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    June 20, 2003     PAGE FOUR      
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          Behind the Mask: by Jo Cordi Sica
Itís time to come clean; time to strip off the mask, take off the armor, and bare my soul. I do a great job of presenting a face to the world that is positive, optimistic, confident, and in control. The truth is I am none of those things. Iím a phony. I am not happy with me. There, Iíve said it. Heck, I might as well come right out with it. I donít like me! Wow, admitting that is such a relief! As I always say, admitting the problem is half the battle in solving it.

So how did I come to this realization? There were two significant occurrences. First, my husband and I are having some minor problems. Secondly, the sermon at church today was about how fear ruins relationships. I spent some time analyzing what was really at the root of my relationship problems, and came to the conclusion that it is I. In all fairness, I should share with you the process by which I came to this conclusion. This morning I was having a little pity party. Mind you, I donít have them often anymore, but today I gave in to the temptation and was feeling sorry for myself. I started down that slippery slope of ďwhy bother?Ē I went from why bother cooking and cleaning all the way to why bother staying married and sticking to my low carb eating. After all, my husband hasnít been paying much attention to me lately, and if he doesnít care, why should I? You can see the destructive nature of this conversation with myself. Fortunately, I remembered that this same thought process sent me soaring to over 200 pounds and I wasnít any happier even with all the comfort that Ben and Jerry could provide. In a brief moment of sanity, I recalled that I am low carbing because I want to feel better, both physically and mentally. I am married because I love my husband and he is a good man. The whole thought process came full circle when I pondered why I am so prone to self-sabotage. Then I figured it out: deep down, I feel inadequate. Ouch! That hurt.

Iím still not convinced that this makes good subject matter for an article, but if I am in this place, odds are, I am not alone. So, I opted to share my innermost thoughts for the benefit of anyone else that may be poised on the verge of giving up. Let me say right now that I have not strayed from my plan. I know how important this is to my physical and mental health and I am rational enough to recognize this. I am also committed to my marriage and to working through the problems that are distancing us from each other. Having said that, I recognize that I frequently think about giving up and feel compelled to understand why these destructive thoughts continue to plague me. As I said before, I traced it all back to not being secure enough about me, and my value as a person. What follows is my afternoon journey to self-discovery and my plan for getting my life on a more positive track.

Since I am rather analytical by nature, I wrote down all of the things that hinder my relationships and my personal growth. Pastor Will was right; most of them are related to fear. I believe I am afraid of opening up and fully committing, because succeeding may not be the panacea I expect it to be. When a close friend was about to have cosmetic surgery, the doctor counseled her on her reason for wanting to change her appearance. He would not do the surgery unless he was certain that she understood that a smaller nose and bigger breasts were not going to make her life better. Likewise, being thin isnít going to improve my life or my marriage. Sure, it may help, but it isnít the solution. I was going about this backwards. I need to raise my self-esteem, which in turn, will give me the motivation to lose the weight. Losing the weight alone will not improve my self image.

Next, I examined the underlying cause of my feelings of inadequacy. Initially, I wanted to blame it on my parents. After all, no matter what I did, it was never good enough. As I thought this, my mind wandered back to something else from this morningís sermon: fear of confession causes us to become defensive and play the blame game. I was still trying to deflect the blame. Maybe in my teen years it would have been reasonable to blame my parents. Doing so at the age of 41 is a cop-out. I have to accept the responsibility for my own unhappiness. Itís about time I face up to my own contribution to the problem! I am dissatisfied with myself because I make bad choices. I know they are the wrong choices and yet I choose to make them anyway. The resulting feelings are guilt and self-loathing. Then, in an effort to keep those emotions at bay, I try and rationalize the reasons behind the bad choices by placing the blame elsewhere. Finally, I withdraw emotionally and shut down all feelings; something like anesthesia for the brain. The end result is that I donít trust myself and therefore, cannot fully trust anyone else. I tend to make mountains out of molehills because of my fear. Case in point: if my husband isnít paying attention to me, it must be because there is something wrong with me or because he doesnít really love me. This is just absurd! More likely, he isnít paying attention to me because Iím not paying attention to him. Or, maybe heís struggling with some of his own issues. Whatever the case may be, I need to take each situation at face value and stop letting fear rule my emotions.

I am a believer in miracles. I see them happen all around me every day. My miracle of the day is having the solution to this self-esteem issue sent to me directly from God, by way of Pastor Will: ďThe antidote to fear is: 1) being truthful with yourself, 2) being truthful with your mate, and 3) being truthful with God.Ē This sounds like pretty good advice. I have been as honest with myself as I can in committing this to writing. I will even take some of my own advice here and remind myself daily that while I am not perfect, and never will be, I am making progress. To the second point, as soon as I finish typing this, I am going to apologize to my husband for being petty and withdrawn. I am also going to hand him this article to read. (He IS a guy, and men arenít patient enough to listen to this much rambling!) As for the third point, well, thatís between Him and me, but suffice it to say that I am feeling much better already!



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