Alternate title: all the things I can articulate but refuse to accept.
At the end of the day, the greatest thing you have in this world, and will always have until the day you die, is yourself. You are your own biggest imported and exported commodity. So take care of yourself and believe in yourself, because doing the opposite really makes no sense. Here are my thoughts on how to go about doing that.
Really realize that what other people think of you does not matter, for the most part.
Whenever anyone says, in a pseudo-encouraging voice, “It doesn’t matter what other people think!” I always call bullshit. Because you know what? Yes, in some cases, it does matter. As a collective, we are expected to abide by certain cultural norms, sometimes for no reason, sometimes for the better. You can’t be horribly rude to people, making them hate you, and then justify yourself by claiming it doesn’t matter what people think of you. If you show up to a job interview wearing sweatpants and hangover-hair, it will matter what other people think because there’s a solid chance you won’t get the job. If you consider killing someone, it does matter what other people think because most other people will think killing is bad. Because, you know, it is.
But in terms of your self-identification, you shouldn’t get wrapped up in what others think about your interests and talents and appearance when they don’t affect anyone but you. Don’t ever be ashamed of the things you like, because if people make fun of you for that, they’re basically saying, “you’re dumb because you’re passionate about stuff,” which reflects more poorly on them than on you. And while Dove has exhausted all the platforms of being accepting of your physical appearance to the point of it being almost redundant, I still think there is still something to be said for not getting wrapped up in how others perceive your looks. When someone labels someone as “pretty and attractive” or “ugly and unattractive”, they are basing this off of personal opinion that actually isn’t entirely personal. We define “beauty” through cultural conceptions, which change over time, geography, culture and race. What was considered societally attractive in England in the 1600s is very different from England in 2014, which is additionally different from other parts of the world. But who the heck came up with this? What, so someone has a personal-yet-not-personal opinion on your looks that is actually based on an entirely made up system of evaluation with zero solid ground to stand on? Who gives a shit? Intelligence and personality are not shown in your facial features or body shape. Whether or not you’re a decent human being can’t be read in the shape of your eyes or colour of your skin. And I’m not even trying to sound all encouraging; it’s just a legitimate fact. Personally I think humans a weird looking across the board. I mean, have you ever really thought about noses and how messed up it is that there’s some protruding hunk of bone and flesh and cartilage sticking out from the middle of your face? Conventionally attractive or not, your nose is still weird.
Tell yourself, “I am talented.” Then, go tell everyone you know. And some people you don’t know, if you want.
If you ever worry that someone will think your short story or painting or performance or math skills or creation of any sort isn’t good enough, just think who the hell are they and what the hell are they basing their opinion off of? We live in a world of fake experts, people who think they know everything about anything which gives them the right to critique others, but it doesn’t. They think that they somehow know better than someone else. Call them on their bullshit. I’m sorry, but until you present me with a valid photo identification that proves you are Claude Monet, shut your mouth about my artwork.
Never be afraid to showcase the things you are proud of. If you did a sweet ass drawing of an armadillo, you show the world that sweet ass drawing of an armadillo. And don’t for one second worry that people will think you’re bragging or that you think you’re better than everyone. I mean, for all you know, you are better than everyone. Yes there is a line you can cross where you may seem to some people to be a pompous jerk, but I’d rather see a world of douchebags who are really damn proud of their accomplishments than a world of incredibly talented people who are too cautious and afraid to recognize their own abilities. It’s terribly sad to see someone with such passion be deflated by fear of criticism not even about their work, but their personality.
Don’t tell yourself you’re good enough. Tell yourself you’re good. Or better yet, fantastic.
“Good enough” is a horrible phrase. Good enough… for what? Good enough to reach a standard set by… whom? “Enough” implies that being accepted means you are at the bare minimum. It suggests that you tell yourself that you are not great, but it’s cool because you’re just getting by. Having faith in yourself and your abilities is not congruent to telling yourself that you are “enough” in the eyes of the general population. Because “good enough” attaches itself to the idea of approval from others. You shouldn’t strive for absolute approval from anyone but yourself. Do you think that you’re a cool person who is doing just fine and also has some really awesome traits? Good, that’s what matters. What about that boy you like? That group of friends you want to be a part of? Your classmates? Yes relationships with other people are healthy and can make you happy, but NEVER let yourself believe that you may in any respect not be “enough” for any of the people in your life, no matter what happens that leads you to believe it. Because “enough” is an awful goal to strive for, and another who leads you down that path isn’t worth your time. If you tell yourself, “I am not enough,” you’re right. You aren’t. You are not some crappy standard. You are not some minimum threshold. You are not some low societal expectation. You are so much more than that.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Now for the surprise plot twist: while I stand behind everything I just said as my 100% real opinion, the whole point of this post is that I refuse to live by it myself.
Here is a reality in my life that I am completely aware of: it isn’t that I don’t trust people, I just don’t always believe them. You could tell me over and over that I am funny or smart or interesting or kind or pretty or talented or whatever positive adjective that comes to mind, but sometimes I actually will not believe the words that come out of your mouth. And it isn’t even that I process them, think about it for a bit, and decide, “yeah that’s not a thing, you’re just kidding”. The instinct ingrained in my mind is to automatically not entirely hear you. It is actually like I don’t make myself aware that you are complimenting me and may actually mean what you’re saying. I don’t always believe in myself and I don’t always think I’m talented and I worry about what others think of me and I often fear that if I display my talents people will think I’m pompous. I often think that I am not enough.
Don’t worry; this isn’t an always thing. Sometimes I do think I’m incredibly witty and a very talented artist and a decent actor and pretty and a smart individual and whatnot. (Actually, I live this entertaining paradoxical life where sometimes I think I am better than everyone around me and that everyone else is always wrong. But that’s a story for another day.) But there are times where I really don’t think I’m all that great. This isn’t something that affects me 24/7 and keeps me up at night, and I am sure many other people have similar feelings towards themselves (that’s why I wrote this post). The point is that this is something I do struggle with in respect to a lot of different aspect of my life, and it can be really hard. I want to truly believe in myself and love myself and trust others when they tell me positive things, and especially not be afraid to think I’m amazing. But even more than that, I want everyone else to do the same. I want you to believe in yourself so much, because I know what it feels like when you don’t. So take the advice from a girl who’s been there and still is there, and who doesn’t wish any of this upon even her worst enemy.
This is usually the part where I end on a really awkward but equally positive note.
When my grandmother was like 70 she went to some foreign country and rode a camel while wearing a fez. There’s a picture of it. I’m not joking at all.