You Can Call Me Copernicus

sun-earth-coverFor years now, my dad — a genuine family man who would do anything for any of us — has affectionately been calling me “Copernicus.”

This has two meanings; one is sweet, and one gives me pause.

First, Copernicus believed the sun revolves around the earth and so as Daddy’s Little Girl, he tells me I’m his sunshine … and his world revolves around me (and of course my siblings and my mom).

Even at 29, I think he still sees me as the four-year old in pig-tails; the two-year old (ok, 5, 10, 12-yr old) dancing on his feet to Sting’s “They Dance Alone.”

But also, he teases me I’m “Copernicus” because, as a Type-A first-born, I seem to think the world revolves around me — or at the very least, should.

In fact, it’s sort of become a family joke, at how I can be a little … vain, selfish … at times. I realize this sounds negative, but anyone reading this who knows my family, and especially my dad, knows would never say anything to hurt anyone — least of all me, his “Jewish Muffin” — and also that my parents raised three headstrong, very confident kiddos …

It’s true, I was pretty selfish when I was little with my toys, with Halloween candy, with books … Let’s be honest, when you have two younger (“annoying”) siblings who like to get in your stuff, it was hard sometimes to want to share. That obviously changed as we got older, but still. I’ve never been much of a “giver” when it comes to sharing with my siblings — sorry, M & H!

And I can be self-absorbed even when I don’t want to be, usually about my hair or body. It got way worse after losing weight; my “vanity” shot through the roof. There I’d be, standing in front of the mirror, primping, prodding … changing outfits three times because I don’t love how my hips or thighs look, or turning around in the mirror to see how great my butt looked in a pair of new jeans — it all depended on the day.

And if I’m having a bad hair day … oy! Even now, my dad will call and ask, “How’s Lissa’s hair today?” Because, well, he is married to my mom (who has similar hair angst as me), and he knows what a bad hair day means for either of us.

He knows I’m a talker, and like to have center stage; love an audience. So when our whole immediate family is together (like next week, we will be), it’s truly hard to get a word in edge-wise among us. My mom, brother, sister and I are all very opinionated — it’s my dad who is the quiet one, the one who absorbs.

(My husband is similar to my dad in that sense; he knows I get fired up about things in the instant, and he reflects on the topic at hand and then opines).

It’s embarassing to me now, but when I was a teenager, if someone was talking to my siblings, I subconsciously always seemed to find a way to turn the conversation back to me — regardless of the topic.

It’s not something I did deliberately, but something I’ve become more aware of in recent years. Part of it is because my anxious mind is going a mile a minute and in my head, I’m making connections, logical ones — even if no one else is following my train of thought.

(This is probably why my beloved high school crew implemented the “10 Second Rule” for me — think 10 seconds before speaking!)

Though never attention-starved as a child (I had plenty of love and adulation growing up — perhaps too much?!), I still always sought approval/feedback from others — which in my later years could come across as being insecure or, worse, egomaniacal.

As I got older, when a friend or loved one would share a problem, my intuition immediately would lead me to empathy: which usually meant relating to their dilemma with something I’ve experienced in the past and trying to help them through it.

This was never consciously meant to one-up someone or dismiss the other person’s pain, but rather to acknowledge that I, too, understand or can empathize with how they’re feeling. But sometimes I fear that my empathetic ways may have come across wrong.

Now that I’m blogging, I get many personal e-mails from you — my blog readers — and in re-reading them I catch myself saying a lot of “I” and “me” in my messages (of course, after it’s been sent).

The truth is, I feel hyper-aware of my selfishness now.

The irony of it all is that my blog is, by its very nature, self-indulgent. It’s about me and my recovery and how I can help others who are facing similar challenges … but at its root, it’s still a pretty selfish undertaking.

I don’t think it’s bad to be self-absorbed to some extent. No one can carve out time for you, but you. Personal space, alone time is sacred. Especially because someday I hope to be a mom and I know that with that new territory will be the need to relinquish a lot of my alone-time and personal space for someone else.

To have another priority besides me. So we might as well enjoy the time we have now to hit the gym when we please, grocery shop for things we like, run to the mall on a whim, head to Chicago for a weekend … because all of that will change.

And when the time comes, I want to be as ready as I can be.

So until I can figure out a better balance between self-absorbed and taking primo care of myself, you can make like my dad and call me Copernicus.

How about you? Do you think you’re a selfish person? Did weight loss have anything to do with building up your sense of self?

21 thoughts on “You Can Call Me Copernicus

  1. this is such an amazing post (thank you for sharing the glimpse into your family) and has started me thinking…a lot.

    I do 100% think I was an entirely mememeALITTLEYOUme person until late in my life and that’s why I wasnt a mom until 36.
    I wasnt ready to share my ME TIME.

    now I am still selfish in ways I think benefit my family (I wont relinquish my 40 minutes or so in the morning when I work out. ever. even if my husband wants to sleep in :)) but less in an overarching general sense.

  2. Yet another wonderful post, Melissa!

    I’ve been told numerous times that I’m not selfish ENOUGH. I’m a giver by nature, and tend to overlook myself so that others can get what they need. I guess its a “mothers” personality, but I’m working on helping myself too…

  3. Thanks, MizFit! I hope to be, as you said, “selfish in ways I think will benefit my family.” Like you, exercise is key for me, mentally and physically and I hope to have a home gym by the time we have little ones!!

    Thanks, Mara. Good that you’re working on helping yourself, too!!!

