I’m not much for resolutions, but I did make one promise this year. One promise, and I think it’s the key to all the promises.
I promise to be nicer to myself.
I’m going to remember what it feels like to be comfortable in my own skin (not just in body, though that’s a big part, but in mind and spirit, too). Because there was a time in my life where I was much more appreciative of my strengths, and less debilitated by my weaknesses.
Really, there was! I swear!
See, I have what I like to call a case of the “shoulds”. I’m pretty sure most of us have these, actually, to varying degrees. But I think mine got out of control.
“I should go grocery shopping.”
“I should call my mum more often.”
“I should eat less and exercise more.”
“I should have gotten a better education.”
“I should be working at a better job.”
“I should take more photographs.”
“I should be more outgoing.”
“I should be more adventurous.”
I’ve piled all these expectations on myself – some of which are reasonable (“I should shower every day” – my co-workers probably appreciate this one, and I do, too!) and many of which are not so reasonable (“I should be perfect” – oh, c’mon, perfection can’t be that hard to achieve, right?). So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that lately it seems I’m drowning in a lake of guilt – guilt for not calling friends, guilt for not eating well, guilt for parting my hair on the left instead of the right, guilt for not being smarter, thinner, prettier, more academic; you name it, I’ve probably felt guilty about it.
I’m going to point out the obvious here: Too much guilt hurts. Eventually you start feeling guilty for feeling guilty! Which makes you feel even more guilty! Shit!
Last summer I came to a point where I said to myself, “Self, you have everything your little heart could possibly desire. You have a beautiful life with a wonderful person and two crazy cats, you live in a beautiful house, and you have a stable job that has excellent benefits. Slap on a white picket fence and you’re living the American dream! So why, for the love of god why, can’t you just sit back and enjoy it?”
Guilt. Because I’m trying to meet impossible standards and I haven’t accepted myself for who I am. And feeling restless and unbalanced inside means feeling restless and unbalanced about everything else in your life, too, no matter how good it is.
So, I declare this the year of getting back to good. I’m not even sure how I will keep this promise, but the other morning I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, rather quietly, “I like you. You’re okay. You’re doing just fine.” And I’ve repeated it every day since, whispering it to myself as a mantra when I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed. Reassurance that I don’t have to be perfect, that I can just be me, and that’s enough.
And it’s funny how forcing yourself to let go of some of those expectations really lightens the load. Enough to, say, start eating healthier, without really having to think about it. Or wanting to take photographs again. Or redesigning your Web site for the first time in nearly a year, which is exactly what I did this week. Not because I felt obligated to, but because I wanted to.
There’s a lot to be said for letting things go, for giving up expectations that may have outlived their usefulness, for letting life wash over you instead of paddling frantically against the current.
I like you, you’re okay, you’re doin’ just fine.
And lo and behold, I am.