Can I talk about self-esteem today? It seems like everywhere there is an outcry to “Be yourself” and a general attitude of “Don’t care what other people think of you, just be happy.” Which is great and all, but all of these declarations that are supposed to encourage a positive self-esteem and self-image also come with parameters in which to rule yourself. At what point are we allowed to truly become happy with ourselves as we are without the unwritten rules defining us?
I’ll be honest, this is not where I had planned to go today. My original plan was to write about a certain trinity of rings and how there can be a pressure to fulfill those rings even at the point of hurting ourselves. At the same time, I’ve been experiencing a restlessness in myself simply because I feel like I’ve been repressing the imaginative part of me so that I could fit into a certain mold of adulthood. So while this isn’t about exercising, per se, it is about mental health which is equally, if not more, important.
Run, run lost boy…away from all of realityLost Boy by Ruth B
I was sitting in my room yesterday reading a book about Neverland, as well as listening to my current obsessed-with song, Lost Boy by Ruth B (are you seeing a pattern here?) when I had the thought that I haven’t indulged in playing with my imagination in too long. I haven’t been childlike in too long. It occurred to me that when children are outside playing make-believe, adults think it’s the cutest thing ever. However, if it was an adult doing the same thing by themselves, we would get judged with all kinds of rude thoughts.
Here’s the thing, some people could absolutely do something like that without a care in the world. I am not one of those people. I can’t begin choreographing a dance in front of the mirror because I’m so shy! If I go outside in my maxi dress pretending to be a princess on a quest to find the lost land of blah blah blah, I’m going to be paranoid that someone is watching me, judging, even if its the very thing I need to do in order to feel better about myself. For me, being myself totally includes dressing up and pretending I’m a pirate princess. I just can’t do it in front of other people unless I’m in a stage production. Why is that? Is it because in the list of socially acceptable things, acting out my imagination is only acceptable in certain places and settings? Possibly.
What about in the lines of exercising? We’re told that we need to exercise to be healthy, and I am in no way disputing that, but when exploring that world we come upon motivational quotes that tell us “All or Nothing” with a very envy-inducing image in the background. The loudest voices are still telling us that if we don’t look a certain way then we’re not exercising enough or even doing fitness correctly. At least, that’s the voice I’m hearing. Even if it’s not an audible voice, what are movies and video games saying to us, any of us? And if you think that this voice is only pointed at women, it’s not. The scene in Thor: The Dark World where the woman “accidentally” falls onto Thor and feels him up comes to mind. It’s totally telling men that a woman wouldn’t want them if they don’t look like that. Or what about the term “Tall, Dark, and Handsome”? What defines that last one? A well groomed man who wears a tailored business suit? How do those kinds of messages mess with psyche of the male population?
The very tools that we are given to help motivate us are the very ones that can help break our self-esteem down. What is our self-image and our self-esteem worth in a world that is itself in a conundrum? We’re told to define ourselves within a niche box. We’re encouraged to strive to be like the ones who flaunt their self-molded image, and at the same time we’re told that they are the few and far between. So we end up running ourselves in a circle, constantly grasping for something that we’re told everyone should display proudly before being slapped on the wrist for that same thing. We’re told to be healthy, then given an image that makes us ill while trying to strive for it.
I do not know the original publisher, but one of my favorite conversations I came across on Pinterest says this:
“I asked my friend what defines him. He replied, “Nothing. A definition excludes the possibility for change.”
We are constantly changing, evolving who we are. In all honesty, we cannot fit ourselves neatly into one box or niche. It gets messy when we try to. We cannot define ourselves by one set of rules. Even the experts agree that a healthy diet needs some leeway and cannot be completely one way without the allowance for diversion. Maybe that’s the solution for self-esteem. I am an adult, a mother to two children, but inside I am also an imaginative child who longs to fly away to Never, Neverland or to find a secret fairy garden hidden in the wall of shrubs in my backyard. Maybe complete self-esteem can only come when we allow ourselves to be placed in multiple boxes. Rules cannot define us because one rule of who we are may contradict another rule of an equally real part of us.
So, who are you? What does it take to be yourself, to be happy with yourself? Is it time to maybe stop searching out those motivational quotes with the envious images? Is it time to face a fear and make a change to yourself that you’ve always wanted to make but never have for whatever reason? Is it time to cut someone from your life because their voice is the one you hear in the back of your mind telling you why you shouldn’t express a certain piece of yourself? Is it time to post that image of yourself that you love but you’ve held back because you’re afraid people will react negatively? Maybe it is, because for every negative reaction there might be a positive one, too. There might be someone out there who needs to see that it’s okay to embrace all of you, with every box and niche you belong to. What will it take for you to look in the mirror and smile because you are authentically happy with yourself?
When you express what makes you happy on the inside, you’ll find yourself happier on the outside, too. That is where you’ll find your self-esteem. Not from an outside source where you have to fit into the definition of someone else’s rules, spoken or otherwise. You’ll find it in learning how you define yourself and then expressing it somehow. So yeah, maybe I won’t be tromping around in the backyard loudly pretending to be a pirate princess. That doesn’t mean I can’t kick my kids and husband out of the house for a night and pretend its my castle with all kinds of intrigue and secrets hiding away. Maybe I’ll write a post all about it one day.
Just because you’re not quite ready to show the world who you are on the inside, doesn’t mean you need to suppress yourself. Find out who you are, work towards being happy with yourself–away from the opinion of others if need be. Build your self-confidence and self-esteem, then step into the light and help others find their way, too. The one rule about self-esteem that should always be kept: You make the rules for yourself and hold the key to your own happiness, no one else’s.