If you guys read my column regularly, you might have noticed that I’ve been going through a personal rough patch lately. Life isn’t always roses and dandelions, as you well know, because we’re all living in the same cosmos and we’re all going through one struggle or another. I want to talk to you about something that I’ve been learning in my own life recently, and it’s this: I’m learning how to be content in who I am. I’m learning how to like myself.
I used to have this vision in my head of who I’d be. I thought that I’d wake up one day and have just arrived, the perfect incarnation of myself. I’d be witty and smart and courageous and not make so many mistakes. I’d have shiny hair and a nice body and I’d be an ultra-confident, ultra-cool version of myself. I’d tell myself that one day, one day, I’d be this girl, this girl I could so perfectly envision, but until that day, I had nothing to like about myself. Because I wasn’t her, my perfect version, because I was loud and shy and a little bit messy, I didn’t need to work on liking who I was.
There’s this quote I once read from the wonderful actress Gabourey Sidibe, and I loved it so much that I have it memorized verbatim. In an interview, she said, “One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl.” I think this applies to more than just seeing ourselves as beautiful, although heaven knows that’s a struggle of epic proportions at times. There comes a point when we must realize that the perfect incarnation of ourselves, the one we are carrying around in our pocket, hoping we’ll wake up one day magically transformed into, is just a fantasy. It’s not a real version of you. The real version of you is the one that wakes up every morning in your slightly-mussed hair, the one that gets lipstick on the corners of her mouth, the one whose laugh is so obnoxious that bartenders try to cut you off at happy hour, even when you’re not drinking (okay that last one might just be the real version of me). This you has skinny thighs or maybe a few rolls or some cellulite collection activities going on, and the real you is irresistible and perfect, simply because who you are is unique, incredibly, wacky, and loveable.
You know how they always say that for others to love you, you first must learn to love yourself? I’m not sure how scientifically accurate that statement is, but the proverbial they might have a point. I think others will always love us, but you start to maybe value that love a little bit more once it becomes a shared thing. If your first reaction when a friend compliments you is to assume they’re lying, you may know what I mean. I was out shopping today with a friend (and by “shopping” I mean trying on clothes mostly for fun) and over the stall doors we were discussing body image, the things people have told us about our bodies, and the hangups we’ve developed because of that. At one point I said, “I’m no spokesperson for having the perfect body.” and my friend replied, “But you are a spokesperson for loving the body you’ve got!” And my heart was really warmed by that, because someone else recognized how comfortable I am in loving my body, no matter its size.
This is about more than just our bodies, though. That is a huge part of self-love. But really, I think the shift from hating my body, hating my personality, and thinking I just wasn’t anything that special, happened once I decided to live my life as though I were of value. I began to make that decision every day, looking for the things I like about myself and learning to love those that I didn’t. I’ve made peace with my raucous laugh; I enjoy dressing my body in things that are flattering to it. I’ve just taught myself how to settle into my own skin and be comfortable in who I am. I’ve got my bad days and my backslides into self-hatred, but I just wish I could share with the world at large how wonderful it feels to really, really like who you are. It’s the best thing, and it makes you love others more, too, when you’re not spending so much time hating on yourself.
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