We romanticize a lot. Jobs, cars, relationships, college, destinations, whatever. It's a function of hope and ignorance and optimism and our need to fill in the blanks. It's who we are as a human race. Romanticizing things is kind of a way of thinking goodness into reality. While it's possible to find the good in just about anything, seeing the good in things is often predicated on the belief that the good is there. So sometimes you gotta romanticize things.
Not to harp upon this too much, but I follow the more Eastern concept of truth: truth and reality are just functions of perception, and perception is fallible and imperfect. Brains are imperfect, and nothing is going to change that-- so the real goal then is to play our brains' weaknesses to our advantage. How we color our perceptions puts a lens on how we see the world and how we process its truth. We are constantly sorting through absurd amounts of information instantaneously, deeming certain things relevant and useful, and other things are unimportant. Make the wonderfulness in you relevant and useful. Romanticizing things helps us see more good in them. It helps the good manifest into our reality. It keeps us seeing the bright side of things. It gives us hope even when things get hard.
But of all the things we romanticize, of all the lenses we can forge for ourselves, I find too many people, women especially, fail to romanticize themselves. We romanticize our parents, our mentors, our lovers-- but we don't romanticize ourselves enough. When was the last time you told yourself you were a powerful warrior, or a mystical mermaid, or a sexy siren, or a straight-up genius?
Why is it so much easier to romanticize a different city or another language or even a totally boneheaded romantic interest than it is to romanticize ourselves?
I think a big part of it is that we don't feel like we have permission. We're afraid of being called arrogant, or cocky, or self-obsessed. But honestly, we're our own number one. We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others-- it's the airplane oxygen mask approach to life, and it's true. Women especially are told we have to be nurturers first, and that the community's needs and opinions are more important than our own. But who wants to be part of a community that would rather turn us into to fertilizer for their garden than give us room to let our own flowers blossom?
Thinking poorly of yourself, not giving yourself credit, only seeing your flaws-- these things don't make you modest. They make you self-destructive. We shouldn't turn a blind eye to our own faults, because that means we can never confront them, but how can we expect ourselves to be happy when we neglect the things we love about ourselves? We need to do both. We need to nurture ourselves. Modesty is not supposed to be sad. Just as another girl's beauty does not take away from yours, seeing your own does not hurt anyone else. You are a universe, you are full of contradictions and magic and you gotta believe in your ability to love yourself in addition to your struggle to be better.
So here it is: you have permission to think you're awesome. It doesn't mean you think you're better than everyone. It doesn't mean that you're selfish or that you are any less kind, or giving, or compassionate. It means that you can see good in yourself and nurture it. It means that you are the one taking control of how you feel about yourself. You don't depend on anyone for compliments. You take care of yourself. You nurture your own sense of being, and that in turn, will help you take care of others better.
So maybe sometimes you hyperbolize-- maybe your acing a test you thought you were going to flunk becomes the cognitive and emotional equivalent of climbing a goddamned mountain. Take it. Relish it. No mountaineers are going to storm in and angrily take that feeling from you. No Emotion Police are gonna bust into your home, demanding to see your emotional qualification papers certifying that the feeling exactly matched the achievement and take away the self-confidence boost it gave you through a lengthy trial process. You're allowed to feel prouder than maybe other people would, and to enjoy your victories. Feeling good about yourself shouldn't be something anyone is afraid of.
There are a lot of levels of self-love you can reach before you turn into Kanye West, so don't worry, because you're probably not anywhere near that. Even I feel like I'm slightly narcissistic and I'm no where near Kanye. (I'm probably right about at Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project levels of absurd self confidence hedged with a sporadic overwhelming fear of not being fully appreciated.)
All that said, I'm not going to force you to think you're awesome. This is not a mandate. Thinking you're awesome can be really hard. You probably actually are awesome, because you read my site which means you probably have good taste (check out that slight narcissism) and because as a person in general, just wanting to do better makes you awesome. But if you don't think you're awesome, maybe because you're depressed or you're going through a rough patch in your life (puberty is a big one) or because you have not had your coffee today, it's still okay. You're not incompetent just because it's hard for you to see good in yourself. All this is is me telling you that you have permission to think you're awesome, and doing so will help you see more good.
There are lots of things about you that you probably forgot are totally awesome. Find those things again. Nurture them. Respect yourself for them. Celebrate yourself for them. Don't sell yourself short, don't let wanting to be grounded in reality drag you down. There are plenty of people in the world who will give you a reality check if you need it-- that's what friends are for. There are others who will drag you down, devalue your gifts, and whisper cruelties in your ear. Don't be one of them.
Need a jumpstart to romanticizing yourself a bit? Here are some starter exercises:
Think of one of your heroes. Beyoncé, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michael Giacchino, Peeta Mellark, whomever. Now write down the things you like about them. Think of their traits rather than their achievements. Circle the ones that you have, too, even if they have tons more of it than you do-- there's always room to grow! See all those things you circled? Boom, you're just like your hero.
Imagine yourself as a superhero or a mythical being. You are basically yourself, amplified. You've got awesome powers that are basically intensified versions of things you already are: good with numbers, quick on your feet, strong, good at knowing how to comfort others. Draw that version of yourself, or just visualize it. Remind yourself that you are magic (or radioactive-- your backstory is your business)!
Tell yourself how awesome you are. This is important! Loving yourself takes practice! Celebrate your victories, not just with a cupcake or new pair of shoes, but an acknowledgement of your own ability and achievement. Write down the things you like about yourself. Keep a list. Put it by your mirror to read as you brush your teeth.
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