How "The Help" Helped Me

Like most people I know, I absolutely LOVED the book The Help and could not wait to catch it in theaters. I enjoyed the movie, but I am definitely a bigger fan of reading material and it was a little long for my 5 year old attention span. But aside from liking the main content of the plot, I couldn’t help but analyze the characters and discover how their personalities and interactions are very similar to my life and things I have been working on changing…

What I mean is, we have a set of cast members that are completely opposite; one I wish I was and the other the me I am trying to alter in a positive way…

Take Skeeter. She is an independent woman, which was obviously abnormal for the time since everyone was trying to marry her off! And she seeks out a project (for those of you who have not read or seen, she asks the black housekeepers to tell their stories anonymously) that was completely taboo at the time. She and the help had to sneak around, and take extra precautions to ensure that they would not be discovered in their writing. Why? Because in Jackson, Mississippi at that time, they would have been completely shunned, or killed. Despite knowing this, and being reminded numerous times by her friends and family, Skeeter presses on studying, interviewing, and story-telling about a subject she was passionate for. She wanted to free these poor black men and women from the oppression they faced on a daily basis, and she would go to great lengths to do so. Abilene and the other maids are similar to Skeeter because they convey immense bravery and courage. They know the risk they are taking by telling their stories but they also know if they don’t, society in Mississippi would never change.

Then we have Hilly. She is a bully to the max! She bosses everyone around, is extremely racist and if the movie were Mean Girls, she would be Regina George. Despite her rude demeanor and dictator-like personality everyone just follows what she says. They conform to a woman I am guessing they don’t like, but fear her so much they don’t want to disappoint her. If they did do something she deemed inappropriate, not only would they be scorned from the group, but she would make their lives absolutely miserable.

Poor Celia Foote. This woman came from another town and a completely different class. She grew up without many of the luxuries of the main cast of characters and doesn’t really know how to act in this kind of society. She also married one of Hilly’s ex-boyfriends meaning this woman has NO chance at hanging out with the “in-crowd.” Despite multiple rejections she continues to try everything she can think of to become their friend, even when they embarrass her and crush her feelings.

So now that you know a little bit about these people, maybe you will understand my thoughts. I have encountered people like Hilly, bossy ring-leaders who tend to have a group of followers that conform and listen to every word they say, regardless of how they personally feel. It seems easier to please this meanie rather than to become an enemy just so you can stay “cool.” But essentially by appeasement you are letting go of yourself. If you follow “Hilly” you are not abiding by the values you have, or really expressing yourself as who you are. Suppressing your individuality is dangerous because then you sometimes lose it.

This is how I feel. I spent my entire life trying to make everyone happy around me because I wanted to fit in! I wanted to be accepted and loved by everyone, but I eventually stopped loving myself. I barely knew who I was, and if I did know I was ashamed of it. I really identified with Celia because she was embarrassed about her past and her upbringing, that she changed who she truly was in order to be a part and that didn’t end up happening anyway. It wasn’t until she gained some confidence, and realized she was a good person that she found happiness.

In my journey of recovery a lot of what I focus on is building self-esteem and uncovering who I am. Maybe this sounds silly if you are already comfortable with your identity, but after I left college I no longer had stereotypical roles to fill. I wasn’t a cheerleader anymore, or a student who was expected to make A’s. I wasn’t in clubs with automatic friends and others with similar interests. I was just me, CJ, in a whole new chapter of life, where I had to write the story. No more parents, teachers and mentors telling me exactly what to do; I had to form my own routine, values and passions. This threw me for a loop because I thrived on doing what others wanted, having measurable means of success, and having a schedule that was the same every day. When this all changed I got lost and tried to be a chameleon. I molded to every situation I was in so I would be included. Because I was way too insecure of myself and my beliefs that I just conformed. This is not something I am happy to admit because I have always prided myself on being a leader and having a strong core, but somewhere along the line, it just seemed easier to go with the flow despite my true feelings.

So now I am trying to channel my inner Skeeter. I want to do things for me without apologizing every step of the way. I should not have to apologize for who I am to make friends or have people like me. I should be proud and confident because at the end of the day I have to live with the decisions I made and the person I am. There are billions of people in the world. If one doesn’t like me because of what I have to say, or things I believe in, chances are there might be one that does. It had been a long time since I was actually proud of myself but in the past few weeks I have to say things are looking up. No longer do I wake thinking “omg I am a fat loser and no one likes me…I have nothing special to offer the world…blah…blah….blah” I don’t have room in my brain to continue the tape of negative self-talk because I am too busy exercising creativity and discovering parts of CJ that have not been let out for far too long. In all honestly blogging has been a wonderful aid in my journey.  In this community there are so many supportive people and a wide network of others with similar interests and struggles.  I feel like I can identify on some level with most every person I contact, or who contacts me because they are accepting and understanding of the difficulties we/I face on a daily basis.  So my goal for the night, and obviously a lot longer, is to continue the search for ME.  Everyday I want to challenge myself to step out of the conformity box and be CJ.  Do you want to try too?  Maybe you could channel your inner Skeeter, as well?  I am telling you, after seeing that movie I am totally inspired to be more courageous…what a good way to start the week 🙂

Are you confident with who you are?

Have you always been, or were there points in your life where you felt like you conformed to what/who everyone else wanted?

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2 thoughts on “How "The Help" Helped Me

  1. Definitely not confident. This post really resonated with me…yeah, it’s so true. How can I change myself…when I can’t even accept myself? And hide myself – my true self – out of shame and fear?

    I can’t.

    But it’s hard…

    I’m halfway through the book now. I’m enjoying it but will probably wait for the DVD.

    • Im glad you are enjoying the book, but even more so that you realize you arent being true to yourself out of fear. That is really the first step…if you can rule out who are ARE NOT, it helps you start figuring out who you ARE 🙂 Good luck gaining confidence…it is very hard but really essential. My husband always tells me I was most attractive when I smiled and seemed self-assured…I for one would like to be attractive to my husband so what do I have to lose by trying, right??? I hope you have a good day 🙂

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