One of the things I’m liking best about this year so far is that it’s been forcing me to think about things. A large part of what I want to accomplish this year is to make steps toward “figuring things out,” which is a nice, vague concept that essentially involves trying to develop somewhat cohesive ideas about life. One would think that living wouldn’t be all that complicated—eat, sleep, breathe, work, etc.—but oddly enough, there are a lot of issues that arise in between. (Shocking, I know.) So I thought I would treat you to some of the stuff I’ve been mulling over.
Idealism: improvement vs. acceptance.
This is a long-standing issue for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I consider myself an idealist in that I have (sometimes surprisingly specific) ideas of how I want things to be, and I’m always trying to figure out what I can do to get things to that point. This is more pronounced for things that relate directly to my life and less pronounced for things that concern the world as a whole. (Maybe that makes me selfish, but that isn’t the point.) Okay, so my dilemma is this: If we can only be happy by accepting things as they are, then to what extent should we work to improve the undesirable things in life? And phrased another way: If we are supposed to learn to love ourselves as we are, then how do we work toward self-improvement? I can’t get past my conception of the two things as mutually exclusive. Do you see what I mean? To what extent do we accept the current state of affairs, and to what extent do we fight for positive change? Do we just accept what we cannot change, like that quote says? How do we love ourselves if we only love certain parts of ourselves? Can we love something the way it is and try to change it at the same time? It just doesn’t make sense. I haven’t come up with a solution to this yet.*
The reason that this is such an absorbing issue for me is that it relates directly to what I’m trying to do this year. This is supposed to be a year of change and personal growth, and some of the ways that I would like to change include becoming more confident and outgoing. How does one become more confident? By accepting oneself as one is, or by striving to become what one wants to be? At some point, confidence has to come from loving yourself. (Second person is much easier grammatically.) So should I be trying to love myself as I am, right now, or should I be trying to love myself as I would like to become? Do I learn to love what I am, or do I learn to be what I love? I believe in self-improvement; therefore I’m more inclined toward the latter. And of course, that is where this dilemma arises. Is it possible to love what is changing—love in motion? Can the love itself change in parallel? And this also applies to loving other people, because of course people change. This train of thought has the potential to get ridiculously long.
Although I have by no means resolved that dilemma, I have come to a few realizations that relate to it. In the realm of self-improvement, I have a tendency to try to model myself after people I admire—and I have a tremendous capacity for admiration of other people. There are just so many amazing people in the world. But recently it’s occurred to me that I haven’t exactly been going about this in the best way. I tend to assume that unless I precisely emulate these amazing people, I am somehow inferior, and I have the potential to frustrate myself endlessly trying to become things that are just not part of my character. It dawned on me a few weeks ago that, hey—just because I’m not exactly like someone who is cool, doesn’t mean that I’m not cool in a different way. (Obvious, yes, but at the same time somehow not.) Clearly there are myriad ways to be awesome, so there’s no need to beat myself up just because I can’t be awesome in the same way as someone else.
My other realization in the same vein was that not everyone who exudes confidence is worth emulating. I have a tendency to be taken in by confident people—they say and do everything with such conviction that I assume they must be right, even when I would have disagreed with them. It occurred to me recently that just because someone is confident about something doesn’t mean that they’re right. (Again, not always as obvious as it seems when I type it out.) Half the time these things are subjective anyway, and there’s no need to surrender my opinion for agreement’s sake.
Also along those lines, I’m starting to distinguish between people who are cool because they’re genuinely great to be around and they make everyone around them feel great as well, and people who are “cool” because they exude confidence, but they’re not genuinely open to the people around them and they inspire jealousy more than admiration—they make people feel inferior rather than challenged, inspired, and accepted.
…Ergo, progress :~)
* I feel like there are two separate but related issues here: accepting vs. changing the world as a whole, and loving vs. improving oneself. The closest I’ve come to some kind of solution is the idea that we find happiness not necessarily in accepting things as they are at this very moment, but in accepting things as they are on a larger scale—in accepting the transience of moments and the process of change. Accept the mechanisms and change the specifics within them. The second issue seems more difficult, for some reason—likely because I’ve substituted ‘loving’ for ‘accepting’. Acceptance isn’t a particularly difficult concept, but love is insanely complicated. I’ve never encountered two people who define it the same way. So the hypothetical solution I was toying with for this end of things was to expand my definition of love, or to revolutionize love itself. (Am I talking out of my ass? …That is a distinct possibility.)