Why Is It So Hard to Admit We Like Ourselves?
I like me. A lot. I’m seriously starting to dig who I am. But even as I type these words my brow is furrowed, my gut is clenching, I’m kind of grossed out by it, by the admittance. Why? In no way does me liking myself mean that I like others less, nor does it mean I’m placing myself up on a pedestal now for all to admire and aspire to. It certainly doesn’t dismiss the room for improvement I still have, the growing I need to do as a human being or the flaws I still very easily see. I’m not sharing it to convince others to follow suit or to cleverly disguise my actual disdain for who I am. I just like me, okay? Why is this so hard to admit?
The reason is essentially ego. My ego caused my pervasive discontent for nearly three decades. I was fairly happy, don’t get me wrong, but a dulled, heavily self-deprecating version. And that was mostly what I projected: content. Don’t worry about me, I’m content. Whoa, slow down with the enthusiasm! Content, yikes. I’m so bored with content. I want to be fucking ecstatic! And guess what? I am. I am seriously moved to the point of spontaneous bursts of excitement, laughter, and radiant joy simply because I am alive. That is why I’m happy. That is why I’m sincerely content and not just projecting it. And that is why I like me, because what’s the alternative? 77 years (if I’m fortunate) of walking a tight-rope. I kind of like myself, but don’t worry, not too much. Gross.
This has been on my mind for months. I feel so grateful, so good, so strong, much more fearless than I’ve ever been, much kinder than I can recall and simply more settled in my skin. I don’t feel anxious everyday wondering who I’ll be or if where I am today is right. I know it is, not because I’ve accomplished anything major or changed the world in some distinct way, but because yoga slapped me in the face and showed me the more I accept who, what and where I am, the more those nagging feelings of unworthiness slip away. I can remember vividly disliking who I was, feeling uncertain about where I was going, and now I feel allergic to those beliefs. They not only brought me down, they brought others down as well.
I used to strive for perfection, some fictional realm above excellence, and it made me sick. It literally kept me under stress, anxiety and preverbal crankiness for years. Yoga showed me not only that I was deriving my sense of self from very fleeting, arcane versions of strength and prowess, but also that I was seeing my fellow man as obstacles on my path to success, competitors in life. A dance teacher of mine told me not many years ago that the lowest expectation I could have for myself was perfection. That comment was a mind-f*ck. What? Brain melting, can’t compute. Turns out, I had to slow things down to a near stop, turn down the volume of the outside world and just listen to my heart and my breath. Then I got it. Perfection is unattainable, somehow humans invented it, but it doesn’t exists. Perfection is my pulse, my trust, my acceptance, my unconditional love. Giving my best in each moment is my current expectation. It feels much better!
After I almost lost a very important friend, someone who lived and loved so openly, no room for cynicism, for self-doubt, for judgment; I had to snap myself out of it. That set in rapid motion what yoga has gradually imbued since my very first down dog. I used to hear my voice and cringe, see a photo of myself and cringe, watch myself in a video and cry. No lie! I wanted to feel confident and whole enough to live with reckless abandon but I couldn’t stop getting in my own way. I couldn’t stop nitpicking, seeing the flaws, the ugly residue of who I really was. Why did I even deserve to love myself? Had I done enough good to even feel self-satisfied?
What I’m realizing more and more is no one will give me permission to like myself and regardless how much I do or don’t, there will be people who feel the same about me, good or bad. I cannot change it and quite frankly it’s not my business what others think of me, if they’re thinking of me at all. We lead by an example, we show others from the moment we walk into the room, from the first words we speak, just how much we think of ourselves. And that informs the world how they should think of us. People aren’t assholes. Some are, but on the whole, no. Most are good and they respond energetically in direct proportion to what they’re given. My disbelief in myself was reflected right back to me. Duh!
It is so damn simple. The more I honestly like me, not the more I express it, show it off or shout it out, but the more that feeling grows inside me, the better human being I am outside. Why can’t I just feel grateful and in awe of my body, my heart, my mind, my unique imprint on this world and extend that same kindness to others. I see thousands of different people walking around the streets of Chicago and I seriously want to talk to them, smile at them, laugh with them, and maybe it’s because I finally feel encouraged by my ability to make my fellow man’s day better, just by being a kind-hearted human being. I like me AND I like you. You should too. You’re awesome, stop doubting it.
My ego keeps me trapped in trying, in analyzing my behaviors as genuine or bullshit. Is feeling confident in myself as a teacher simply showcasing arrogance? Why would it be? I am in love with what I do and invigorated to share it so others can benefit too. So often women stop themselves from really showcasing who they are, who they want to be, loud and proud. We feel humility and confidence are mutually exclusive. They are not. There is a qualitative difference between ego and essence, conceited behavior and authentic action. You are smart enough to feel the difference. When I question, I know I’m still stuck in my jigsaw puzzle of a mind, so I’m going to stop.
Recently a photographer took photos of me and my fellow instructors at a studio where I teach in Chicago. He did a fantastic job. My friends and colleagues look positively badass. And so do I. No longer will I look at myself and see frizz, redness, acne, my weird birthmarks, cellulite, crooked mouth, hear a snarky tone, or feel my exuberance is somehow overkill. Just as you shouldn’t allow someone else to kill your sincere buzz, you certainly shouldn’t be the one killing it either! Be the reason you are in love with life, happy to be you, excited to breathe and smile everyday. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it to those who are willing to receive it: You deserve it! No more questioning, see the beauty and soul in the light of your eyes, the warmth of your soul and don’t be afraid to show it and use it to enjoy every moment you have to live.