Dear Self, you are not ordinary.
How familiar are all of us with feeling like we are not good enough, so many times in our lives that it is difficult to keep track. It may not be as loud and clear a message but can be found hidden subtly in so much of our self talk, that we engage in daily. We invalidate our successes –“Oh that wasn’t a big deal”, we compare ourselves to others — “Look how much they are achieving”, we are harsh and critical — “I messed up too much to start over, I’m so dumb”, we learn helplessness — “ There’s no point in trying”. Over the course of time, such thoughts become deeper beliefs and set the stage for feelings of dissatisfaction with our current self and a constant striving for a better, more ideal self in the future.
I ride the same boat as many others who find it difficult to allow appreciation while criticism is welcomed with open arms under the pretext of “well this will help me grow and be better.” Sadly, it feels comfortable to belittle my strengths or achievements (however small or big they may be) and highly uncomfortable to accept my flaws and mistakes. Correcting inner self talk by shifting gears to a kinder and positive headspace is easier said than done. It is highly challenging to unlearn so many beliefs and thought patterns one has grown up with — all the shoulds, musts and don’ts. Our inner self talks are largely built upon rules and assumptions we have come to imbibe from parents, authority figures and society in general ; based upon what was rewarded and punished when we were younger. Generally speaking, striving for perfection was encouraged for a lot of us while not doing well enough has been ridiculed. Being self-compassionate thus, feels like I am cutting myself too much slack and “not doing the right thing.”
Although difficult and exhausting, the process of changing our inner self talk for the good is crucial to mental wellbeing. One way, I have come to realize is to redirect my focus onto what others have to say about me rather than trying to struggle with and make peace with my inner talk. You see, it is much easier to look at another and offer a genuine compliment than to offer one to yourself, looking in the mirror. Paying attention to the way others view me gives room for validation and allows for the possibility that I may recognize that my just ordinary self is in fact a very special ordinary. We get so consumed by the pursuit of not being ordinary that we fail to recognize and appreciate how so much of what is ordinary to us, is a whole different extraordinary for another.
You are the biggest cheerleader and sounding board for your best friends when life isn’t a joy ride. You are an inspiration to your little sibling, in the smallest of ways you have lived your life. She looks up to your for fashion advice as much as she wishes to imitate your dedication & hard work for your career. You are a safe space for so many people who have found comfort in your patient listening and kind words to help them feel better. You are an important student to so many teachers and supervisors, whose learnings you carry with you and hope to pay forward. You are a loved daughter to two proud parents for all that you are and hope to be. You may not feel perfect even though you so badly wish to be, all the people who’ve known you see this ordinary you as the most ideal you. They wouldn’t change a thing. You can strive to be better each day, but to so many you are as good as you can be! So my dear self, I repeat — you are, by no means ordinary.
And to you reading this,
Despite your deep seated beliefs that convince you otherwise, I invite you to consider that how you view yourself is just one view, and in all probability, it is neither the kindest nor the absolute truth. If only you were to view yourself from another’s eyes, you would realize how much of your seemingly ordinary self, is special, unique and beautiful in its entirety — just the way it is. You may not be extraordinary by your ideal standards but you are not ordinary either. Believe that as much as the other person does for you.
Inspired by Auggie Pullman from Wonder as he says in the ending scene, “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” Not for greatness, but just for who they are.