Getting better at being yourself

Things that irritate me about my mind. It’s:

1) Defensive. I assume the worst sometimes, when people aren’t doing their worst.

2) Ambitious but underestimating. I want to do really well at things, but I don’t always aim high enough.

3) High-strung. My mind is almost always on a project.

4) Anxious. A little like the last one. Except worse.

5) Easily discouraged. I tend to think I’m failing, at least a little. What is the deal with that?

Sometimes I feel stuck inside myself. You know, this is it. I don’t get to change bodies and realities. Unless I’m willing to conduct that ancient ritual my grandmother taught me, with the sacrificing of the rodents and the secret machine from “the homeworld” that my family has stored in that barn out back. And I’m not willing to do that because it’s too risky. And I don’t remember the chant or the code sequence exactly. Which could be disastrous.

But seriously, it’s a little strange to be one person your whole life. There are huge parts of my past that I don’t really understand. I analyze them with my friends, but it’s like I’m trying to figure someone else out, not me. It’s like, “Well, she seemed like she was feeling a lot of pressure at that point, possibly resulting from the intense way her mother had emphasized eating organic food, and so when she stole all of the eggplants from ShopRite’s produce section, it probably was an act of individuation. Now SHE had control of the eggplants, y’know?”

No, I didn’t steal any eggplants. But I made plenty of choices that now strike me as odd.

(sometimes things are beautiful in unexpected ways. I love that.)

And then today I had the thought that maybe I’m always becoming a little bit better at being myself. Rather than changing constantly into unrecognizable forms, I might be constantly, gradually, painstakingly learning how to navigate my own mind. It’s an encouraging thought.

We all come with qualities, tendencies, traits, and hang-ups we don’t quite understand. Some of them are downright obnoxious. How is it that I’ve never learned how to stand correctly when I’m talking with people in a group?! Some of them are surprisingly cool. I totally just made them laugh! Or uncertain. Wait…were they laughing at the way I’m standing?

I find myself thinking, “What is wrong with you?! You’re still doing this?” As though I want to transform instantaneously into a completely different person. Just shed the aspects of myself I don’t like and emerge, refreshed and snake-smooth.

I wrote before about the concept of tweaking– that urge to change a few things, until we’re perfect. It’s the sense I sometimes get in front of a mirror. I could be so pretty, if only… My arms were thinner. My eyes were more wideset. My legs were longer. My nose was smaller.

The thing is, the list goes on forever. It’s spilling out the door and getting on the elevator and off it goes, down Broadway.

I think, though, that I’m getting better at looking like me, too. I have plenty of setbacks. Some days I catch myself being downright cruel. I hate my face.

But mostly, I don’t. Mostly, I am slowly, slowly adjusting to my own differences and quirks, and steadily maintaining and nurturing a pocket of pride. This little thought that goes something like, “Isn’t it awesome how different I look than other people?” Isn’t it awesome how much I look like myself?


I catch myself being anxious and I remind myself of times I’ve been anxious in the past, and how it turned out I didn’t have to be. I think I’m failing and I remind myself of the time I thought I had to play Carnegie Hall as a solo concert pianist by the time I was sixteen or I would be a failure. And how I don’t even care that I don’t play classical piano anymore. Priorities change. A lot. Sometimes you think you’re failing at something, and that thing ends up not even remotely mattering.

Sometimes you think something about you is hideous and later you completely forget why.

By the time I’m seventy or so, I plan on being super comfortable with who I am. I’m gonna be so good at Kate by then. I’m gonna practically have it down.

*   *   *

Un-roast: Today I love how I’m getting better at wearing what I want.

 

18 Comments »

Kate on April 28th 2011 in beauty, being different, body

18 Responses to “Getting better at being yourself”

  1. jpetroroy responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 10:18 am #

    This was absolutely amazing, and I am so in awe of your attitude. I love this: “I’m gonna be so good at Kate by then.”

  2. Sarah responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 10:21 am #

    again, great post.

    Un-roast: today I love and embrace my curly white hair.

  3. Kate responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 10:25 am #

    @Sarah
    Curly white hair! Sounds amazing!

  4. Mandy responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 10:37 am #

    I have found that there is a direct correlation between how comfortable I am with myself, and how much I like myself. I truly like who I am, and how I’m turning out, so it’s very easy to be comfortable being me.
    It also helps to remember to be as kind to myself as I would be to my best friend.
    In this train of thought, I love your idea of the ‘unroast.’ It helps to keep me in the right frame of mind.

