This Above All.

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So I was watching ‘reality TV’ last night while I elevated my broken ankle. Near the end of the show, one of the characters, who had faced her share of challenges, both physical and mental, and who had stared down her fears, stated simply that she liked herself. She was happy with who she was.

I thought about that statement for a long while. She didn’t say it with bluster or defiance. She didn’t say it as a challenge or an excuse. It was a matter-of-fact declaration, and no explanation or details were necessary. I admire that.

So much of the time, we are surrounded by reasons we shouldn’t or can’t like ourselves or why we don’t measure up. We’ve been socially trained to fall in line and go along, to walk the well-trodden path. We are conditioned to desire some fictional ideal. We suppress or redirect or dismiss a lot of our feelings and opinions and instincts, and that is normal to us. But (thankfully) there are always those who step out of line and out of the box, who unashamedly announce their independence. Confident and seemingly fearless, they don’t waste precious time worrying about what other people think of them or the social mores they might trample. They don’t strive to be like someone else. They just live.

Wouldn’t that be nice? I covet that confidence. I wish I had it. I wish everyone had it. It takes courage and deliberate effort to be your own ‘authentic self’ (a term I’ve seen a lot in recent years). I think we get used to filtering our own voice through so many layers of expectations that we sometimes forget what it sounds like. We forget that we are just as important and relevant as every other person out there. Period. No more, no less. We forget that the media, in all their different forms, make choices for us and influence our behavior so relentlessly that we begin to accept that behavior as our own, even when it isn’t. We allow ourselves to be labeled and defined even when those labels and definitions don’t fit. We let other people decide who we are, what we do, and how we feel. It’s like 7th grade, forever: the Cool Kids decide who the Uncool Kids are. Why is that?

Down deep, these independent souls know exactly who they are. Not who they’d like to be, who they think they should be, who they were expected to be, or who someone else wants them to be — who they really are. And they are satisfied with that.

Sure, there is probably always room to improve – to learn something new, to work on a bad habit, to develop discipline. But these improvements come from a genuine place, not a desire to fit a role or external expectation. That’s the difference between them and the rest of this self-help society. When we let the external decide the internal, we don’t grow, and we don’t learn who we are. It is only when the internal decides the external that we mature and develop.

We can all be authentic and true to ourselves, and we should, but it’s easier for some folks than it is for the rest of us. I struggle with this a lot and find myself going along to get along in many situations. Why?  I’m not entirely sure. I wish I knew. I’m better at listening to my inner self and my heart than I was when I was younger, and maybe that’s all part of growing up and living, but I still find myself wishing I had the courage to step out of line once in a while.

Are you allowing someone or something else to define you? Are you bearing the burden of expectations from family or friends or society? Do you feel as if you are playing a role, not actually living your life?

Or are you satisfied with the person you are, even if you think you could improve? Are you listening to your fundamental values and inner voice?

Life is short. I believe we are all given the gift of life with some purpose, and it is our responsibility to find out what that purpose is and pursue it. In order to do that, we have to listen to what is inside us, not the clamor outside. What is reflected back at us from the fun house mirror of society and the world is merely a shallow distortion of who we are and who we can be.

You are not less than, and you are not more than. You are enough. You can be content with your strengths and weaknesses, your motives, your beliefs, and your traits. You are imperfect and unique. You can be a work in progress, and there is no shame in that. If you are working on yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually, or behaviorally – you have a goal and a direction. You get to decide what you truly value and what inspires you. You get to decide what you will discard and what you will allow.

I’m rambling now.  But that simple, televised proclamation of acceptance and satisfaction really resonated with me. It may be easier to follow the path others have set you on, but you and I both know it is more satisfying and soul-sustaining to choose your steps with the confidence of knowing that this is the right thing for you.

Discover yourself.

This above all:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
 — Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3

I Am Awesome. And So Are You.

I am!!!

Inspired by my lovely niece, who was in turn inspired by her lovely friend, today’s post is a celebration of what I love about myself.

Normally, I’m not one to point out my strengths or qualities. Like (I would suspect) most of us, I tend to dwell on my weak points and foibles. I’m quick to rattle off a list of those: I’m a klutz, I’m a dork, I’m lazy, I’m a little slow on the uptake. I think we all do that – we’ve rehearsed the list all our lives, until it becomes a common bond that we can share with someone else. Instead of being a humble confession, it becomes almost vanity, a point of pride to be ‘worse’ than other folks. “You think that’s stupid? Well, let me tell you about when I cut the miniblind cords off because they were too long!” (True story.)

So today I step out of that comfort zone of self-deprecation and admit that there are some good – nay, great – things about me, things I’m proud of that make me happy. I’m awesome, and I’ll give you ten reasons why.

