Okay, so I totally stole that line from Icehouse, but I will give them credit. Jokes aside, this post is about how to accept yourself in the past, present, and the future. So many young women and men I know cannot get it together and although some are perfectly fine with that, I am constantly asked how I keep it together. Newsflash, people, nobody can really keep “it” together, but they can manage the chaos and swim upstream without drowning. Everyone is perfectly capable of this. I have 5 major tips to being confident condensed to one word or a phrase with pictures to lighten the mood after elaborations below.
Stop being so damn negative about everything. Stop thinking negatively, speaking negatively, and behaving negatively toward yourself and others. Avoid negative language in almost every aspect, sympathize for yourself and others when needed, and do everything in moderation. Restricting yourself because you believe you cannot do something or you feel you are not good enough causes you to miss out on life experiences that you need, whether good or bad, in order to progress in life. Although it can be hard to change negative self conversation about yourself, you CAN do it. I have been in the shallow grave of “I can’t” and it can be a real bitch digging yourself out of that place, but you can and you will. You need determination. Will power is debatable (the phrase has been used forever to propel people into a life of restriction), but determination is real and everyone has it. Accept compliments from others instead of saying “nay” and embrace the kindness of others while letting go of the negative things that have happened to you.
2. Defend yourself.
Nobody is going to respect you if you are a doormat. If you constantly feel berated and underestimated, then obviously you are behaving in such a way to be treated as such. Otherwise, you’re being way too sensitive and you may have been less sensitive toward others so they are lashing out. In opposition to this idea, if you have a tendency to be overly defensive, then you need to stop that, too. Nobody wants to be around someone with their claws out all of the time, because that’s too much to handle. Face your fears–it’s okay–verbal conflict will not hurt you at all even if your body reacts by convulsing (this used to happen to me), because it is a natural response to aggression. Tell people how you feel in a diplomatic way, always remain as calm and collected as you can, and speak clearly when you defend yourself. For example, a friend of mine was quite curt with me on the phone when I was having a really terrible day. I barely reach out in my times of need, but I decided to give it a try. At first I wanted to just go ballistic, but after calming myself I called the friend back and reminded the friend of the times I have been incredibly busy and taken time out to talk out this friend’s issues many times. I asked if I had done anything to intrude and the friend gave me a much more sympathetic response and explained the flippant behavior, but everything was taken care of and I no longer felt hurt. People have their own problems, so switch out aggression for mediation (think of how you may mediate between two feuding friends, but you’re mediating for yourself and a friend) and always use your leverage, as terrible as that sounds, but do it in a very subtle, smooth way. I am a very good friend and a kind person, but I have been easily taken advantage of in the past by many former friends. Treat your friends how you would like to be treated and always remind your friends of your strengths as a friend can be very helpful. Someday they will bring you back down to earth when you need it, too, and we all need a kick in the ass every once in a while.
3. Self Reflection.
“Cogito ergo sum” said Rene Descartes, or in other words “I think, therefore I am.” Yes, as with all philosophical statements, you can ponder the meaning of the phrase into oblivion, but I see it as two ways: there is the very simple “I process information and conjure knowledge which proves that I exist” or you can go deeper. Philosophy is great to read. I loved reading Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Buddha, Confucius, Immanuel Kant, and John Locke and still refer back to their wisdom from time to time. Marcus Aurelius taught me the benefits of stoicism and how to remain in control of your emotions, but it can lock a person up a bit. You have all of these great minds literally at your fingertips, learn from them, and develop a better outlook through their teachings. Every now and then take a day just to be by yourself: “forget” your phone somewhere and just chill out and enjoy your own company. I love having a social life, but I also love my inner reflection days.
4. Let go of the past, accept the present, and embrace the future.
You will never be who you were in the past; you cannot go back to correct things; and who you are not is a result of the past so accept your past and you will do better in the present and future. Rejecting your past because you were “too fat”, “too ugly”, “too stupid”, or “too young to understand” is just an excuse to pretend that it never happened and if you overlook who you were, you cannot truly find your identity. Too many people carry around hurt and cannot move on, but you can. I did and here’s the following story:
I was a very confident, lovely young woman and physically fit in my late teens. I had always struggled with weight issues, but I had conquered it and felt great. I was proud of how talented and intelligent I was and I loved myself for who I was and could have cared less about where I had been. I did not mind what I looked like before, because it was who I was and who made me “me”. I also was incredibly proud of the responsibilities I had at home taking care of my very ill father from the time I was a young girl and I loved him very deeply. My father was my entire life and I had made the mistake of forming my identity almost completely around him, because so much of my life was dedicated to helping keep him alive (this happened to my mother and sister as well). Everything my father said that I was I became. Then he became very ill and passed away when I was 20 years old. My identity and my life was shattered–completely and utterly shattered. I spent so much time getting back to that healthy, confident young woman that I wasted nearly 5 years of my life on some dream that if I could get back to “who I was” everything would be better. Wrong. I could NEVER get back to that person, but I could become a confident woman again if I worked at it. And you know what? When I realized that I had to figure out who I was without somebody else telling me who I was, then everything fell into place. I have fought for everything I have in my life and I struggle every day to keep those things, but the struggle does not stop when you “cross the finish line”. The “finish line” is just a checkpoint, I assure you, and giving up after the checkpoint is probably not conducive to your healing process. So if you have reached a certain age where you said “I will be doing this when I get to 25” and you find yourself still working at a retail chain with nowhere out, just remember that it’s not too late to do what you want to do. I returned to college at 24 and I have a 3.9 GPA and I am in the Honor’s Society. You can do it.
5. Lifestyle and self definition.
Be active, be fit, be healthy, be fashionable (the fashion of your choosing of course, because I would totally love to do steam punk…I just look horrible in it so I choose vintage clothing), be kind, be determined, and be YOU. Stop trying to define yourself through someone else. Instead of thinking “I want to look/be like Marilyn Monroe” think “I love her fashion and I think it would look great on me with a little tweaking”. Envy is truly a “green eyed monster” that will eat you alive and hinder your life. So stop being envious of what others have and be grateful for what you have. Just look at Monroe’s very sad life: despite the glamour and beauty, she was a tragic figure that died of an overdose of prescription drugs. Also, stop letting your friends/boyfriends/girlfriends/whoever tell you who you are, no matter how well they mean. The whole notion may seem ridiculous, but it happens more than you think and you do not even realize when it happens. When you lose the person telling you “who you are” then you will lose yourself completely. Believe me, I know this well. Have “real life heroes”. Sometimes young men/women get caught up in the pages of Playboy or the cover of Cosmo magazine so gravitate to real people for inspiration. I love and admire my sister and mother above everyone else; I think my professor is a boss ex-lawyer; I admire my English professor who is incredibly kind, intelligent, and highly fashionable; etc. And for the love of Linus, go out and have fun. Just. Have. Fun.
So, as always, I will leave you with a line from my favorite 1980s Vice Cop Sonny Crockett, or Sonny Burnett if you prefer his alter-ego. Good fortune, my friends!