For so long, I’ve sought to become a better version of myself. I’ve wanted to be skinnier, prettier, smarter, wiser, kinder, funnier, more talented, more capable, more intelligent, more popular, happier, trendier, stronger, friendlier, braver… just better. I tried to emulate these characteristics that I saw in others.
But no matter what I did, it was never good enough.
And I know I’m not the only one who thinks and feels this way. I think inherent in human nature is a desire to constantly improve oneself. The danger is when this becomes a destructive habit. When you use it to bring yourself down, and convince yourself that you will never be enough. That your imperfections wholly define you.
Here’s a radical thought.
You are perfectly imperfect, just the way you are.
Let’s dispel one poisonous thought right here and right now. The idea that anyone on this planet is perfect. That’s just not true. Real people aren’t perfect. We can doctor them up to make them look closer to our disturbingly high standards, and we can choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that everyone does things like (hang on, this will be a little gross) burp and fart and drool and trip and fall and snort and resemble a creature from Where the Wild Things Are more closely than a human being first thing in the morning.
The thing is, there are always going to be people who are better at certain things than you, even if it’s as passive as having a physical appearance that conforms more to societal beauty standards. And by that same token, you will be better at certain things than others.
That’s right. You heard me.
Now I’m sure that the first thought in your head, as it often was in mine, was that the things you’re supposedly better at than others are bad things.
We as humans tend to undersell ourselves. Think about it. Imagine the person you would ideally want to be. Allow yourself to create this human being. Give them all the bells and whistles that you’ve always wanted.
Is this person not exactly well defined? Are some parts of them sort of foggy and hazy?
And perhaps even more surprisingly, were there aspects of you in there?
Unless you are secretly a lizard or something aspiring to transmogrify into a human, there will be parts of you that you don’t want to let go of, if really hard-pressed.
Let me tell you something else. All those other characteristics and personality traits and modifications to your appearance?
Those are total bullshit.
I’m gonna tell you something, that I’m still learning how to understand fully myself, again. And as many times as it takes for it to sink in.
You are perfectly imperfect just the way you are.
If I asked you to tell me one thing that you like about yourself, just one thing, could you do it?
I think you could.
Maybe you’re sitting there thinking I’m crazy. Maybe you scoffed and said, “Absolutely not. I can’t do that.” Or maybe you thought to yourself that this was silly and doesn’t prove anything.
Have you ever been complimented about anything? I’m sure you have, because guess what?
Everyone always looks at someone else and sees something that they wish they had or were. And you are a person. Someone (actually, probably many people) have looked at you and seen something that they want to possess or emulate.
What a ridiculous notion, huh?
One of the biggest things I’ve always wanted to have more of is happiness. True, I have a couple mental illnesses on board that sometimes make it hard to feel happy. Maybe there are circumstances and events in your life that make it hard to feel happy, too. I looked at people who always seemed to have a smile on their face, laughing about something and generally seeming at peace with themselves and the world.
Let’s try something weird together. I promise I’ll do it too so that you feel a little less bizarre for doing it.
Smile. Even if it’s the most fake, simpering grimace you’ve ever put on your face.
Do you feel a little bit happier?
It’s like magic, isn’t it?
Science has proved that even the simple act of smiling, even if you don’t really feel like doing it, releases neurotransmitters in your brain that elicit happiness.
I’m not saying you have to walk around for the rest of your life with this big dumb grin on your face. Nor am I saying that smiling is some incredible cure-all that will somehow make you happy for the rest of eternity. What I am saying is that sometimes a change, even if it’s a tiny one, in your outlook, can make all the difference.
Think about all the things you have to be grateful for. All the things that make you uniquely you. Maybe you’re really good at making other people laugh. Or maybe you’re talented at writing. Or maybe you’re awesome at a sport. Maybe you’re a really great listener. Maybe you helped someone out of a really dark place in their life. Or maybe you’re amazing at playing an instrument. Maybe you want to dedicate your life to teaching others. Or maybe you have a super quick wit that always makes people grin.
Even if it’s the smallest, most ridiculous thing, think about it. And realize that all these positive things far outweigh the negative.
So maybe you don’t look like that supermodel in that magazine. Maybe your stomach isn’t as flat as that other person’s at the beach. Maybe you’re not the best at reading. Maybe you can’t solve a math problem to save your life. Maybe telling jokes is really not your thing. Maybe you sound like a duck attempting to yodel when you try to sing.
Someday, someone is gonna love you for exactly who you are.
That person is you.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there won’t be other people in your life who will love you irrevocably and completely. If you’re lucky, there will be several. And whether or not you believe it, I guarantee there is already someone who does.
It’s important that you learn how to love yourself that way, too.
I’m still learning. I’ve been in some really dark places in my life. I’ve cried myself to sleep wishing I was somebody different. I’ve looked at pictures and heard conversations and desperately wanted to change who I was.
But I’ve been given my set of skills and individual characteristics for a reason. And so have you.
If you focus on the negative, things will feel negative. If you spend your time thinking of all the things you would alter if given the opportunity, you’ll never see the positive side of things. You’ll never learn how to appreciate and be grateful for what you have been afforded. You’ll be stuck in this vortex of unhappiness; a sort of permanent grey, cloudy sky and pouring rain.
This is also not to say that every day you have to wake up like you’re in a commercial, with a cup of coffee in your hand, a giant smile stretching your face, and a mindset that prepares you to absolutely rock the shit out of the upcoming day. Sometimes there will be off days. Sometimes they might even happen a lot.
But it’s not about how many times you fall. It’s about how many times you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue moving forward. It’s about striving to make tomorrow a better day than the one before it.
Like I said, I’m still learning how to do this myself. Today, I’ll be honest, didn’t start off that auspiciously. It’s dark and stormy outside, I feel sick, and I really, really, am loathing the idea of eating today. I didn’t sleep well and I look like I went for a swim, had an appointment with the worst hairstylist ever, and haven’t put on a spot of makeup to cover up my acne and the dark circles under my eyes.
But I’m alive. I will never stop being grateful for that.
There was a time in my life where I was sort of teetering on the precipice of life and death. And though some days (okay, a lot of days), I still have to ask for help in seeing the worth I bring to this world, I’m slowly beginning to understand that I deserve to be on this planet. I deserve to have my story written.
And so do you. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be successful. You deserve to have a life filled with people who inspire you and help you improve yourself. You deserve to be cared for you. You deserve to be understood. You deserve to be loved.
Just. The. Way. You. Are.