30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 27: A Letter to the One Looking Down

The lotus begins life in the muddy bottom of a pond. Slowly, it grows toward the surface. When it reaches the light, it becomes a beautiful flower.

I want to talk about you.

You’ve been told you’re not smart enough. You’ve been told you’re not good enough. You’ve been told that other people are better, more worthwhile. You’ve spent years crying, feeling sorry for yourself, thinking everyone else had a better chance to reach their dreams than you did.

I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.

You’re worthwhile. You’re not perfect. You have good and bad days. You don’t always remember things. You don’t always make the right decisions. But you’re valuable.

You don’t always feel beautiful. You slip up sometimes. Still, you’re unique, complex—and worthwhile. Nothing can make that more or less true.

You can’t control what others think about you. You can’t control what others do or say. You can’t read anyone’s mind, nor can anyone read yours. You’re not going to like or agree with everything everyone says and does. Some things others do are going to make you upset. But you can control what you do.

Every day is not going to be wonderful, but you can smile. You can feel thankful and joyful no matter what is happening.

You don’t have to be famous to be worthwhile. You can enjoy living an ordinary life. You can take pride in the things you do to keep things running smoothly.

You can speak clearly because you belong here. You don’t have to shrink away, thinking others’ opinions and existence are more worthwhile. You have just as much right to be here as anyone else, and you have a right to your own unique existence.

You have a right to be present. You can absorb details about people and the environment. You don’t have to worry about what your hair looks like. You don’t have to worry about your skin, teeth, height, weight, clothes, education, marital status, bank account, credit score, or friends list. Though you want to do your best in all aspects of life, you can’t control everything. Yet, you are worthwhile.

You can gracefully give and accept compliments. You can admire others and accept their admiration of you. You have a right to feel good about yourself no matter how you look.

You are not a static photograph. You are a living, breathing, dynamic human being. You are so much more than you know.

You don’t have to do anything to please others. You can be compassionate, but you can care about yourself, too. You can laugh, smile, and chat with others. You can put your two cents in just as anyone else can. You have that right.

You can absorb people, nature, and life freely. You can make mistakes, and you can learn from them. You don’t have to hide for fear others will know your shortcomings. Others have shortcomings, too.

You don’t have to worry about being the best at everything. You can’t. The most you can expect of yourself is to do your best work. Know that you can’t do everything perfectly, but know that you can be proud of what you do.

Not everyone is going to like you, and you’re not going to like everyone else. Yet you can accept others. You can accept yourself. You can take criticism with the intent of strengthening yourself. You can dismiss anything hurtful or rude.

You don’t have to judge others, and you don’t have to judge yourself. You can be as silly, smart, or sassy as you want, as long as you remember you’re no better than others, nor is anyone better than you. Like you, people have their own unique way of being. Your worth is on par with everyone else’s.

You have a right to look people in the eye. You don’t have to plan what you’re going to say. You can handle any social situation when it happens. You have a right to speak loudly and clearly. Others do too, and they expect that from you.

You are free to have your own style. You can wear prints, solids, sleek, bohemian, anything you want. You can express yourself through fashion, music, arts, writing, sports, any way you choose. You have that right.

You have your own gifts. Others have theirs. You are not going to be perfect even at your strengths, but you can take pride in what you’re capable of. No one has your unique voice, experience, biology, psychology, spirituality. Things won’t be easy, and nothing says they should be.

Stay focused. Growth is painful. Goals take discipline. But your dreams will come true if you believe in yourself and fight for them. You’re going to fail sometimes. You’re going to fall short of your goals.

But even if things don’t work out exactly how you want them to, you’re still worthwhile. You can pick it up and move ahead.

You can have a balanced view of yourself and others. No one is wholly good, bad, right, or wrong. Everyone, including you, is too complex for a label.

Your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, feelings, interests, and talents are worthwhile. You as a living, breathing being are worthwhile.

Let nothing distract you from that.