  1. My brain. I was lucky to be a bright child – quick to learn and understand. I did well in school, earning scholarships and accolades, and my parents always encouraged me to think and absorb the world around me. As a result, I have confidence that there is nothing I can’t learn or teach myself. I especially love that ‘aha’ moment when a concept clicks and all those neural traces connect – I love being able to relate something new to something I already know. I love how my brain can stow bits of trivia and then retrieve them at the most unlikely moment. The brain is a magnificent organ, and I only wish I had enough time to learn everything I want to know.
  2. My sense of humor. Each of my parents had an offbeat, upbeat sense of humor. They did silly things and taught us to see the humor inherent in life. All of my siblings and I possess that same quality, and I firmly believe that is a very strong part of the bond that connects us. When I’m amused, you know it. I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh, too. I love to clown around and crack wise; like my niece said, the world is sad enough as it is. Let’s have fun!
  3. I root for the underdog. Pa once told me that I had a strong sense of fairness and a lot of moxie (which, by the way, is one of my favorite words). I have always cherished his assessment. It’s important to me to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s unpopular, and to champion the little guy. It’s who I am.
  4. I’m authentic. There is no pretense with me. What you see is what you get. Like Popeye, I Yam What I Yam. Heck, I don’t even color my hair or wear makeup. I’m just plain old me, and if you like that, great. If you don’t, well…<shrug>.
  5. I’m compassionate. I’ve had some rough spots in my life, and I have come out on the other side with a renewed sense of kindness and understanding for others. While I don’t consider myself a ‘bleeding heart’ with exaggerated sympathies, I do care a great deal about people and try to be considerate and compassionate. Sometimes it’s hard to be kind, but I’m always trying.
  6. I’m quirky. My medical history is populated with strange events and afflictions. My running joke is that because my mother was a week shy of 37 when I was born, my oddities are a direct result of her ‘old eggs.’ So, I laughingly told her that my hypermobile joints (double-jointedness), inner ear disorder, migraine cluster headaches, third set of front teeth, missing wisdom teeth, mismatched vision (one far-sighted eye, one near-sighted eye), and other physical quirks are because her eggs were past their pull date. But that’s the stuff that makes me, me.
  7. I can write. Ever since I can remember, I have been in love with words. I love to read, and I love to write. I have always been able to express myself in writing, and I’ve been able to use this gift to help other people over the years. I believe my friend’s assertion that ‘everyone has their own talent,’ and while I would love to be able to draw or sculpt or bake or craft, I am content to have been given the gift of writing.
  8. I’m a spoiler. I will go the extra mile to do something special for people I love. I used to put notes in my kids’ school lunches to let them know I was thinking about them. I enjoy spoiling Mr. Stuck. I have a soft spot for the elderly, especially little old men. I will go out of my way for you, just because.
  9. I have great hair. I’ve always loved my hair, except during my adolescence, when, try as I might, the Dorothy Hamill bob and Farrah Fawcett look escaped me. Once I came to terms with that, I’ve been happy with it. Long or short, it was thick and healthy, with its own waves and cowlicks and a very pronounced widow’s peak. Like me, it has a mind of its own, doesn’t care for the muss and fuss of curling irons and hair spray, and is at its best when left alone. It’s greyer and thinner now, but I still love it.
  10. I have a great smile. I used to have a gap between my front teeth. It was handed down through the generations on my mother’s side, and several of my sisters and their kids also have gaps. Mine was huge – I used to joke about being able to floss with a tow rope. Getting braces and a permanent retainer eliminated that gap, but I still love my smile. When I am happy, there is no mistaking it: apple cheeks, bright eyes, and a big, wide grin with my whole mouth.

It took me a while to come up with this list, and I changed my mind a few times. I wasn’t even sure if I could find ten whole things. But I’ve looked it over, and I am satisfied.

Now, a few things I need to work on:

  1. Patience. I’m just not very good at it, especially when I get behind the wheel.
  2. Procrastination. Unfortunately, I’m an expert in putting things off. Like blogging.
  3. Follow-through. I’m a great starter, but a not-so-great finisher. I get bored too easily and switch gears. I need to learn to see things through to completion, whether it’s a book I’m reading or organizing my closet. Or blogging.
  4. Judgment. I struggle with being too judgmental. It is something I work on every day. I think it comes from being judgmental toward myself and then spreading the misery. Ugh. Let me apologize in advance.
  5. Self-control. I have long said that I can resist anything but temptation. I have the ability to talk myself into and out of just about anything, especially if it’s not good for me. My overdeveloped conscience helps me behave most of the time, but too often, the devil on my shoulder wins out.

you are awesome

Now, I’d like to invite you to tell me at least one thing you love about yourself. We spend so much time being critical that we often forget to celebrate our wonderful individuality. Learning to love that unique, amazing person in the mirror is another step toward being healthy and happy!

So let’s hear it!!

 

photo credit: parker yo!  and torley