When I was young I always wanted to be like someone else. I saw other women who were more beautiful or popular than I felt that I was. There was always someone who seemed to be brighter, more accomplished. I would look in the mirror and see every flaw on my face and body. I was my own worst critic and I was a really hard grader when it came to assessing myself. I felt like a mess without realizing that almost everyone goes through such a phase.
Eventually I became so embroiled in living and surviving that I had little time for dwelling on my imperfections. I overcame many challenges and began to like myself just as I was. How I looked became less and less important. How I behaved was my focus. I realized that looking outward from myself and thinking more about the people I encountered was the real key to happiness and satisfaction. I saw that people respond to genuine concern and value a person’s heart more than external characteristics. Losing myself in caring about and for others made me feel better and better about who I am.
I suppose that in some ways I did use certain role models to change myself but they were not the ones that I had once wanted to emulate. I saw how certain people made me feel capable and comfortable and realized that I enjoyed being around them. I watched them carefully and saw how the secret to their seemingly good lives lay in their selflessness. I’m still quite imperfect when it comes to getting out of myself and into the needs of others but I know the feeling of contentment that comes from sharing and caring.
When I find myself feeling dissatisfied it is usually because I am comparing myself unfavorably again and worrying about trivial aspects of being human. That’s when I engage in activities that force me to get out of my own head. I have always enjoyed teaching because it is almost impossible to be give instructions in mathematics while brooding. I also find it helpful to consider someone who is having serious problems when I get too wrapped up in thinking about my flaws.
I am not as successful as some of the women I know nor do I have as much money as they have. My hair is often limp and unruly and osteoporosis has twisted my body and bowed my legs. I’d like to think that the people who know me do not even think of such things when they see me. I am not defined by titles or savings accounts or how gorgeous I am. The best people I know are beautiful and wonderful because of the essence of their generous personalities, not because of what they own, their power or how physically beautiful they are.
Sometimes all of those things come together in a single person. Dolly Parton is talented, wealthy, attractive but more importantly compassionate. We love Dolly not for her accomplishments and physical attributes but because we know that she is a kind and understanding person. She is beloved to virtually everyone unlike other women similar to her who seem not to care about anyone but themselves. Ugliness of the heart transforms even the most physically beautiful person into hideousness. On the other hand a generally plain person like Mother Teresa was lovely because she gave herself to those who were suffering every day of her life.
I am old enough now to understand these things and so I am relatively content with the person that I am. I still work hard to become better because I know that I am imperfect but I do not dislike myself the way I once did. I am able to laugh at my mistakes and correct them. I may curse my hair when it appears to have a mind of its own but I know that it does not matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. I am no doubt the only person who even notices that it is misbehaving. I have chased the green eyed monster of jealousy from my mind and instead revel in the success of my friends and family members. I appreciate other people and find joy in our differences. I no longer see life as a kind of competition between winners and losers. We are each unique and wonderful.
Getting old can be tough. I have arthritis in my knees and hips. Sometimes just walking is difficult. I have days when I feel grumpy but mostly aging as lead me to wisdom. I love myself. I am the only person exactly like me in the whole world and that is a fantastic thing. I do not need to be like anyone else nor do I want to change places with anyone. I am who I am and that is glorious.