The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to be somebody else. ~E. E. Cummings
By Mark E. Smith
I joke with my friends that when I look in the mirror, others look back, complimenting me on my hair, but also warning me that squirrels are out to get me. As a result, I like my hair, but I’m paranoid of squirrels!
When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see? When you’re in public, are you comfortable in your own skin? Do you not get nervous speaking in front of groups? Or, even bolder, when you’re around your significant other, are you comfortable being nude, feeling beautiful or handsome or sexy?
I hope for you, the answers are all, yes. However, so many struggle with self-image. In pop-culture, the buzz word is body image, where we know how so many feel physically inadequate compared to airbrushed models in magazines or ripped movie stars. Yet, the issue is far more profound, as we know that the body, itself, is totally superficial, easily manipulated with clothes, cosmetics, plastic surgery or photo editing. Of course, the real issue comes from what others cant see: one’s self-image from deep within.
Poor self-image is the root of all self-doubt, from the physical to the mental to the emotional. And, it’s usually an inaccurate self degradation of who we truly are. In fact, it’s often the polar opposite of how the world sees us. I remember being in graduate school feeling like the least intelligent student on campus, an imposter. I worked hard, knew the material, spoke up in classes, got all A’s, won awards, and coeds flirted with me. Yet, I still felt like everyone was smarter and more talented than me – lord knows better looking than me as one with a disability. My self-image didn’t reflect what the world around me proved: I had every skill and talent to have earned my place at the top of my class, but I wasn’t convinced. My self-image didn’t match reality.
I subsequently spent many following years getting to know myself. I couldn’t change who I was from a physical perspective – there’s no cosmetics, plastic surgery or photo editing for cerebral palsy – so why not accept and ultimately embrace myself? It’s not about ego or narcissism; rather, it’s about realizing that among my flaws and foibles are talents and gifts. I am enough as-is.
And, realizing that I am enough as-is empowered my life and relationships. Confidence can be powerful but short sighted, giving you the courage to present yourself in a certain way to others in a given situation. However, knowing you are enough as-is takes every aspect of your life to a new level because any self-consciousness is removed and you live with ultimate comfort and freedom in simply who you are – from appearance to personality to intellect, you are enough as-is. You don’t need to compete or conform; rather, you can just be you.
What’s more, when you realize that you’re enough as-is, it opens you up to embracing others on the deepest levels because you know they’re enough as-is, too. And, when you realize that reciprocation – we’re all enough as-is – the world becomes an inspired, warm place. If we purely live with authenticity and vulnerability – both the truest of strengths – nothing intimidates or scares us. Life simply inspires us. When you say to the world, Here I am, take me as I am because I’m enough as-is, it frees you of all self-doubt and insecurities. There’s no room for anything but a positive, authentic self-image.
Now, the fact is, there are a lot of self-doubting, insecure people out there, and they’re not going to accept you, me or anyone as enough as-is because they refuse to accept themselves. But, that’s their tragedy, not ours. As I like to say, If you embrace me as-is, we’re going to have a great time. If you don’t embrace me as-is, as I extend equally to you, then get off of the Mark Bus because it goes to some pretty awesome places you’re not healthy enough to handle!
What’s most rewarding is that when living as enough as-is, and you meet people who on the surface seem totally superficial, you’ll be amazed at how quickly some can almost instantly drop the facade and become enough as-is, where you connect on the most genuine level. And, it’s touching to see them take a sigh of relief and let down their guard, realizing that they, too, can be enough as-is.
None of us, however, should use this as an excuse not to consistently pursue personal growth. To the contrary, recognizing ourselves enough as-is fuels personal growth. In a society where most exercise for superficial vanity reasons, I, too, workout. But, I do it to simply be the best I can be, regardless of anyone else’s ideal. Lots of guys are more muscular and stronger than me – and kudos to them. I just work out for my own enjoyment, and my body is what it is, enough as-is.
Most importantly, when you truly recognize yourself as enough as-is, it gets you out of validation mode. Think about all of the terrible situations we get ourselves in by pursuing the validation of others, from teens smoking due to peer pressure to employees compromising integrity to please a boss to those engaging in promiscuity to feel desired, and on and on. The minute that we truly recognize ourselves enough as-is, it removes the need for validation from others, creating much healthier decisions and life paths.
May the mirrors in your life reflect the amazing spirit in you, enough as-is, a person of tremendous contribution to the world around you. …As for the squirrels, you need not worry when looking in the mirror – they’re only out to get me.