Let me preface this with a confession: I’ve been thoroughly enjoying some aspects of self-isolation and distancing.
Don’t get me wrong, I still hate a lot of it – the uncertainty, the dread, that flutter of anxiety in my chest every time I sneeze or cough, not seeing my friends and family. And I never thought I’d miss so many ordinary things as much as I do (like getting my brows done or trying on a pair of jeans).
However, there have been things I’ve loved. I’ve never had as much time to work out, to cook, to read, to write – and I’ve slowly been learning to live with myself better.
Whether you are thriving during these times or are slowly starting to climb the walls, I hope my little piece on how to make peace with the person you are will help you emerge back out into the world feeling a little bit better about having spent all that time in your own head.
What you say and how you say it
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that the way you speak to yourself is your biggest asset. Or it can be your worst enemy, depending on the voice inside your head.
(Side note: did you know there are people who don’t have an internal monologue?)
If you keep belittling yourself and keep telling yourself off for not being perfect (more on that in a minute), things will always seem a little bleaker than before.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating turning into an egomaniac who can do nothing wrong – but all that support you show others when they are down would be nice.
Since the only person who will ever truly understand you is the voice inside your head, start cultivating a better relationship with it. It will take some time, as we are usually all used to finding fault with ourselves rather than focusing on the good. Once you shift your communication to the brighter side, you’ll notice how your mood becomes more positive and how you turn into much more pleasant company (both for yourself and others).
Society expects the impossible
Now, about perfection – first of all, perfection doesn’t exist. Why would you even want to bother with it?
And second of all – you can never be perfect for everyone’s standard. Just remember the Be a Lady They Said video – there is absolutely no pleasing everyone, and you can spend a lifetime failing at it, miserable in your own existence.
I have a poster in my living room that says “I don’t want a perfect life, I want a happy life” – and luckily, happiness is something we each define for ourselves.
Whether it is that yummy bite of chocolate after a 5k run (my Tuesday morning), whether it is waking up to a Disney tune, your job, your family, your pet – if you can learn (and trust me, it will take ages, but that is the beauty of it) to find happiness in your daily life, you will have achieved perfection.
Have you seen Downton Abbey? Or alternatively, Eat Pray Love?
No connection, I know; let me explain. Downton Abbey travels back to a time when leisure was a part of everyday life, while Eat Pray Love has this scene about “La Dolce Far Niente,” the Italian art of doing nothing. An art we have sadly lost.
Instead of running day in and day out, always looking for the next win, the next thing, the next experience, what happened to enjoying where you are now? By all means, keep chasing the next dream (I still do), but take some time to enjoy where you have already gotten. Because this is very far from where you’ve started.
Take a day (yes, a day!) every six months to marvel at the road you have traveled, and to explore where you want to go next. We so often get lost in the daily grind that we forget about looking in the rearview mirror. And time just rushes us by, landing us often far from where we actually wanted to disembark.
Don’t just settle
Finally, let me make one more point about loving yourself: there needs to be a balance between loving who you are at every moment and striving to be better.
It’s not at all about not being beautiful and enough as you are. It’s about always wanting to be a little bit more. A little bit better at anything you want to focus on – learning a new skill, running, making a meal, donating to a cause – you want to keep improving.
This does not mean you need to become super successful or ultra anything – it’s again about the simple things. Don’t let social media and what others are up to lead you – do the things you want to be doing, when you want to be doing them, and how you want to be doing them.
Comparing yourself to where others are on their journey will never strike a positive emotion. You will either feel inadequate about yourself and where you are, or you may walk the line of arrogance, seeing yourself as better than someone else. Stick to your own lane, at your own speed.
Learn how to express your emotions in Spanish, because you’ve always wanted to learn a bit of the language. Learn how to make the perfect lasagna because you just love having it for dinner. Plan a delicious breakfast in bed or make that perfect cup of black tea. Sameness will bore your mind and body, so just try to do the smallest of things a little bit extra every time you do them – even if it’s just ironing your white shirt for a meeting.
Wanting to be better is not about being inadequate as you are. It’s about choosing your journey and working hard today so your future self can enjoy the benefits.
A word of warning
Of course, remember that no matter how much you love yourself, you will still get angry with yourself and get on your own nerves. This happens even in the best of relationships. So instead of being dissatisfied with anything other than a perfectly calm sea, learn to appreciate both the lull of the waves and the calm before a storm.