“I wish you could see yourself the way that I see you.”
It was during a phone call with one of my closest friends from college, after I had tearfully vented some frustrations about my life situation at the time. 2017 has very much been an inside job, where it wasn’t necessarily what what happening to me, but what I had to reckon with as a result. His words stuck with me, as they do quite often, and it’s something that quite honestly I’m still processing.
As I’ve pondered and prayed, my response became twofold: we live in a culture that essentially trains us to dislike ourselves and tells us that we need to be better, whether that’s in the form of changing appearance or acting a certain way to blend in. And because of that, God gives us opportunities to engage in life-giving and healthy relationships/friendships in order to show us what we can’t see, both the good and the not-so-good.
But even with the affirmations and reassurance from loved ones, the concept of feeling good about and believing in myself isn’t exactly cut and dry. I’ve always had a quiet confidence, but have shied away from it for a fear of coming across as unrelatable. I still want to connect with people, to need them and for them to need me. I want to practice humility and gratitude.. And I’ve never been interested in owning a room the second I walk into it or getting people to instantly like me. I’m sure already get enough attention as it is without even trying, probably for reasons that aren’t exactly flattering. Having power and/or control does not equate to being the best person.
So what do you do when self-love and sugar-coated platitudes seem ridiculously hokey?
How do you love yourself when you inner critic (or the critics around you) are so loud to the point where you can’t hear anything else?
Instead of trying to have it all together beforehand, maybe we can learn how to extend compassion inward as we go along.
Maybe the key to self-confidence is not necessarily believing that we’re awesome all the time, but being kind and gracious to ourselves in the moments when we think we’re not. Or at least that’s a start.
For instance, on my first day at my new job I had very little direction due it being Thanksgiving week and not many people were in the office. There was an initial mix up upon receiving my badge and computer, which had me waiting an hour longer than expected, my cheeks burning with embarrassment and fear that I would make a bad first impression. Once I set up and settled in, I spent a lot of the the time introducing myself by saying, “I’m Alyx and I’m new here, can you show me where the bathroom is? The microwave?” and so on. I’m not shy about taking the initiative, but doing so on a regular basis can be overwhelming after a while.
When I overthink, that’s where I have to be my own best friend. I’m a softie, so I speak to myself in a way that’s tender: Honey, you’re okay. You’ve got this. Take a deep breath and just do the next right thing.
Am I enough?
Yes, you are.
You’re a human being and a child of God.
But what about–?
Shh. Lists aren’t necessary for being lovable.
It’s like the way we take pictures: the sugary, caffeine like boost is similar to taking a selfie, where you simply hit a button and then you can immediately look. Self-compassion is old-fashioned development; it takes time, patience, and the right equipment. It’s not a quick fix, but something more sustainable.
I’m not just digging inside until I’m hallowed out as though I have nothing left; I allow love and grace to pour down on me as a reminder that it’s not just about me.
Compassion. For self. For others. A work in progress and an aim for growth, so that I’m no longer beating myself up over doing the best that I know in that moment.