I was recently sent Sarah Knight’s brilliantly wise and witty book You Do You: (A No-F**** Given Guide) how to be who you are and use what you’ve got to get what you want and it got me thinking…A lot.
We’re endlessly made to feel that we’re not good enough, mostly by the media who’ve had a monopoly on defining beauty and status for what feels like forever, drip-feeding their ideals into society, family and friends and of course ourselves: our inner voice. To be thinner, smarter, savvier, more demure…Insert a million other ideals we’re force-fed by the hour.
I grew up being made to feel I was far too loud and talkative ‘for a girl’. I also didn’t look like the tweens and teens staring back at me in the media in the 80s and 90s. I wasn’t blond and blue-eyed for a start. Add puppy fat and big brows to the face of a British Greek Cypriot and my self-worth aged 10 plus was far from riding high.
Thank goodness for greater diversity and digital creatives taking the helm and changing the face of the media. It’s about time…
‘Being loud’ was something I was endlessly berated for at school, and whilst I understand there are times when everyone must conform to certain codes of conduct and not disrupt (incidentally something I, and most children will end up doing in protest to feeling suppressed and worthless), our personalities make us who we are as Sarah Knight reminds us, and must be nurtured and championed from an early age. Everyone possesses positive qualities.
Our individual quirks and characteristics must never be squashed or diminished if we’re ever going to love ourselves, something my own mum advocated at home but was somewhat lost at school.
There are incidence now as an adult where I feel stifled once again and must work hard to rewire the way I think about myself. To regrow the clipped wings.
I would often feel this way at my son’s previous primary school, led by a Headteacher I didn’t share the same values with, and in a playground where some of the mothers seemed to thrive on making those not in their clique, feel inferior and voiceless (I remember a group of mothers I didn’t know, turn their backs on me when I spoke to them: nice).
The thing is, when we’re made to feel we can’t join in, share our true authentic selves, or meaningfully contribute, we being to lack confidence, and start to believe the negative voices in our head which rear to tell us we’re a failure/not good enough so often, in response to high-stress situations like the aforementioned ‘judgey playground’.
On the whole, strangers’ opinions of me don’t effect who I am or how I feel but there are times where I feel vulnerable-forced drop-offs and collections and other unavoidable environments where I inevitably don’t feel I can let our true personality shine through. That I’m misunderstood.
Retaining your character is crucial and critical and mustn’t be hindered long-term for it informs our story: our lives. As Sarah Knight advocated, we must not change what makes us unique and interesting to become part of some homogeneous identity just because teachers/the media (insert any powerful influences) have enforced their skewed ideals onto us.
Being loud, talkative, tenacious and scholarly led to me becoming a screenwriter, director, magazine editor and lecturer, and later a blogger, vlogger and author (I know, I feel I’ve lived 9 lives and am EXHAUSTED).
Had I not been as forthright and ambitious, the many teachers adamant on changing who I was, might well have succeeded in doing so, destroying my path in the process.
It’s a delicate balance teaching (I know from having taught myself) where you must nurture the child’s personality, helping channel energy productively and positively whilst educating them. Once a child feels rejected and misunderstood, their own lack of self-worth and overriding sense of failure will mean they feel they have no reason to behave. They will feel there’s no point in following rules because they won’t ever be understood and always blamed. That was basically how high school played out for me.
I want my own children to be caring, empathetic and kind individuals who are also authentically themselves. My youngest loves to perform, to be on camera, to entertain, to sing and dance. My eldest is more shy, favouring reading, arts and crafts, and running. I try to ensure they both feel emotionally safe so they show up as themselves whilst I proactively guide and discipline them.
…How about ourselves though? Are we making ourselves feel emotionally safe and loved? Do you ever congratulate yourself for your own successes, treat your body with respect (mumtum, warts and all-literally) and can honestly say, for the most part, you truly love yourself?
We can ALL be hard on ourselves at times, in part due to uncontrollable hormones/ PMT as well as endless overwhelm thanks to the never-ending juggle parenthood can present, along with the fact we exist in these highly pressurised digital times where one aimless scroll can lead us down a social rabbit hole of comparison-angst and self-doubt…But self-love is still possible. I’m testament to that.
We’re in control of our reactions. We can fight the negative voices, our own and others, or at least accept they’ll be magnified at certain times of the month, committing to exercise, meditation and yoga as well as surrounding ourselves with real love: honest friends and family to help buoy us through the rough waters as they arise.
We can rebel against the negativity and a (media) world that doesn’t want us to love ourselves.
We can rewire our brains to feel strong, able and confident, listing the reasons we rock and repeating them to ourselves as we would a friend struggling with self-doubt. By re-imagining the formative and often destructive opinions of ourselves and our naysayers, however far back they go, we can feel free.
We can reject those who don’t understand us, remembering that we don’t like everyone so why would everyone like us.
We can remind ourselves, when others try to make us feel bad that being loud, quiet, silly, the life and soul of the party, worrisome, cautious, cray, thoughtful, whatever, is not a negative, even if they see it as such.
We are alive (a gift), present and ourselves and there’s nothing more glorious as that… Or as my husband hates but I love, ‘We are living our best lives’.
I for one know, that for the most part, I’m often appear as a whirlwind of a person to those who usually meet me for the first time. I’m full of passion, ideas, creative energy and excitement. My mind goes a million miles a minute. I crave stimulation and sparks from others and I adore people: their stories, thoughts, desires and memories.
I have a ton of time for others, and so much love to give. Cheesy af but true. It’s who I am. I’m generous, empathetic, a raconteur, a crazy-worrier, a move and shaker, a leader…The list goes on. There are times, of course, when I become more introverted and quiet, usually when I’m over-tired or unwell but for the most part, I’m one of kind ‘want to dance on the tables but I don’t get out much’ kind of person, just like you, or not, and that’s OK.
That doesn’t make me better than someone who is quieter than I am, or different to me. It simply means I know who I am. And guess what, I like who I am. I love who I am.
We all deserve to love ourselves, right? The way our kids love us, unconditionally and with big doey ‘You’re the best human in the world’ eyes. Here’s the thing, once we do love and accept ourselves: flaws (perceived or otherwise) and all along with the wonderfully magical positive things we bring to the universe means we exude a magnetism which draws others in, that makes people love themselves more because they see integrity and self-worth and happiness staring right back at them.
When you love yourself, you simply won’t accept it when others try to change you or tell you that you shouldn’t be x, y and z, because you’ll know yourself deeply and won’t let anyone kill your vibe.
Obviously, if you’re a total dingbat, do work on changing that but start from a place of love and forgiveness, forgiving yourself first.
We all need to love ourselves because our mental health depends on it. Life is so flipping flippant and short, it’s time to hug yourself, spread love, stop sweating the things that don’t matter, and embrace exactly who you are.
As Sarah advocates in her book, don’t go changing, just be who you want to be, quirks and all.