Warts and all

See here's the thing about learning to be yourself (and maybe one day like yourself, but that's quite a ways off for me): you have to accept what you're NOT, too.

This sucks.

It goes a little something like this: I meet many different cool people who are able to do things (many things) that I can't do, or they do them better than me. So I start to want to be like them- except the ME part of me just doesn't do that. Things like talent at sports, getting up easily in the mornings, lack of anxiety and depression, fashion sense, flexibility, doing something half-assed everyone once in a while just because. Those kind of things.

And if I really, truly start accepting myself for who I am right in this moment, it means I have to accept that I am a night owl, that I have no innate talent at athletics, my tendencies are to be regimented, and looking on the bright side isn't my strong point. In my stereotypical way, I thought that if I worked hard enough, I could make these things come true. I was going to be in bed by 10pm EVERY NIGHT and WIDE AWAKE at 6am, and have a full day's work done by noon! Or I would start trying to plan an impulsive trip- is this a good weekend to call someone to go on a road trip? Maybe?

What this really means is: I wish I were different.

There. I said it.

Constantly wishing to be different let me live in a fantasy world where I really was different, where those possibilities existed and I could fulfill them. Except here's reality and this is where I try to live most of the time, and I have to make the most of what I have.

Which still makes me sad.

I don't think that self-improvement is a futile task- far from it, in fact. But you have to start with who you really are, and not who you're NOT.

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Ai Lu said...

Wow, this post really resonated with me. I also have dreams of being "different" than what I am, and I so admire your effort to just accept yourself as you are. Your approach sounds very buddhist and reminds me of some dharma talks that I have heard before.

mary said...

Life is so darn perplexing for all of us at times. Here's a quote I scribbled on some paper and tossed in my pocketbook recently.
"Your vision will become clear when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakes!" Carl Jung
I have a habit of keeping quotes that speak to me. "Who the heck am I and what am I doing here" seems to be the big question. How'd I get so lucky to meet you is another! ;) You've got your own special talents(many)Carrie so don't go doubting yourself!
I think it takes time to awaken to who we really are but when you get there you won't be looking over your shoulder at what others are doing unless it's to give them a thumbs up. You'll like you because you are the one you chose to be and it's your story.
So then, which direction are you headed? Home for the holidays? A road trip sounds like fun. North of you we are in the middle of a great storm. Quite exciting actually. I wish you were here visiting me!

Kim said...

Great post, as always. I've been trying to work on acceptance lately, and it's just so damn hard. Like you, I also fantasize about being somebody different. I wish I could be ok with 5 hours of sleep (my friends can do it. why can't I?). I wish I could make sponanteous trips to Vegas without a hint of hesitation or anxiety. I wish I could travel the world like my sister. I wish I was sporty and could run "for fun" with a big smile on my face. I wish I could cook everything from scratch. I wish I could not make lists. The truth is I need 9 hours of sleep. I'm a homebody. I'm socially anxious. I don't like to travel. I hate cardio. I couldn't be bothered with making my own bread. I LOVE my lists. That's just me...and, damn, sometimes that's downright disappointing. But, I suppose self-criticism is what keeps the demons around, right?

MelissaS said...

acceptance helps. i'm a night owl and major insomniac. i finally found a job that i can start at noon. and if i'm later, no one notices, because i get my work done. a lot of my drug problems came from jobs that started at 8 am. i ended up abusing ambien and lunesta, doctor shopping to do it. i smoked pot to sleep, even though i didn't like it. and then i found cocaine, which i thought was marvelous, because who needs sleep! i didn't mean to ramble so, but this was a great post, and it really got me thinking. thanks.

Gaining Back My Life said...

Ugh. A little too close for comfort (which means.....it's true).

Tiptoe said...

I know at times I've certainly lived in a fantasy world, wishing of all the things I wanted to change about myself. It takes a lot to get to a point of realization that no matter how hard you try, some things are just not meant to be, that some things are inherent to your personality.

It's interesting, some things I can accept easily, like I'll never be good at math, but other things like I'll never be an artist is harder.

Self-acceptannce is just a tough thing all around, but it looks like you're trying to get there.

samsi77 said...

It's my belief that acceptance especially self-acceptance is an ongoing process. Part of figuring out who you are is sorting through who you are not. You might be further along in this process then you give yourself credit for:
Carrie Arnold
"I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from an 8-year battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition."

sannanina said...

I think most of us do what you describe to some degree... I invented a mental alter ego when I was a child who continued to accompany me through life until I was 18 or 19. I never named her, but she really was everything that I was not or thought that I was not. She was courageous, smart, and a hard worker. While both of us were perfectionists and quite ambitious she actually put her perfectionism into practice at all times and always gave 100% (I WANT to do that, I am incredibly disappointed with myself if don't do it, but in reality I often don't do things as good as I could do them). She was somewhat shy like me, but different from me she never let it bother her and of course people always just started to "see" her at some point because she was just so great (that very rarely has happened to me - either because I am just not that great or because you sometimes have to make yourself "seen"). She was popular. She never said an insensitive thing. And of course she was thin and beautiful. (She also was a great dancer.)

"She" isn't part of my life nowadays - I don't make up ridiculous stories of an imaginary person in my mind anymore even though I stopped only as a young adult. But I still long to be what she represented, maybe more than ever. It's not only that she was so many things I am not, somehow her personality also seemed more "logical". For example, being a perfectionist and a procastinator - how does that fit? If I want to do my best, how come I put things of again and again although I know this will lead to a less than perfect outcome? Or loving music and always having loved it (actually there is a story that I started "singing" or something that vaguely resembled I started talking) but being only moderately musically gifted. Or not being able to decided if I am an introvert or an extrovert - I am shy, I have few friends, and I can spend a long time day dreaming on my own, but I also love the stage, in fact I miss being the focus of attention from time to time desperately, and I actually want to share my day dreams with others.

Then I also have met real people who were just amazing - people who seemed to truly embody everything I ever wanted to be. It was a revelation that these people have self-doubts, too, that they are scared at times, that they don't do everything perfectly, and that they wish to be things they are not just as I do. And yet, I cannot quite let go of wanting to be "like them". Sometimes that is good: Having role models and people you truly admire (and sometimes envy a little) can be a great driving force for self-improvement. And yet it also sometimes makes it hard to be "me" and to be the best "me" that I can be right now in this moment.

Carrie Arnold said...

Wow- thanks for sharing everyone.


What you said is really true- we need role models, but three dimensional ones. Seeing how people handle adversity is really helpful to me, and knowing they have doubts make their accomplishments all the more real.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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