare, my true self will bust through. (I still made sure she explain dental details to me.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about those two loaded words: “Be Yourself.” Or “Do You.”

I seem to deal with “opposite” issues compared to those I know.

Sometimes, I feel alien because I cannot relate to what others struggle with within their God-given temperaments. People generally work on being more vulnerable, opening up more, whereas I have to dare myself to be more closed off and guarded.

My pastor talks about how we all have icebergs, deep deep icebergs of hidden emotions, beneath our seemingly serene still waters. He explained in his book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” that most people strive to keep these icebergs hidden and walk around wearing masks of serene still waters.

I used to joke that my iceberg always be hangin’ out, melting all over the place, while others only reveal their still waters.

And sure, it’s wise and discerning to only share your iceberg with your “safe” people but for some folks, even their closest loved ones don’t REALLY know their deepest fears and pain.

While most people I know would like to appear to be happy and “together,” why do I have this compulsion to confess my ugly bits? I NEVER want to appear like I have it all together. Why? What does that do for people? You rarely convince anyone of it anyhow.

It sounds like a humble-brag but truly, I just can’t relate and sometimes I feel disconnected and lonely as I find myself muttering, “REALLY?,” after yet another exchange where I can’t help but go beyond small talk and/or fact-exchange and the other person is tight-lipped or desperately trying to keep it light and “LOL.”

So what are y’all’s default settings? (If you’re private, message me – haha.) If your iceberg hangs out, too, then let it flow next to my puddle, by posting a comment or three.