The Birth of Athena

lift the weight. fight the power. eat the candy.

Being Content with Who You Are, While Still Acknowledging Room for Improvement

I follow a few lady bloggers who consistently write great content. They are inspiring, strong women who write to encourage all people to treat their bodies and minds right; They write to point out the flaws in the diet industry and our culture. These lady bloggers write to encourage women to respect themselves, to eat, to not punish their bodies with exercise. These bloggers want you to believe that you are PERFECT, as is. They write to convince you that you should love your body. These women write a very powerful and positive message. I love it.

However, while I love the message these women proselytize, I can’t help but notice that it makes me feel…a little inadequate.

As I wrote here, I do not love my body. I don’t think it is possible for me to love my body. And along that line, I believe I am far from perfect. I also have a difficult time buying into the concept that despite all my imperfection, I am indeed, perfect because I am me and by virtue of the fact that I am the only me, I am thus, perfect. I don’t know if it is because I have a generally realistic (some might say pessimistic) outlook on life, but to me believing that I am perfect or that I should love myself is impossible. Or, maybe I don’t believe I am perfect, even in the sense that I am perfect because I am the only me, because I see all of the ways I can improve upon myself. I am not the best version of myself that I can be. I want to be smarter and stronger and kinder. I see so many ways in which I can and want to improve myself.

Don’t let me confuse you, though. I am great. I see that I am great and unique. I am intelligent, passionate, kind, hardworking, and occasionally funny. I am a whole, complete person and am worthy of respect (even respect from myself). I do not have to be anything less (like the diet industry is always trying to tell me) and I do not have to be anything more. However, I want to be more. While I have many days where my ego is absolutely through the roof, I have just as many days where I more than recognize my need for improvement (and sometimes, it is all I see), both mentally and physically. But it is important to remember that in recognizing need for improvement, there is a fine line to walk between being content and seeking to improve yourself and bashing yourself. There is a difference between bullying yourself and being able to objectively recognize areas in which you can improve.

So, how does one walk that line? How do we walk the line between self-respect and being contented with who we are, while still acknowledging room for improvement and seeing room for improvement and using those spaces to justify being nasty to ourselves? I am, in no way, an expert on the subject of mental health, but I feel as though I have had made some progress on this subject and here is what I have learned:

Actively Change Your Thought Patterns

In my personal experience, changes in your feelings for yourself don’t change overnight. It takes a lot of work to break through the fog of negativity that surrounds your sense of self and keeps you from seeing yourself as a person worthy of  respect. Just like you would work your body to grow and be stronger and better, you have to work your mind to grow and be stronger and better. You have to work to change your thought patterns.

So, how does it work? Changing how your thoughts about yourself occurs in two steps:

  1. Identify the bad thoughts – this is much like identifying a bully or a mean person that is not yourself. Hear those hateful words your are spewing at yourself? Are they something a mean girl in the 9th grade would say to you to crush your soul? Yeah, those words. Those are the words and thoughts we don’t want.

  2. Replace them – Make your brain act like the find and replace mechanism in Microsoft Word. Every time it sees “God, I am fat.” Replace the phrase with, “God, I am special.” Another example: Replace “I hate my thighs” with “My booty is poppin’.” The find and replace mechanism also works for things like “Man, I am so fucking stupid,” by replacing it with, “I am a motherfucking creative genius!”

Every time you catch yourself spewing pure garbage, stop it in its tracks. Every time you go to point out something negative about yourself, instead take the moment to point out something awesome about yourself.  Even if you can’t muster a compliment, remind yourself that you are a whole, complete, and unique person who is worthy of respect from everyone and that includes yourself.

Easy enough, right? Not really. Changing how you view yourself is difficult. It takes time to change your thought patterns. And you will have to continue to push back the negative thoughts that attempt to steal your happiness. Fighting culture and socialization is a difficult and continuous process.

You Don’t Have to Be 100% Satisfied 100% of the Time

But that doesn’t mean that you deserve to be treated like shit.

Say you are eating breakfast at Denny’s. You are incredibly hungry. You order a waffle, eggs-over-easy, hash browns, toast, and pancake puppies (what? I am a powerlifter — this is a small order at Denny’s). Now, when you get your order, you find that while the waffle has great flavor, it is soggy in few places (like 2 bites out of the entire waffle). Your eggs are more medium than over-easy, and the syrup served with your meal has been sitting for a little longer so that it is not quite fresh and warm. Now, nothing about this meal was bad. It just wasn’t perfect. Should you request to speak to a manager about this about your meal being less than perfect? No! That would be absurd!

So, why is it that just because you are less than 100% satisfied to yourself, you are making a raging complaint to the management? Don’t be absurd! There are still many great qualities about yourself that you get to enjoy! Don’t beat yourself up just because you are less than 100% satisfied with yourself.  While I enjoy the blogs and the views of the women who I mentioned earlier, this is where they leave me in the dust. They seem so happy with themselves all of the time! I am convinced that they really do believe that they are perfect (and as they should be!). However, I am unable to relate to this view. I often have doubt about myself and my abilities. Nevertheless, I have learned to not beat myself up about it. And while I am not able to stroke my ego every day, I usually draw the line at “meh.” “Meh” is the sentiment of “It could be better and it could be worse.” I aim to keep myself on this side of the line.

Set Yourself Up for Success

In working to improve yourself, you must realize the difference between setting realistic, positive goals and setting yourself up for disappointment. If you are having difficulty distinguishing between the two when it comes to your ideal you, it is best to investigate the reason you are trying to change yourself one or another.

As cheesy as it sounds, ask yourself “WHY?” Channel your inner 4 year old. “WHY?” do you want to lose weight? “WHY?” are you starting that new exercise program? “WHY?” are you wearing makeup for the first time? If the answer is something along the lines of, “But I want him to think I am pretty.” or, “I want to look like Jessica Alba.” then fucking dump the idea. None of these reasons involve you. Why do you want to lose weight? Because you want to enjoy a long life. Why are you starting that new exercise program? Because you want to get strong as fuck. Why are you trying makeup? Because it seems like a great way for you to express yourself.

As I have harped on before, goals are very individualized things. If your goals to improve yourself don’t have you and your best interest at heart, dump them like a bad boyfriend.

I hope I am not sounding like a crappy self-help book, but these are a few things I have done to make myself more content and at peace with myself. I recognize that I am not perfect. But I am pretty fucking great. And you are pretty fucking great, too. I hope you can see it.

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