…but first let me take a selfie

Four months is rather a long time to go without communicating through a medium I very much grew to love and it pained me to experience the great beast of Writer’s Block that has plagued me for the last while. Upon examining this mental block I happened to learn quite a bit about myself and from it rose several interesting topics that rescued me from it’s clutches. I find this whole blog thing funny at times because I feel I preach all this awareness stuff and yet it is so hard for me to live it and when I do feel I am getting to a place of great self-awareness I sort of take a few steps backwards because I have sought it for the wrong reasons or I haven’t been honest about the state of my heart. I did not write for so long because I became wary of the vulnerability I was showing, I got scared and then took a lot of pride in how good and honest and intelligent I was being and that shocked me. Anyone who knows me knows I have a weird thing about self-control and I am only ever as trusting as I want to be. I got anxious about the trust I was putting out into the social sphere so I gave up. Recently I had someone come up to me and tell me they love that I am “so myself” and they wish they could be like me. This left me taken aback, I feel like I have so much lacking in myself and so much baggage carried from years back that I couldn’t see how I could be someone to look up to. I did not want to be emulated and I felt I needed to address that all I simply wanted for this girl was for her to see that she should strive to be herself. We are the ‘selfie’ generation. We are obsessed with ourselves in an interesting way that goes beyond shallow self-involvement and deeper, to an outward acknowledgement of hurt and suffering and a striving for acceptance and happiness with oneself. People criticise us for being self-focused and I wonder would they rather we were the self-less generation (and I don’t mean selfless in a giving, ‘other person’ orientated way) where we did not reflect on our role, our presence and contribution to this world and the duty to live our lives with every opportunity that has been afforded us? Yes we can be self-centred but being self-aware is crucial.

We all go through that great awkward stage where we try to find ourselves as teenagers. Then we hit our twenties and we might not be as awkward or hormonal but there are a whole new set of social roles for us to try to fulfil. The roles we can step into are numerous and are there for us to anchor ourselves in and live out the qualities associated with that role. Not only are we living in a time where we are being inundated with the idea that we can ‘be whoever we want to be’ but we are also living in great social revolution where there is active encouragement for individual identity and the promotion of the self. Society today values radical thinkers, individualists, altruists, a society of commonality, acceptance, equality and a mindset of non-judgement. It is so vibrant right now, this culture of the self being saviour.  I believe in this respect we are very lucky, our global community is so focused on the individual and promoting life for all people free from persecution, fear and prejudice and it’s made people socially and globally aware. Young people are encouraged to explore their sexuality, passions, careers and sample as many faith systems as they desire. Unfortunately, the other end of the spectrum is that our generation can also be the most self-indulgent, gratuitous generation. Expectation is the mindset of many young people, we are being told we can do whatever we want and live free whatever way we want, we value sexual liberation, noncommittal relationships and avoidance of responsibility in many aspects of our lives. We are constantly searching for experience, and we are finding our identity through anything that makes us feel good. We are an interesting mix of self-obsessed individuals who love freedom yet we live with unaddressed self-belief, self-satisfaction and self worth issues. Why do we let the opinions and judgements of others have such an affect on our lives? We should not be so easily dictated by the will of society around us yet we all feel pressure to belong and respond to it.

We women, sadly I cannot speak for men, have this tendency in our heads to tell ourselves that we are not enough and yet at the same time we are too much. We then proceed to look for evidence in our lives to validate this perceived understanding of our identity, the identity of inferiority fed into via multiple channels and fabricated conclusions and presumptions. For some of us we derive truth to back up these inner thought claims out of nothing such as from innocent text messages from boys that get dissected and are transformed into the cause of many nonsensical fears and woes. Comparison and the desire to be someone else is rampant in so many women and I find it interesting because we all talk the talk of self-worth and we are so immensely aware that we are unique individuals with our own struggles and we say we are learning to love ourselves. Yet, deep down in the heart space we still belittle, berate and condemn ourselves for not meeting the standards we set ourselves, for not being brighter, louder and more beautiful. Or if you are like me and are keenly aware of how overbearing your personality can be you wish to minimise yourself, control and maintain a mature and intelligent ‘filter’ as it were. For example, why do I workout? I say that it is because I enjoy it and for health reasons and no, no not because I want to look good, it’s not about looks at all. FALSE. Actually mainly it is because I am continually striving for self-improvement and yes I do want to look like those toned athletic women, who doesn’t? I want to be attractive to guys and I try and try and yet I can never reach a place of satisfaction with regards to my looks and my fitness. Whenever I reach a goal I find out that it is not good enough, that I am not good enough that I should be trying harder and there is more I can do, better I can look and a better gym bunny I can be and perhaps then I will be noticed, then I will be accepted for who I am and taken seriously. A good portion of women live believing that they must mould themselves in order to fit the desires that men look for. We want to be flirty, sexy, funny, confident, desired, pursued, powerful, independent, swept off our feet, strong and so it goes on. We find that if they don’t love us in the all-consuming and saving way we want then it is because we were lacking in some area and that failure is a flaw in our character that must be repaired.

