“Do you like yourself?” I mean, really?
Never mind the social media sites that allows you to publicly pimp out your persona 24/7, or the millions of dollars spent every year on maintaining and flaunting our physical appearance (oh yeah, men as well as women). Social commentators point to such dribble and claim that our culture has never been so narcissistic.
But doesn’t the constant emphasis on “me-me-me” really just betray a deeper lack of self-esteem and self-identity?
No, do you really like yourself? I mean, can you look in the mirror and say “I like you for you,” not dwelling on any flaws or obsessively recounting your good points?
About a month ago, I was sitting with a bunch of English teachers during a professional development day. One of them praised me because of a writer-themed notebook I carried. Intrigued, I stared at the three ladies. They were all in their late thirties/early forties, gregarious, and warm. In particular, I noticed their hair and their clothes. Their style was clean, neat, but extremely functional and comfortable. Even the hair was frazzled and only minimally attended to.
But they seemed so happy, and well, comfortable, a feat that millions of women, with all of the million-dollar clothes, shoes, makeup, weight loss, and plastic surgery, can never achieve. What gives?
These women accepted themselves. I’m sure they liked themselves. Hence, happiness.
Stanley Yelnets (in the book Holes, which I’m reading with my students) has an epiphany late in the novel, after all of his wild adventures at Camp Green Lake. He looks up at the stars and realizes that he likes himself. The conflict, the pain, the humiliation of his recent life had emboldened him to show courage and strength, turning him into a brand new person that he could now like.
Isn’t that a general (if not the general) theme of every story we read? We are given a character, her or she encounters a conflict, and that conflict leads to self-awareness and self-knowledge, and if we’re fortunate, self-acceptance.
Does it not make sense that the teachers of such material (English teachers) would be so self-accepting? Forget being beauty queens, these women (and men, too, ha! just substitute your favorite male counterpart) are character queens (or kings).
Life, just like the literary art, is about character building. We must go through “adventures” to character build (attain courage, compassion, and strength) and “discover” ourselves, accepting what we find.
Just recently, I was able to honestly say to myself, “I like you. I think I may even love you.”
What about you? Do you like yourself?