In the last week, I took a moment to look myself squarely in the eyes while standing in front of the mirror. And smile. A nice, accepting “I like you” kind of smile. The kind I typically reserve for other people.
What made this noteworthy is that I’ve gone through months, even years at a time in the past, averting my own gaze. Like a child, not wanting their parent to see through them and find them lacking in some way, I avoided facing my own regard.
Most of us wish to be loved and accepted just the way we are, yet hold ourselves to a different standard. Like we’re not enough. Not worthy of receiving our own clear-eyed, loving smile….
We accomplish that certain something.
Look a certain way.
Show up better for life’s challenges.
Have the positive regard of someone other than ourselves.
This may not be an everyday issue for you. But if “waiting ’til I’m worthy” resonates, read on because:
I want to invite you to flip the equation.
If you recall the old SNL skit, here’s your Stuart Smalley moment.
But in this case, what we’re shooting for is, I LIKE ME.
When we aren’t able to accept and meet ourselves as we are, it influences not only our confidence but also our relationships with others; our professional life; our ability to experience joy.
Here’s an exercise you might try, when it’s hard to look at yourself directly with acceptance, compassion, or appreciation:
Close your eyes and imagine yourself as a small child. Travel back in time and see yourself doing something you loved and got lost in.
I see myself curled up, book in hand, in footie pajamas.
What do you see?
Watch yourself for a moment and let yourself feel tenderness for that little you.
Now, I want you to imagine looking at yourself at that age the way you look (or don’t look) at yourself now.
While it can be hard to hear this, and receive it as truth, you are still that worthy “kid” inside.
Maybe it feels like you’ve made so many mistakes or come short in some ways.
Welcome to the Club. Life is a grand experiment and we are always in “process.”
What do you have to lose by accepting yourself right where you are?
Does it mean you’re throwing in the towel and giving up on your ideals?
Or, is it a grand paradox, that by meeting yourself right where you are now, you can aim higher from here?
I encourage you to try this exercise out and to begin a practice of looking yourself straight in the eye and giving yourself your best smile.
Here’s looking at you, kid. The world is better because you’re in it.