We're all inundated with positive messages that encourage us to love ourselves. We look online for "inspiring quotes" and images that convey perfect thoughts and perfect smiles.
These commonly accepted portraits of happy people create the idea that you either accept yourself wholly or you don't accept yourself at all.
The common flaw in this logic is that people end up feeling like failures if they can't accept everything about themselves. It puts an unnecessary amount of pressure on those of us still climbing the mountain, and all the emphasis on the end result.
A lot of people act like self love and self hate can't coexist. That a person is either happy or sad. That there is no gray area.
We either wake up every morning with the birds chirping, our hearts open and our mirrors clear or with hate in our hearts, darkness around us and fear taking us over.
The images of those we view as happy and well adjusted have always been that way, and there is no hope for those who exist outside of the lines. It's hard living in a world like that, where gray matter only exists in stories about addicts or reformed sinners. What about the people who fight self-doubt every day, but somehow aren't okay with themselves still?
The truth is, that most of us fall in this gray area, where every single day is a different feeling.
That is just part of life. Some days you get a promotion and some days you eat shit. It's impossible to hold yourself to exclusive self-love or self-acceptance. You're just setting yourself up for failure, because it's just a part of being human. We experience doubt and sadness just as much as any other emotion.
I meet a lot of people who like a few things about themselves:
"I love my hair but I hate my body."
"I love my ideas but I hate how much pressure I put on myself."
"I hate everything but the bands I listen to."
"I love my family but I hate my job."
"I hate how I look but I love how I think."
You know? Love and hate are dual feelings. One cannot exist without the other. If you are asking yourself to accept all things, aren't you holding yourself to an impossible standard?
Yesterday, I felt alright about myself. I had a few good ideas, got some sleep, didn't think too much about the future. I looked in the mirror and didn't totally hate what I saw. So yesterday I was "happy with myself."
Today I woke up a bit late and didn't get the right amount of sleep. I was pissed off at myself for staying up so late and working. I tripped on a pile of clothes I should have picked up and said, "Fuck my life."
Does that mean I hate myself all the time? If my world is in a constant state of flux? Can I walk around in the sun with all of the inspirational quotes and positive images? Or am I doomed to flounder about in the purgatory where sad people talk about their problems on twitter as if it were therapy?
There is no concrete answer to that question. What makes you happy or miserable does not exist in black and white. Self acceptance and self hatred are the yin and yang to modern life. It seems like we all want an easy way to quantify what's happening: Am I happy? Or am I sad?
The truth is, that varies! Most of the time I don't have faith, and I try too hard to get people to like me, I shut down and forget about my accomplishments.
Most of the time I'm unhappy. But that's okay, because in those small moments, in early hours where I look in the mirror and like my hair, or makeup, where I accept what I can't change and where I went right...those are the moments worth everything. My fear and self-loathing take the back-seat and self-acceptance drives me to victory.
It doesn't matter if you've hit the finish line as far as loving everything goes. All that matters is that you're trying. It may be the goal, but it doesn't mean you're a failure if you haven't figured out how to yet.
Being human is a process.
So don't feel bad when you see those inspiring people that have it all going for them, because somewhere in their beautiful world of self-acceptance, the demon that has a hold of you still lurks.
Nothing is black and white. All is gray matter, it's just that some operate in darkness and others in light.
Eventually you'll understand that duality is a part of life. