and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
and i’ll show you a hungry person
Poem For A Lady Whose Voice I Like, Nikki Giovanni
I’m a really goddamn good cheerleader: I can tell you with razor sharp insight what works for you, and why, listing scores of examples to illustrate how what I am saying is true. Gospel. Irrevocably real. You want me on your side. I’m to encouragement what Tom Cruise is to Scientology. Like, the face of it. Once I’m sold on your greatness, I’ll tell anyone and everyone and I’ll believe every word of it because I don’t buy into shit that ain’t true.
I told myself, this year, that I would be the loudest most enthusiastic cheerleader on my own goddamned team, too. That I’d root for myself with the belief I often save for my best friends, my Internet crushes, People Who Are Not Me. I wouldn’t wait to be told that I am brave and kind and talented and self-aware. Wouldn’t hold out for another person to point out when I could consider myself pretty or thin or bendy or sexy. I would, I declared to my bathroom mirror, the founding member of the Laura Jane Williams fan club.
It’s really, really, uncomfortable.
If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone – Maxwell Maltz
The thing about being your own biggest fan is that you’ve got to wrangle some pretty tough questions. I didn’t just decide to like myself and then go get brunch. I sat down over the period of a few weeks and hashed out two things with myself: what my values are, at the very, very core, and how I want to feel day-on-day-on-day.
My values are doing the thing I say I’ll do. Being present. Showing up: to dinner, to the conversation, to my life. Behind my back, I want people to say, “Oh yeah, she’s hilarious, but she also like, really gets it, you know? She listens. She makes you feel understood.” I want my friends and family to know that even though I travel a lot, that I never stay in one place, it is testament to their love and belief in me that I can navigate the world alone. Because I’m never alone with them in my heart. My values are intelligence and curiosity. Saying what I mean and meaning what I say. Consistent inconsistency.
Those values have to meet the way I want to feel: strong and sexy, inspiring and free.
Once I knew these things about myself, suddenly, there was a shift in how I related to things around me: people and situations and my reactions to it all. I didn’t realise how much I wasn’t taking responsibility for my life, how I was acting like the supporting best friend and not the leading lady. Identifying my values made me honour them, and when I honour my values I feel those four things I am chasing all the live-long day. When I satiate those feelings, I like myself: really fucking adore myself. That radiates from me, then. I seem to attract a lot more positivity to my life, now.
Taking responsibility in this way helped me to stop comparing: her book deal, his blog traffic, their long-term relationship. None of it mattered to my life – none of it impacted my relationship to myself. And my own version of all of these things is happening, now, anyway. As a by-product of the personal cheerleading.
Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent – Eleanor Roosevelt
I’d rather be alone than in bad company, in company that doesn’t make me feel most like the best version of myself. That started with me. My internal monologue needed to change. I literally go to bed at night listing the things I think I did well that day. When a voice comes into my head to interrupt, pointing out how returning the smile of the cute guy isn’t exactly an achievement, or that yoga classes are all well and good but what is all that time on the mat actually contributing to, I can say, “Thanks for contributing, but those things made me feel strong and sexy and inspiring and free, therefore they count.”
I know what I need to work on to be even better, but in the same way I don’t yell at my friend’s kid to get something right I don’t yell at myself anymore, either. I encourage the ways she’s almost there until she’s fully there. I treat myself as kindly as the kid.
When I’m full of myself, I’ve got so much more to give other people. I’m overflowing with encouragement, in fact… But I get fed first, now. I don’t go hungry anymore.