This I know for certain: you cannot fake a good life.
You cannot do things that seem cool and exciting and worthwhile and expect them to feel that way as well. You cannot beat your body into submission and expect health and confidence because you made yourself look a certain way. You cannot piece together bits of a life someone else wants for you – of what you think you must do to appease someone, anyone else – and expect to get something you want.
I know who I really am largely because I taught myself who I am not. I did chase and achieve things that I was conditioned to believe would make me happy and whole. I did beat my body and mind and spirit into submission, and what I found was that the end of these roads were not what was promised when I started down them.
I never set out to be dishonest. I never wanted a life that wasn’t for me, but at the time, it seemed there was no other choice. I so deeply believed I was unacceptable the way I was that I couldn’t understand how being who I really was would get me what I really wanted. So I latched onto ways I could be different, things that felt almost right, maybe good enough.
I want to tell you something with complete sincerity. Letting go of every idea I had about who I was (and who I should be), and then seriously considering how I felt – understanding that the peaceful feeling, the subtle “yes” feeling, was the right one – changed my life. Not because of what I was able to do with that understanding, but because with that awareness, what was always mine came to me.
I want to tell you about what I had to learn to get there.
I learned that you don’t have to let things get unbearable before you can consider them warranted of change. I learned to eat before I was hungry, acknowledge what was hurting me before it became too painful, identify that I was going in the wrong direction before I was lost, sleep before I was exhausted, save more than I spent, and be kinder than I was critical. I learned to be grateful before I was without, to meditate completely on impermanence, and know that this could be the last day and this should be the only day, to be fully present with others, in this life.
What I’m saying is that I learned loving myself was really no different than loving someone else. With care, and mindfulness, and attention, and gratitude.
I came to understand that the “path to enlightenment” (or whatever you want to call a heightened, better, happier, higher, more peaceful state of being) was not actually a road that I had to pre-determinedly “get through.”
It was just a metaphor for how long it would take me to be happy with what I have, with where I am, in whatever moment I find myself. You either have the mindset of wanting, or of having. Nothing will change your mindset but you.
I learned that disliking something in someone else, anger, outlash – about anything really – was less my identifying in someone else what I disliked about myself, but rather my identifying what I was resisting to accept was true of myself as well. That resistance was the reason for the outward anger, my pandering about, condemning others a means to avoid facing myself.
^ This, more than anything else, is how I showed myself what I had to heal.
I learned to be honest about the little things, and that made way for it to be honest about the big things. I like to nap. I want to write a self-help book and be a mom. I am bisexual, I had a reductive mammoplasty a few months ago, I’m a little insecure about the scars. These are things I wouldn’t dare have said mere months ago, and now they seem so small, so un-defining, because I know I am not only the few details people piece together about me.
I learned to cut ties from people who didn’t lift me, and start surrounding myself, consciously, daily, with people who really, truly loved me for who I was, and not just what I could do for them. These are the people who showed me how to really love someone back.
I learned to differentiate want and desire from attachment and expectation. It’s okay to want things, (it’s wonderful to!) but there’s a difference between that and simply getting attached to an outcome to fix something. An idea that will soften some blow you’ve devised about what you are and how you are perceived.
I learned how to have the courage to tell my story, the kindness not to tell others’ and the objectivity to know the difference. I learned that honesty is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I learned that when you start to be honest with yourself, the things you want and need come to you, and become clear to you. Effortlessly. Without strain.
I learned that when I had a sound sense of who I was, almost all of my anxiety dissipated. I naturally stopped taking negative feedback as “what I need to change” and more as “their opinion.” When you act from the core, it just doesn’t register as something you can change.
I stopped comparing, because I no longer saw myself as something that needed to be prized, or competed against, or evaluated for change. I realized that figuring this out was really just remembering myself, re-learning, becoming aware and being accepting of what I found (which is the inevitable by-product).
And I learned that the only “scary” thing about not being who you are is when you’ve never really done it before. Because once you’ve told a tiny truth, once you’ve felt a little bit of your core, you realize what you were seeking from everyone else in all your half-truths and misguided choices is simply there. You, by your very nature, are more than just enough for yourself. And that, I think, is the most beautiful thing of all.