I want to talk about self-esteem (the first time I tried to type that it said “elf-esteem,” a topic in which I am not well-versed).
My friends and I have a lot of conversations about self-esteem and self-image. Everybody should have these conversations with their friends, I think. You never learn more about yourself than when you’re discussing matters of the heart with people you know love and accept you.
And self-esteem is, always, a matter of the heart.
Self-esteem and self-confidence are two of the most important factors to living a good life. Why? Why do they usurp a good career, a loving partner, a supportive family? They don’t — they are the stepping stones that lead to all of those good things. A good and loving life has to start by loving yourself.
Popular media can make this rough. Don’t get me wrong: it’s just as hard for me to be bombarded with photos of Beyoncé’s perfect curves or Zoe Saldana’s outta-this-world legs or Kiera Knightley’s face in general (sigh sigh sigh). It’s hard to listen to John Legend’s heart-melting voice or watch Daniel Day Lewis method act the living daylights out of Lincoln. It’s hard to see these people, unbelievably talented and beautiful, every single day, reinstating my sense of inferiority.
But I am not Zoe Saldana and I won’t ever be. I am myself as much as she is herself. I am Hanna. I have only been thin for one year of my 19. I am empathetic, hopelessly romantic and have a little too much trust in people. I lack a certain sense of grace and I, as much as I try, can’t really sing. I can’t act, I give good hugs and I am obsessed with mascara.
People of the Earth, stop trying to be someone else. It’s fine to look up to people. It’s fine to try to live in someone’s image. But you don’t need to try to become someone else. You have to be you. Remember that saying: “Be you. Everyone else is already taken?” It’s true. Write that down and put it on your fridge and your bathroom mirror.
Work on improving yourself. If you want to be able to sing, take voice lessons. If you want to dance, look into classes. Eat more vegetables. Adopt a pet. Smile at a stranger. Work on being the best you that you can find within all your layers and idiosyncrasies, and everything will be alright.
It gets me down when people are down on themselves when they mess up. Life isn’t going to be perfect. Life isn’t about being perfect. Life is about all of us beautifully flawed people having a lot of un-beautiful moments. You, in your lifetime, are going to be a bad person at some point. You are going to be selfish or rude or crass or all of these or worse. You are going to have bad moments. You were not made to be perfect.
Hear that? You were not made to be perfect. You were made to be the best person that you could be. A loving friend, a caring mother, a supportive partner. You were made to snuggle into the bones made for you and learn how to live life. Learn what you look for in a friend, in a lover, in a teammate. Learn what you are good at doing and what you love doing (note: not the same thing). Learn exactly what to do with your hands when you’re talking and how to tell when potatoes are done cooking; both are more important that you would think.
Just because I can preach this gospel about loving yourself doesn’t mean I always do. I struggle with self-esteem issues just like everyone else. I’ve been turned down from enough leadership positions, jobs and relationships to know what rejection feels like. My clothes don’t fit like they used to and I’m out of breath after things that probably shouldn’t make me out of breath (like five flights of stairs).
But I am a good friend and a good person (and a good pet owner) and I try everyday to remind myself that no matter what doubts I might have, I am doing my part to get better and better.
Do something today that will make you better, happier, more loving to yourself. Say a daily affirmation (personal favorite: Jessica’s Daily Affirmation). Take 50 ridiculous selfies on your laptop and then delete them all (because who actually needs that many selfies). Write a letter to yourself and hide it from yourself until you stumble upon it in a couple of months. Start training for a half marathon. Take a nap, for goodness’ sake.
Have faith in all of your weird, off-kilter, wonderful talents. Go out and be awesome. Your heart and mind and funny bone and trick hip were all made to fit into the skin that you’re in. Don’t doubt yourself.
Stuart was right. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and, doggone it, people like you.