I have always had high expectations for myself, and when I look back, I think it stemmed from immigration. My family and I left Iran when I was 11. For years, I struggled with my identity as a new immigrant, trying to learn a new language, to fit in with a new culture, even figure out how to dress. I expected perfection. I expected to learn English flawlessly, to get into college, to make friends. I had to fit in. I soon turned to writing and even expected to have a book published by a certain age. I managed to reach a few of those goals: one of my short poems was published in the Washington Post when I was a freshman in college.
But I was never good enough, for myself that is. My parents were happy with me, even proud. Teachers commended my ability to write well. As an adult, people remarked with awe that I spoke English with no accent as if that alone were an accomplishment. I did well in school. There was nothing troubling or concerning about me, and yet I remained unhappy.
I made it to my dream city, New York, at 21 on my own. I made it to NYU. In the eyes of an observer, I had made it. But again, unhappiness remained within me. It seemed that even while I would achieve what I set out to do, I still wasn’t good enough. I had not done anything that fit my category of “great.” I wanted to be great, to do something bigger than myself. I had decided this early on as an immigrant; I felt that I owed it to my family, to prove to them that my being here in America was not a waste. I wanted to prove that I would do something worthy.
But as I sit here today, now 31, in a happy, stable relationship, I’ve realized how much time and effort I wasted feeling low about myself. Because the truth is: I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted. I wanted to fall in love. I wanted to be in New York, and then I wanted to leave. I did that too. We left New York early October, and now own a house in Pennsylvania. I wanted to sing in front of a crowd. I did that too. And this year, I plan on learning the guitar and singing again, for a smaller crowd of course. I finally have a day job that makes me happy (no, it is not changing the world, but that’s OK!). Whatever I have now, I once wanted. And perhaps I am not going to be great. But I finally feel good enough. I feel that every day, I try to be a better person. I practice compassion. I give back. The important thing is that I try.
It’s taken me years to come to this place of acceptance, but it can happen for you too. Think about what you’ve done with life so far. Count even the smallest things. It all adds up. Accepting yourself does not mean that you have stopped dreaming, that you will no longer desire greater things. It simply means that you do not have to continuously feel not good enough. It means being present, today.
I am here today, maybe not doing anything great, but simply enjoying multiple cups of coffee, enjoying a day off with my partner, doing house chores, and writing in between. We’re happy, and that is more than I can ask for.