Hola! Cómo está? So I did this crazy thing in our fast-paced, computer-oriented world and took a tech break last week. It was originally intended to be an “embrace summer and do all of the summery things staycation week” but it was cloudy most of the time so there was some pool time but also a lot of “me” time. The thing I found myself wanting more than anything was a break from noise. So I stayed away from Facebook except to answer a few messages, I didn’t read a single blog or go on Twitter or post any photos or read comments or do any of the things I normally do.
Instead, I painted and went to museums and went out dancing and met new people and ate ice cream and paid attention to all of the things around me. It was fabulous.
A bit of internet quiet was just what the doctor ordered. I feel so incredibly centered and restored this week and wading through the noise feels a whole lot easier than it did a week ago. Sometimes disconnecting from all of the opinions and stories and voices out in the world allows us to better hear our own.
I wrote the following post early last week, fully intending to hit publish last Monday. And then I didn’t. The post itself inspired me to step away from the computer for a week and listen to myself instead…
I had a friend in high school who was incredibly self-conscious. “P” used to cover her face with her hair and covertly checked her reflection at every opportunity. I stayed at her house a lot, so I knew the root of the issue well. Her mother picked on everything: her hair, the way she walked, her clothes, her friends’ clothes. Heck, even I was constantly subjected to her mother’s scrutiny, usually conveyed second-hand through P.
A few years ago, when I was staying in the tiny Canadian town of Quesnel, P came for a visit. I was incredibly excited, as I hadn’t seen her in a while and she was the very first person to visit me in Canada. Grant and I went to pick her up at the teensy airport and I made introductions all around: “Here’s the guy I met in Europe, here’s the girl I’ve told you so much about.”
We chatted away for a bit, but we hadn’t even made it home before P launched into a story about this “really stupid” butterfly I’d worn in my hair once in high school and how ridiculous and embarrassing it was. My heart sank. Here was this person I had so been looking forward to spending time with and she was criticizing me for something I’d worn years ago.
The rest of the trip continued in the same vein, and by the time we said our farewells at the airport, I was weary from the constant back and forth.
P’s mother had taught her to be critical of everything around her, including her dearest friends: it was a habit that she probably wasn’t even aware of.
I’ve been thinking about this lately: how we relate to each other, how we judge ourselves and others. Because the world is, year by year, getting louder and more opinionated. The internet has done away with the filter of face-to-face politeness. Every day, we are bombarded with messages, opinions, “advice” and commentary. Social media, blogs, advertisements, reality tv, etc. have created a lot of noise for us to wade through. Some people are good at choosing what they expose themselves to, but the rest of us are jumping into a pretty big pool every time we fire up our computers. So much of what’s out there is useful and creative and well-intentioned. But a chunk of it is a lot like my friend’s mother: critical, bossy and, ill-intentioned or no, can make us feel “less than.”
I’d love to think we were all raised by superhero parents who boosted our self esteems and made us relatively immune to all of those blogs that tell us we are shitty parents if we don’t breastfeed or doomed to failure if we study liberal arts in school or hippos who can’t fit into Lululemon’s yoga pants.
But the truth is, most of us aren’t completely invulnerable (and no one could have prepared us for a few mean girls in school ballooning into a constantly plugged-in social network). We want to feel like we fit the ideal, or are at least what the interwebs consider “normal.”
So, at best, we occasionally second guess ourselves. At worst, we internalize it, like my friend P and her mother, and spit it back out into the world.
We’ve normalized the extreme (J. Lo booty’s, twenty-year-old millionaires, crazy complicated diy weddings, Channing Tatum’s abs), so it’s no wonder it can sometimes feel like we have a mountain to climb before we are “good enough.”
But we don’t need to lose ten pounds to be good enough. We don’t need to add an extra zero to our paychecks to be good enough. We don’t have to make ombre pinwheel favors and burlap table runners for our weddings to be good enough.
I think we all need a reminder now and then that no one else has the secret to a perfect life, that there is no perfect life. And normal is so incredibly relative.
So, for me, for P and for everyone who sometimes feels less than:
You are enough. Just as you are. Right now in this moment.
I sometimes try to imagine a world where everyone knows and fully believes in their own self-worth– what a magical, bullshit-free place it could be. Maybe a bit like that story that’s been circulating about an African Tribe:
When someone does something hurtful and wrong, they take the person to the center of town, and the entire tribe comes and surrounds him. For two days they’ll tell the man every good thing he has ever done […] They band together for the sake of their fellow man to hold him up, to reconnect him with his true Nature, to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth: “I Am Good.”
I am good.
P and I lost touch over the years. But I think about her often. I wish I could go back in time and brush all of that hair out of P’s face and tell her how beautiful she is. I didn’t have the empathy or wisdom to say the right thing back then– P and I were just trying to get it “right,” as so many 16 year old’s are. But, at 31, I’m beginning to know better.
So, for P, for me, for the daughter I may have one day, I look in the mirror and try to see the beauty in my own reflection, even on the days I feel downright ugly (especially on those days). It isn’t in the shape of my lips or nose, but something less tangible. There’s a goodness inside of me that sometimes gets misdirected or covered with self-doubt, that can morph into criticism and insecurity. Too much judgment can turn the judged into the judge. But that goodness is always there, just beneath the surface, waiting for the chance to connect, to forgive, to break free.