    Unroast: I love how my eyes sparkle when I’m happy!

  5. Hannah responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you!
    I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately, and I feel like I keep holding myself to higher and higher standards, instead of taking the time to appreciate that I know myself better, and that I like myself better, than I used to! This post really hit home for me… It helps to remember that everyone else is learning to love themselves too.

    Best of luck in your quest to be awesome at being you!

  6. sophie responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    This post was so good. The 5 things that annoy you about your mind are the same as what bothers me about my own. I always remind myself though that I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t think that way. And I’m starting to realise I’d rather be me than anyone else so those things don’t matter so much anyway.

    My unroast for today is that I love my auburn hair. It represents everything I used to hate about myself but now love.

  7. Liz Nord responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I can relate with this post big time. Yesterday, I was asked a “hot topic” question by an editor who wants to interview me for a Redbook article, and I struggled in deciding how I truly feel about the topic. Do I not know my own opinions!?! Apparently, I’m still cultivating some basic theories about life–and then I think, aren’t we always evolving? That’s one of the reasons I love writing–in a way, we are forced to see ourselves. And although I am always me and the person I was from childhood, every new experience enhances and slightly changes me to become more multidimensional and complex.

    I also think one of the awesome things about getting older (or so I’m told) :) is that most people seem to care less and less about what other people think about them–in a good way. I think about how I’d live my life if I never cared what other people think of me and it kind of seems like that would be amazing!

    I love you post, Kate! I don’t think you give yourself enough credit for who you are. :)

  8. Valerie @ Life 4 me by me responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I think you put together the internal dialogue for many of us out there. Thank you for giving it words and validation.

  9. josie responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I read an article in Allure magazine that reminds me of you. It is an essay written by Siri Hustvedt. I love the way you write. I get lost in your descriptions and I feel like its me talking to myself. Whatever your insecurities or shortcomings are you are an amazing writer and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and feelings. Keep up the Amazing work! -Josie

  10. Kelsey responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    This is my first time reading your site and you really caught me. (I routed here after reading your post on “Yes and Yes,” which is also great stuff.) I felt like I was reading a diary entry that I wrote but couldn’t 100% remember writing b/c I was so far into it that I almost felt like I was watching from above. As I’ve gotten older, I find it fascinating as to how and why we’re uncomfortable w/ ourselves and how we barely even like or love ourselves at times. It’s sad… and very hard to reset the mind. Giving love may be easy, but accepting it when it’s aimed at ourselves – our true, real selves – is the most difficult thing I’m learning to do right now. Thank you for writing about this. Good luck w/ your journey :)

  11. Kate responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    @Kelsey
    Thanks for coming over here, and thanks for the sweet comment!

  12. Jen responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Holy cow! I’m so glad someone else feels like its weird that you only get to be one person your whole life. My husband thinks I’m a crazy person whenever I talk about this. “I’ll never be a starving kid in a third world country, I’ll never be an old British man, etc.” Not even things I necessarily want to be, but its weird you only get one shot. Really highlights the importance of being the best at being you that you can. After all, no one else will get to be you either.

  13. Leslie responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    This post is great. I’ve been trying to remember that I am not the only person who has these thoughts and hangups and that no one else is as focused on my perceived shortcomings as I am. I really enjoy your posts!

  14. Kate responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I totally LOVE this post! I was nodding my head all the way through. Love it.

  15. Nahl responded on 29 Apr 2011 at 5:10 am #

    This is a perfect piece of writing. It reflects your thoughts in the most simple and genuine manner, and also puts forward some great advice! Your words mirrored my thoughts about myself. Thank you for this. :)

  16. Tatiana responded on 29 Apr 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    I’m personally finding that as I get older and develop a broader sense of self, it’s becomes more difficult to like myself. I think of all the mistakes I made, hoping for an outcome that didn’t seem plausible, even in hindsight. And I wonder if knowing these things is helpful, if it’s even worth it some times because it feels so overwhelming. So I wonder if learning more about myself has increased my lack of self-esteem.

  17. The Dame responded on 03 May 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I LOVE getting older and understanding myself better as I age, while life may not get easier, handling life does.

  18. what she said! « Jiminy's Blog responded on 08 Aug 2011 at 3:41 am #