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30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 1

Over the past year, I’ve been reading self-help books and personal growth blogs with the intent of becoming a stronger, more confident, self-validating, self-fulfilling person. I’ve made tremendous progress toward this goal, but self-improvement is a ongoing process–we never stop growing. So I’m going to share some of the wisdom I’ve collected on my journey for the next 30 days, wisdom to help you empower you on your own voyage. Learn, grow, and enjoy!

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Thirty Days of Personal Growth, Day 1:

Learn to Love Yourself

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
– Buddha

I hated myself when I was younger. I felt I was too thick, too dark, and too nerdy. Few people told me I was beautiful, so I ingrained in my mind that I was unworthy of the love I so desperately wanted to receive from boys. Feeling like a throwaway, I compared myself to every girl in my class and spent many hours buried in Seventeen and YM magazines, wishing I’d become the pretty girls I saw in the acne medication ads. But it was a pointless exercise. When I woke up in the morning, I’d still be pudgy, dorky me. I despised that.

It wasn’t until I opened myself up to self-help that I realized that in not loving myself, I was hurting myself. Was I not deserving of love, of appreciation? What made others more lovable than I was? Intense therapy revealed the severity of my self-bashing, and, upon realizing that I was just as lovable and valuable as anyone else, I made the commitment to love me. Just as I love my family simply because they’re here and they’re mine, I decided to love me just because I’m me. No matter how much weight I lose or gain, how much money is in my bank account, or how much makeup is on my face, I deserve my own love first.

You’re so much more than your face, your hair, your body, your finances, your education, and your relationship status. Even if you don’t like everything about yourself, you’re better off learning to love the complex you unconditionally. Imagine yourself as a baby: Would you determine that that little girl or boy was not lovable, not worthy of milk and a warm place to sleep? If you’re sane, no. You should love yourself the same way today. You were valuable then and you’re valuable now.

Appreciate what you have, what your body does for you–and remember that loving yourself means disciplining yourself in a healthy way, too, just as you would discipline the child you want to see grow into a healthy, happy, secure human being. Love yourself as if you’re your own family member–you are.

Be Faithful…to Yourself

Be faithful to yourself. You need you.

Over the past several years, I’ve been cheating on myself.

With wistful eyes glazed by the sugary lure of Kate Hudson rom-coms, I’ve lingered in halfhearted relationships. I’ve listened to men tell me they want me to keep my hair and nails done. I’ve lain on my back when I wanted to go to sleep or go home. I’ve tried to make it work, knowing I didn’t have anything more to offer a man who gambled with my love for too long. I’ve spent money, time, and energy on men I knew from the beginning were leeches ready to drain the lifeblood from my veins.

I won’t get any of it back. But while I’m still here, I have a chance to recommit to myself the way I would commit to a man.

If I were in a serious relationship, I would be faithful. I would listen to my man, try to meet his needs, encourage him, and spend time with him. As I learned to trust him, I would give him the benefit of the doubt before I listened to others. I would treat him respectfully and fairly. I would criticize him constructively and compliment him frequently.

But if I’m willing to do all of that for someone else, I must do that for myself, because I deserve my devotion first. I need me. Before I can have a meaningful relationship with anyone else, I need to make sure I’ve met my own needs. I must love and care for myself primarily, then spread that love to deserving others. Take it from flight attendants: You can’t be any good to someone else if you’re barely breathing.

In a world full of people who think they know you better than you do, who think it’s your job to spoil them, who try to confine and condemn and control and confuse you, it’s up to you to be faithful to yourself, to the person you know you truly are.

This Valentine’s Day–and every day–commit to you. Don’t cheat on yourself with the Mr. (and Ms.) Wrongs. Love you, respect you, listen to you, and make you a priority. Buy yourself flowers, candy, cards, moscato rose, whatever makes you smile. Write yourself a love note and mean every word. And when someone tries to jeopardize your relationship with yourself, give that person a stiff boot in the rear. Doing so doesn’t mean you’re bitter or cynical–it just means you know how valuable you are and you aren’t willing to settle.