On Fully Embracing Who You Are. AKA, Self-Love.

“Right now, can you make an unconditional relationship with yourself? Just at the height you are, the weight you are, with the intelligence you have, and with your current burden of pain. Can you enter in an unconditional relationship with that?”

This question, taken  from the video that’s buzzing around Facebook, was asked by Tracee Ellis Ross. And when I watched this video, I felt like she was talking directly to me…it hit my soul in a certain type of way. So now, I’m posing the question to you.

Can you be in an unconditional relationship with yourself?

I’ve been thinking about what this truly means. Thinking back, my grandmother was the first person to teach me about unconditional love. And no, not through example, even though, I know we both love each other unconditionally. I still remember her saying it out loud, clear as day, “Unconditional love is when you would do anything for the other person, no matter what. I would eat shit off your face if I had to because I love you so much.” I was maybe ten years old.

But okay, two things:

  1. When we talk about unconditional love, why does it have to be about someone else? and,
  2. No matter how much I love anyone, I don’t think I would eat poop off their face. But, that’s my gram for you.

Anyway.

I was talking with a good friend last night about a similar idea: living the single life. For anyone that follows this blog, you know that the love life in Buffalo has been, well, nonexistent. But another good friend gave me some good perspective. She said, “Michael, why would you even want to meet your person in Buffalo? You know you don’t want to stay here, so why even get wrapped up in something?”

Well, damn. She was completely right. I wouldn’t want to meet my person in Buffalo. At all. And I mean, things happen. If I did meet my person here, I wouldn’t resist it. But it gave me a new perspective on actively “searching for love.”

My Buffalo years have been my years. I’m just about to wrap up my second year, and there has been so much internal reflection and processing about who I am. And I really want to put an emphasis on the I. All my life I feel like I’ve taken on these external identities as my primary focus – son, brother, boyfriend, student, employee – but for the past few years, I’ve really had to pause and take another look at who I was, without any of those other labels. Stripped down at the core, who am I? Who are you?

Tracee Ellis Ross ends the video with this: “There’s a lot that happens on the path to growing up and you are exactly where you are supposed to be. And enjoy those spaces and those times, and really listen not just to what’s happening outside of you, but inside of you. Be who we are in a really full and beautiful way, and live these lives that we’re all living.”

It ties directly back to a goal I had set for myself this past year: Be who you are, unapologetically. Fully embrace your own life, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Because your path is your own, and you have to be happy on your own path. Otherwise, you’re just living a life for the sake of someone else.

I understand it’s easier said than done. If nothing else, maybe this post will just be a spot of inspiration, maybe to help jump start the process or begin to reflect in a new way. But at the end of the day, when it’s just you and yourself, who are you? What are some ways in which you live out your life, fully and unapologetically?

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Be your best self…even when it sucks.

Well folks, it’s almost September. And you know what that means…regardless of whether you are in school or not, there are dreams of bright red apples, hard-cover textbooks, and first-day-of-class outfits dancing in your head. Working in a college environment, I understand that I am biased. No matter how old I get, I will always view this time of year as “time-to-go-back-to-school,” no matter what.

Except this year, I’m trying to be a little more intentional in approaching the school year. The summer flew by, training hit me hard, and now I am literally enjoying the very last day to myself before classes start.

One activity during our office’s training that really stuck with me was “Developing a Personal Mission Statement.” The author of the worksheet identifies five steps to develop your own personal mission statement:

  1. Define what you want to be and do
  2. Identify an influential person
  3. Define your life roles
  4. Write a draft of your personal mission statement
  5. Evaluate

Well when you write it all out, in five easy steps, it sounds…easy! Don’t let the steps fool you. It’s not hard work, necessarily, but it will take some thought. I’ll give you an example of how I started with step one. “I’d like to create a meaningful impact in the community for myself and for others. I’d like to be balanced with a consistent yet fluctuating sense of well-being.”

Okay. So what does that mean?

It means that ultimately, I want to be my best self. For others, but also for myself. And eventually, that’s how I developed my own mantra for my last year of grad school. “Be your best self – for others, and also for yourself.” It’s quick, simple, and meaningful to me.

Growing up, I was always told that as long as I did my best, the outcome didn’t matter. Whether it was grades in school, the next piano recital performance, whatever. It didn’t matter, as long as I tried my best. I think the message that is missing though is that as long as you try your best, the outcome for yourself doesn’t matter. If I messed up at a piano recital, my parents didn’t mind…but wow, I sure did! I would beat myself up for weeks, hitting the keyboard for hours after the fact, practicing and repeating the exact same measure over and over until my fingers cramped. Did I ever miss that note again? Nope. But did I try my best at that piano recital, even though I messed up? Well, yeah. I did.

I’m finding that the twentysomething life is a lot like performing at a piano recital. Sometimes, it’s flawless. Other times, it sucks. But regardless of the outcome, as long as you do your best, that should be enough…for everyone involved, including yourself.

I’m also in the process of learning that it’s more than just being your best self. It’s allowing it. Allow yourself to be your best self! Embrace it. Own it. Love it.

And allow yourself to embrace it, own it, and love it even if it sucks. Even if you messed up. Even if it wasn’t the best. As long as it was your best, that’s all that matters.

A simple lesson, really…one I learned in elementary school. Yet, reading it through a twentysomething lens really seems to add a whole new perspective.