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By Mark E. Smith

At 43, I’ve had my challenges in life, but with a mix of hard work, the support of others and luck, I’ve been privileged to have accomplished a bit, from fatherhood to a pretty cool career. Nevertheless, someone asked me what my ultimate dream is from here? My answer could have been related to a next career challenge or maybe a materialistic goal like a lake house. However, none of that’s the case – its all too easy, too meaningless in ways. My answer from the depths of my heart was, “I just want to be me.”

Assuming that we’re healthy, productive, loving individuals, isn’t that our ultimate dream: to not only be free within to be ourselves, but to be truly embraced for who we are by others? How many of us have felt at times that for any number of reasons – a work environment, a relationship, family expectations – we couldn’t just be ourselves? Maybe it’s a seemingly huge issue like if your family knew you were gay, they’d disown you. Or maybe it’s a seemingly small issue like someone correcting your grammar. Or, somewhere in the middle, where your love interest wants to change something about you. All of these and countless other examples prevent you from being you, and it’s painful and it’s isolating – and I’ve been there.

I had a cute conversation with a buddy of mine. He shared with me that if he could find a woman who loved comic books as much as he does, she would be his soul mate. See, he’s had girlfriends in the past who’ve ridiculed him for collecting comics, so finding a woman who loves comics would be a dream come true. Yet, that’s not truly what he needs, is it? He doesn’t need a woman who loves comics; rather, he simply needs a woman who loves him for him, comics and all. It’s what we all want and deserve: to be loved as-is.

And, that is an epic battle of the heart for many of us, where we just want to be rightfully loved as-is, where we’re perfectly imperfect and nothing about us needs to change to fit in or be loved. We just need to be us and be loved on that merit alone.

Unfortunately, others may not get that concept and so it’s up to us to set the standard and set the boundaries. I genuinely love people, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than a great conversation. I don’t care who you are, what you look like, or how you live. Assuming you’re doing right by others, I don’t want to change anything about you. I just want to know the real you.

It’s this way of embracing others that I more and more expect in my own life. Regardless of the situation, I’m just going to be me as authentically as possible. I don’t need to prove anything or be anything – I just need to be me. And, when I’m not good enough for someone or criticized for just being me, I’ve developed the strength to put the onus back where it belongs – on the person doing the pointing.

I am me, you are you, and for anyone who wants to see flaws in us or seek to change us, well, we need to hand him or her a mirror and go about being just who we are: perfectly imperfect, as-is.

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