You deserve to look in the mirror every morning and see someone that, though not perfect, isn’t trying to be. You deserve to walk past the billboards and commercials that show staged-and-Photoshopped images of what and who you are supposed to be and laugh at them, secure in the knowledge that you are wonderful because you are real. You could imagine that the models themselves must be so much greater in person when not reduced to a pose and a cheesy tagline — maybe they are at their most beautiful when just stepping out of the shower, hair still wet, and excited to go eat a good breakfast — but you don’t compare yourself to them. You deserve to love your body simply because it is yours, and it is capable of so much.
You deserve to look past whatever is displayed on the outside, whatever code lingers on your skin to be read by society and neatly organized into some compartment about who you “are” — fat, thin, ugly, tall, awkward — and be even more in love with what exists within you. Of course you may have moments in which you regret past mistakes, or dislike a character flaw that you know you need to work on, or feel the rope of maturity tugging at your ankle saying “Come on, catch up,” but it doesn’t define you. You deserve to appreciate all of the wonderful qualities you bring to the table, instead of relentlessly harping on yourself for the categories in which you fall just a tiny bit short.
You deserve to look for love, if that’s what you want, and be ready to accept it when it comes your way. You might find yourself overwhelmed and even briefly in disbelief when you realize that someone actually loves you for who you are and wants nothing more than to be with you, but you should be able to embrace that unconditional caring with your own. You should wrap your arms around them and cover them with your whole body — flesh, bone, the ugly little cracks and scars that they can’t stop kissing — and know that you are a good person, who is worthy of such joy. You deserve not to question every person who gives you a compliment or tells you that you’re wonderful, not to wonder if they have some ulterior motive, or if you are somehow the victim of an elaborate prank. You should realize that you are worth loving because you are ready to love back.
You deserve to go through your day and take in the good parts, breathe in the good air and appreciate the little things that too often go unnoticed. You should know that a strong flower growing in a city sidewalk, a child laughing and blowing bubbles, or strangers that smile at one another and mean it are all things worth loving, and which make your day a net positive. You deserve to live your life for the joys and not the frustrating slights that are out of your control — to be able to say that, because you held the door open for an older man with too many bags on his arms, your afternoon was good. Though the profound effect these tiny moments of happiness can have on all of us are often lost in the shuffle of life and its myriad injustices, you deserve to look at them and see them for the victories of compassion and simplicity that they are.
You deserve to try, and give it your all, but be okay if you fail. You deserve not to spend so much of your life berating yourself for not having been “good enough,” especially when you’re not even sure what “good enough” might entail. Your job might be strenuous, your classes impossible, but you deserve to be able to do your best work and, at the end of the day, put your pen down and sleep well. You deserve to have a personal best that is good enough for you, to not constantly feel as though you’re outrunning yourself with expectations, to the point of sapping the joy out of a hard day’s work.
You deserve to be truly happy for others. You deserve a life that is filled with its own successes and triumphs, that is carved out in the image you desire, and that is not effected by the perceived victories of others. Sometimes others may get things that we wanted for ourselves, but you deserve to be confident enough with your own life and journey that someone else’s achievement is not directly detrimental to your own desires. You deserve to see success not as some finite pie from which we must all take exactly one slice, but rather a constantly evolving and growing garden in which we can all flower and reach the sunlight.
Perhaps most of all, though, you deserve to be okay. You deserve to know that a day in which you can just barely get out of bed because you are sad, or sick, or simply not ready to see the outside is not the end of the world. You deserve to know that moments of weakness do not make you fundamentally weak, only fundamentally human, and that sometimes we’re not going to be effusively happy, and that is okay. You deserve to be happy just existing and not constantly holding yourself up to a standard of fake smiles and forced cheerfulness. You deserve to not beat yourself up when you do not reach perfect acceptance of your body, your personality, the love you receive, or anything else that may come your way. Though you should know that you are worthy of these things, learning to be happy just in a kind of stasis with yourself is a long process, and you should know that we are all working on it. You deserve to live through all of your emotions, all of your states of motivation, and know that as long as you are treating everyone with kindness (including yourself), you have nothing to be ashamed of.