  4. I’m also the first born in my family and I can relate to this! I love an audience to sit and laugh with me. I think that I can be self-ish…but as a 20 year old college student I’m taking advantage of ME time because I know that as I grow older that time will get less and less. I need to get my own life in order before I can share my life with a husband and kids.

  5. While blogging by nature, may be selfish, I truly believe that the sharing of our experiences is a helpful thing, so no worries, I don’t mind hearing about all the “I’s” and “you’s” it’s what makes you YOU!

    I was totally selfish, espcially when my eating disorder spun out of control. I wouldn’t even let my mom get me a birthday cake last year! And eating a unknown restaurants? Forget it. Same goes for thanks giving, my mom didn’t even make dessert because she knew I was “afraid” of it. Selfishness and body image go hand in hand.

    Have a great Friday!

  6. Wow, this definitely sounds like me too! I’m the first born in the family and the only girl. (For the record, I just started typing out a short history of ME and MY story, then deleted it because it’s not all about me, haha)

    I think when you mix self-consciousness and a little pride in your looks, it can mean spending hours in front of the mirror fussing around. I’ve also realized that I’ll “hijack” a conversation here or there, anxious to share my story while a friend is talking about hers. It’s a hard habit to break, especially when you’re around friends and family you love and want to just be involved.

  7. Hi Krystyna, That’s the thing — take advantage of it now!

    Hi Jenn, thank you — that means a lot. 🙂 I have DEF been down that path before, too … my husband is truthfully afraid to cook for me — not even joking. If we cook together, it’s fine. But he fears doing it solo if it’s not “just right”. I do agree selfishness and body image do go hand in hand — esp when it’s a NEW body image.

    LOL Kristen — and you’re welcome to share your story here ANY time! Hijack is SUCH a good word — I do it soooo unintentionally. I guess being aware of it helps though …

  8. Despite being the baby in my family, I can definitely relate to your feelings. I too always try to make connections and find myself talking about myself too much. But I like to engage people and find a connection – whether it be a favorite tv show, a great new restaurant, or a common hobby. Some people tell me this is my “warmth” and others might not like it. In fact, in high school my friends would lovingly refer to this as “Allisociations”!

    As always, you are able to find something new and interesting to bring to the table on your blog. I love it! Keep up the great work.

  9. Hi Al 🙂 You and I connected immediately in college with being from New Jersey and Jewish — I think there’s definitely merit to making connections or “Allisociations” 🙂 I agree that it can def. be seen as warmth — being interested and engaged. But I do fear sometimes I take it to the extreme.

    Aw thanks!! 🙂

  10. Great post! Seems that you’ve been writing about things that are really applicable to my life lately – how do you know to do that?? 🙂

    I especially liked the things you said about being empathetic & trying to relate to others when they share a problem, and then turning the conversation to you. I have a friend that does this constantly and it has really been a problem for me the last few months. I almost can’t stand to share anything personal with her – good OR bad – because I’m certain she will either “one up” me or steal my thunder, so to speak.

    But the way you explained that makes total sense to me! She IS a very empathetic person, and I truly believe her heart is in the right place most of the time. I just always saw it as an insecurity on her part to always talk about herself. Thank you so much for giving me a new perspective on this!

  11. I have ESP Auntie, that’s how 🙂 I kid, I kid. See, that reaction you had is what I fear with some people. It pays to know our audience, and to realize that nine times out of ten, our hearts ARE in the right place; it’s how we cope. It’s why loved ones often turn to us for advice; we can relate. I am glad I am able to help show the other side. 🙂

  12. i can SO relate to you!! i too find when empathizing with someone, sometimes the best i can do is show them i have struggled with the same, but then i do find myself saying “I” and “me” a lot, and end up having the same thoughts that you have written out.

    and lol, my hair has been a MONSTER this past week and i was freaking out…and yup, felt so vain as i stood in front of the mirror for far too long.

    thanks for this post!

  13. Thanks, Madison!!! 🙂 LOL — yup, it does feel vain — but hey, better that than feel bad about how we look, right?!

  14. This is a great post, and really gives us a good idea of where you come from and a glimpse of your upbringing, which I enjoy.

    I can relate to parts of this mentality, but then completely refute other parts. For instance, I hate being the center of attention and am extremely insecure. I am pretty much a wall flower in a crowd. I do want to be reaffirmed, which comes with my insecurity, and my eating disorder has made me increasingly vain.

    I also always worry abouit being too self-absorbed. Especially with my more serious battles, such as depression and disordered eating, in bringing them up with family or good/close friends I feel insecure and wonder if it’s coming across as me just wanting empathy and attention. I don’t want attention for the wrong reasons, or don’t want people to think I am seeking attention. So it’s a bit mixed.

  15. Hi Sheena and thank you. Isn’t it crazy how EDs can make us vain? All of a sudden, we become obsessed with our bodies. I hope you’ll give Courtney Martin’s book a whirl — I think you’ll really get a lot out of it — I know I have!!

  16. Oh man, Lissa, you hit the nail on the head with this one! I am a first-born also and yes, find myself all too often being selfish! My husband – the youngest sibling in his family – has on occasion called me out on it and I am working actively to become less selfish!

    But as for this blog – clearly, having the blog be about you works – we love it and are all getting something out of it ourselves – so keep it up!!

    xx

  17. Hi Yasmin!! It’s really good/comforting to know how many people can relate.

    Aw, thank you!! I hope so … that’s the goal 🙂

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