I’m not “looking” for myself: How I found a new mantra
I know that title may sound harsh or ill-conceived but it actually comes from a place of, dare I say, self-awareness and acceptance. I don’t mean to be cocky or diminish the importance of finding oneself or embracing this journey of self-discovery that we call life; but I realize I am no longer “looking for myself,” as it were. I am not here in Nicaragua in search of myself. In years past I most certainly was. In my travels, I started out looking for myself, trying so hard to find this “Anna” and then at one point I realized I was never gonna find her, this fabricated, carefully curated “Anna.” In recognizing that fact, I found my real self, my flawed and raw self. I found myself and realized she’s a pretty awesome gal. Not to over-inflate or over-sell my self-confidence, but I am pretty comfortable and proud of who I am. I am not the best, but I’m not the worst either. I could be better, do better, learn more, listen more, attend more, add more, more, more but I have accepted the fact that I am doing my best and that’s the best I can do; that’s the best any of us can do.
Of course life is not stagnant, nor am I. In 10 years I am certain I will not be the same as I am now but I am a believer in a present-self. Each morning (some mornings this is easier than others because life can be hard), I take a deep breath, look myself in the mirror and appreciate who I am. I may not be the same as I was yesterday, but I am here and I am doing my best.
In the face of this new-found acceptance, I have acquired a new mantra that I am actually quite fond of, and it applies to almost everything I encounter in life. “Love it for what it is.” At the heart of this little phrase is acceptance, an acceptance for things as they are. I say that I love a bad glass of wine for what it is, a bad glass of wine which I nonetheless enjoy for it being the vehicle by which I spend a little time with a friend. It doesn’t taste great and no it is not a great glass of wine but I love it for what it is, rather than despise it for what it isn’t. I love my cup of crummy cup of coffee for what it is, a crummy cup of coffee that nevertheless gives me a jolt in the morning and a moment to be with myself and organize my day. I love the single remaining quetzal from Guatemala in my purse given to me under the misguided notion that I, not having hands, needed charity, for what it is: a less than ideal manifestation of a blessing and a reaching out of an old woman from a different time and cultural context. And I love myself for what I am; a flawed human trying my best.
Now, I am not saying I follow this mantra for every situation all the time, because acceptance has a nasty flip-side and it’s complacence. Complacence with self and with society can be at best boring and at worst dangerous. “Love it for what it is,” is a fairly silly phrase I tell myself in the face of more minor frustrations or disappointments not to be mistaken for a justification of inaction in the face of injustice. There are times to embrace the fire and passion within and say, loud and proud, that it is time for change, for things not to stay the way it is. Although I like to think “love it for what it is” can serve as a starting point for entering into that interaction; perhaps a preliminary step in the guide on how to confront injustice from a more empathetic place. I would argue in loving something you have to understand it, at least in some capacity. In “loving” the perpetrator, you start to understand why the crime was committed in the first place and then we can start to get somewhere in finding solutions and moving forward. Starting with an acceptance and acknowledgement for what the current situation is, moving into an understanding of why it is the way it is we can then transition to a set of solutions for how to be better and improve for the future.
Incorporating love into the equation has been good for me in my personal life and in my activism. Believing the best in people gives me hope and instills me with a sense of optimism. I recognize my critical side comes from a good place (even my critical side I have chosen to love for what it is), a place of wanting to be better, or make something better but if I remove the love and acceptance that criticism and perfecting eye starts to to turn harmful.
I label this constant need to improve and this idea that I am not enough, “looking for myself.” This idea still sneaks up on me sometimes. I can trick myself into thinking that with more determinations I can find the “Anna” I am supposed to be; I can find the “Anna” that I sought out to find years ago in my travels and she will finally be enough for the unreasonably high standards I thrust upon myself. But this perfect self that I am “supposed” to be, doesn’t exist and quiet frankly, if I think about it, I don’t think I’d want her to. In the end, I don’t think we’d have that much in common, she seems like she has it way too put together for us to get along.
My flaws, my mistakes, my challenges, my insecurities are just as much a part of me as my talents, my strengths, my successes and my confidence. I choose to accept who I am, as I am, and in that recognize that I am loved for nothing. Which I believe we all are. I am loved by many on this Earth and by the greater Love, who I call God, not for what I accomplish. Not for how I look. Not for who I know or what I read or where I live. I am loved for nothing, unconditionally, for just being me and existing. I love me for who I am and I have chosen to follow the love in what I see in the world.