A conversation I had with a friend once went like this. Her: “I don’t feel I belong up on stage in front of people, I feel unattractive and my body is not beautiful”. Me: “Are you kidding? You are so beautiful especially when you are performing”. My friend, in her wisdom, caught me out and said: “Now you see how it irritates me when you believe such lies about yourself? Why don’t you address your fears by shooting them down the way you do mine?” We are so quick to come to the defence of our friend’s identities, actively reassuring and lifting them up because we love them and want them to know this. Yet our perception of ourselves is seen through a negative filter of ‘I am not good enough’, a wishfulness based on preconceived notions of what it is to be a noble, good, beautiful and successful and a false humility that believes saying you accept yourself as a worthy individual is arrogance but continuously putting yourself down and exposing your bad qualities to society is a humbler state of being. And we do take pride in purporting that we eschew conformity, that we don’t subscribe to social expectations of looking a certain way, of pursuing a particular vice. We want the world to know we are mindful, at peace and accepting of who we are with our flaws and all, that we throw off stereotypes and those who live their lives in direct opposition to stereotypes are lauded as heroes. Trading one ideal identity for another (currently the ideal person to be is one who goes against the curve and doesn’t strive to be like everyone else) is simply showing an ongoing dissatisfaction with who we are and a deep rooted desire to be seen as more, to be ourselves only better.

Self-criticism and verbalised contempt for the self is not a sign of a humble person eager to amass great self-awareness but an insecure, socially influenced often prideful person seeking the bolstering up of their character from others. These people think controlling and stifling who you are is a greater way to be accepted and revered for depth of character. It is important to note that many people do live with a great deal of  low self-esteem that does not arise from pride but takes it’s roots from past hurts and experiences and general negative beliefs of their value and rather than challenging them for pride we need to be more understanding and question why they believe these things.  I know there are parts of myself that I dislike so much I can’t even bring myself to talk about them with God. I build a shield around them and ignore them until I’m in a place where I feel unworthy and then I can revisit these things I haven’t dealt with and indulge in the self-destruction because truthfully it’s safe for me and a way of protecting myself rather then allowing myself to come and be honest about just how rotten I am. I fear every time that He will judge me and agree with my opinion of myself like people have in my past. It’s so silly because that’s not the way God works and for me the best thing about learning to see myself with Him telling me truths is I can expose my worst doings and He is like “whatever it’s forgiven and I love you regardless”. We are so quick to criticise and tear down our fundamental selves as if the only way to carve out our identity is to shred any scrap of acceptance and happiness in who we are now and be constantly changing. Improvement is great if it comes from a positive place. Loving yourself is not selfish and more importantly is not pride-filled when it does not rely on any comparison to another, where is does not warrant the putting down of or envying of another character and does not involve the abuse of yourself.

Living in a way that you only show the parts of yourself that will be accepted and squash the parts you don’t like is not self-control it is manipulation and a loss of who you are. I will always want to be the type of girl I am not: sexy, flirty, organised and assertive and hide the goofy, embarrassing and endlessly awkward side of me but I won’t be, not through healthy means anyway. I hate getting compliments because it is hard to receive a compliment and not listen to that voice in my head that denies everything being told to me and won’t let me truly believe good about myself without claiming me to be vain. It’s all about a choice, I do not think that the criticism and the desire to filter out the parts we don’t like will ever go away we simply have to choose which voice we listen to and who we give the power to. For me it is Jesus and what He says about who I am when I start to agree with the hateful thoughts in my head that I try to choose. Bettering yourself and being a mindful person should be about honest self-evaluation without seeking to be what we are told by others to be, but it should also not be about vainglorious self-promotion and total ignorance of our faults. We should not be seeking to create a standard to show off to others and for them to measure themselves by but should be seeking to accept ourselves for all that we are and stop being so obsessed with improving and thinking endlessly about ourselves. Self-forgetting comes from self-acceptance and leads to a much happier way of being and a more present sense of self.

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