Someone to Keep You Warm

Last year, I got hypothermia. A couple times.

One of the times, I physically, actually deprived myself of the necessary warmth my body needed to function due to diving in a 50 degree mostly naked (which I’m not going to explain further until later, just to make sure you keep reading my posts). At the core, I was almost too cool to keep myself alive-literally. Though I’m talking about a time my temperature actually dove into dangerous territory because I actually did myself, there were plenty of symbolic implications-but that’s for another blog.

The other time I got hypothermia was metaphorical. “Jacquie, what the hell are you talking about? Hypothermia isn’t metaphorical! It’s a very serious medical condition! I know someone who died that way.” You say to yourself. And I’m not offended-because first of all, let’s take back metaphors and any sense creative freedom, okay? Secondly, I’ve been working really hard to make sure my “core confidence” isn’t swayed by anyone’s opinion that easily.

Every time I post a modeling photo, personal essay, poem, or put anything I made with my mind and body “out there”, there is an element of personal satisfaction and faith that goes with it-one that recognizes that while it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, while unflattering opinions may be formulated, while “Likes” may be underwhelming, while even the feedback I see may cause a twinge of regret-somewhere, I believed in it enough to share it.

When you give your life to words, it has a strange way of working both ways. You put a whole bunch out there, and they boomerang back, smacking you in a form that was beyond your control once they left your lips or your fingers. There are words that you’ll let drift up to the sky in the shape of something beautiful (though probably polluting), and they break a part, turn around, and fly back to you as arrows to the gut. Caring deeply about words holds beauty, but it can also be precarious. Caring about your own words so passionately lends itself to taking the words of others seriously.

This metaphorical “hypothermia” was a time when I let someone else’s words about me determine how I felt about me. As much as I know better, I was perfectly susceptible to the phenomenon at the time. I had been so physically sick for so long, I felt it in my heart-in skips and jumps and speeds that hearts are not meant for, as well as a deep, heart-broken longing for the “me” that was or could be. In short, my cup was empty. There was nothing warm in it-nothing to maintain my “core confidence” when the cold and angry waters from someone else’s storm came barreling in. Without already having your own cup full, even a trickle of opinion or a splash of lies will determine the temperature of the whole.

That time had the peaks and valleys of an American mountain region, but It re-taught me something very valuable. Relying at all on external happenings for self-worth (at least in a more specific, minute to minute and not overarching way) is dangerous. Like you do biologically, you need to have a “homeostasis” of self-worth and a steady understanding that you’re so much more than the sum of your parts or the sum of your feedback or even the sum of your tangible successes. You’re something else entirely apart from how any one else feels about you.

Like staying somewhere near 98.6 degrees to survive and only climbing that ladder of heat when your body is fighting something insidious or reaching somewhere lower when you fall beneath the sheet of ice keeping you standing, you must retain a level of confidence that only makes the mildest of barometrical movement in response to failure and criticism-just enough to help you learn whatever you need too, and not too little that you always blame others for your mishaps and mistakes. The weeks you feel that your sense of self seems to ebb and flow to extremes with every poke of bad news or poor performance means the core of you is unstable-you’re placing too much emphasis on what other people think or what happens TO YOU.

While these things do have an effect on you over time, and what you learn and accomplish is a part of you, it is not WHO you are. Hits to your self-esteem that are metaphorically as harsh as the flu or a trek through a tundra will probably shake you-but the small things shouldn’t rapidly change you. You are allowed to teeter a bit from a set back-but you are also allowed to walk out of a lost battle with your head still high. You are allowed to remember your talent when someone tells you it doesn’t exist. You are allowed to be at peace when there is chaos around you. You are allowed to know how fucking cool you are. Or in this analogy, warm. At 98.6 degrees or close-you’re ALWAYS hot. The best person to cuddle up to for confidence…is you.

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