So, I’m in line at Costco the other day, and I’m watching people, like I always do. I’m seeing them come and go, and talk and laugh, and argue, and yell at their kids, and hit their brother or sister, and talk on their cell phone, and stand quietly, and I’m wondering, Do I really love these people?
And I’m realizing: Yes, I do.
And then I’m wondering, But, if I love them, why is it so hard . . . ?
I have never been the “cool kid.” In grade school, I wore thick glasses that made my eyes appear twice their normal size. (I am extremely far-sighted.) I wore pink and purple matching outfits covered in kittens. I put bows in my hair and was incredulous when, at 11 or 12, my friends started wearing training bras and shaving their legs. Aren’t we too young for that? I hissed.
I never felt as pretty or skinny as other girls. The older I got, the more self-conscious I became. I started wearing makeup and exercising. While in elementary school I hated running, in junior high and high school I became known for it. Gotta get my run on. I had to make up for the fact that I was terrible at sports somehow.
About the only place I felt safe was in books. I read all of the time. In reading competitions, I blew my classmates away. In the third grade, I read more than 13,000 pages just “for fun.”
But reading can only take a kid so far — socially, anyway.
When college hit, I chose a university far from home. I’d gone to the same private school all my life, and I wanted something new. I got in my 2000 VW Jetta and drove from to . Unfortunately, however, the “I” I’d known in California stayed with me. On a large college campus, I was still the quiet introvert who was too much of a “goodie-goodie” to go out dancing and drinking and hanging with the cool kids much. The only reason I ever got noticed at all, in fact, was my rock-climbing accident.
Well, college led to a copy-writing job that led to my return to the west coast that led to Asia that led to now. And all the while this nagging thought: Not good enough. I’m not good enough. No matter what I do, I’m never good enough.
It’s a thought I hide well — most of the time. Funny, too, because there are many things about myself of which I am proud. I love that I’m independent and adventurous. I like that I like to think deeply and ask questions. I’m happy I’m a hard worker and don’t want the status quo. I’m proud that I like to be active . . . I love that I love to write . . .
I wouldn’t change who I am or the choices I’ve made for anything. And yet . . .
Why this discontent? Why do I find it so much easier to love others than to love myself? Is it because I am less invested in others? More willing to accept their flaws because they do not affect me, or at least are not my responsibility?
Because, while I like many things about myself, I am also deeply flawed. I procrastinate. I’m always running late. I don’t read enough (anymore). I can be inflexible. I’m OCD about cleanliness. I’m not scheduled. I have an outrageous sweet tooth. I never go to bed on time. I . . . The list goes on and on.
And so it’s this interesting conundrum. I like myself and yet remain my own worst critic. My idealistic nature demands perfection, and yet perfect I will never be . . .
I don’t know about you, but learning to love myself will probably be the hardest thing I ever do . . . !
P.S. This one’s for you, Kit! Love you!