Essay// On Liking Myself


I'm 25 years old and I like myself about 50% of the time and I have everything I've ever wanted but way more. I would like to at least get it up to 65%.

I couldn't start my work day today because sometimes I just drown in this mind-set that things need to be a certain way...perfect. I get caught up especially during this time of the year when I'm trying to measure myself against my previous self. I start asking myself questions like how much better did I become this year? Did I grow in every single area possible? Of course I grew this year, but somehow I always find areas where I came up short...because we all do.

When you are as goal oriented as I am, it's hard to find an inch of grace for yourself. This morning as I cleaned our apartment, in my pajamas, I could only find things I didn't like about myself like, "I'm disgusting for getting the apartment this dirty." "I should've gotten up earlier to do this." "Why am I still in my pajamas?" "I should be working right now." and it goes on and on. As you can see, it is exhausting to live inside of my head because it seems that I would only be good enough for myself if I could do the things of five people at the same time. I just love it when I "should" all over myself.

This has been a battle for me throughout my college years and adult life and I have done some serious work to figure out why. Why do I set this impossible standard for myself in everything that I do?

The money question is how do I change this? I will leave you with an excerpt of this article that I really enjoyed written by Alex Lickerman M.D.

"The problem is that we common mortals can hardly avoid deriving our self-esteem from the wrong source—even those of us whose self-esteem is healthy. We look to what in Nichiren Buddhism is termed the "smaller self," the parts of ourselves that seem better than those of others and to which we become overly attached. In other words, we ground our self-esteem in things about ourselves we perceive as unique: typically our looks, our skills, or our accomplishments.

But we only need to experience the loss of any one of these supportive elements to recognize the danger of relying on them to create our self-esteem. Looks, as we all know, fade. Unwanted weight is often gained. Illness sometimes strikes, preventing us from running as fast, concentrating as hard, or thinking as clearly as we once did. Past accomplishments lose their ability to sustain us the farther into the past we have to look for them.

I'm not arguing that basing our self-esteem on our positive qualities is wrong. But we should aim to base it on positive qualities that require no comparison to the qualities of others for us to value them. We must awaken to the essential goodness—to what in Nichiren Buddhism is termed our "larger self"—that lies within us all. If we want to fall in love with our lives—and by this I don't mean the "we" of our small-minded egos—we must work diligently to manifest our larger selves in our daily lives. We must generate the wisdom and compassion to care for others until we've turned ourselves, piece by piece, into the people we most want to be.

In other words, if we want to like ourselves we have to earn our own respect. Luckily, doing this doesn't require that we become people of extraordinary physical attractiveness or accomplishment. It only requires we become people of extraordinary character—something anyone can do.

A simple thought experiment supports this notion: think right now of your favorite person and ask yourself, what is it about them that attracts you the most? Odds are it isn't their physical appearance or their accomplishments but rather their magnanimous spirit; the way they treat others. This is the key quality that makes people likable, even to themselves.

Treating others well, it turns out, is the fastest path to a healthy self-esteem. If you dislike yourself, stop focusing on your negative qualities. We all have negative qualities. There's nothing special about your negativity, I promise you. Focus instead on caring for others. Because the more you care about others, I guarantee the more in turn you'll be able to care about yourself." 

Source: Alex Lickerman M.D.

The reason I am sharing this is because I think it is important to open up a discussion about mental health and I know I'm not the only person that struggles with self-love.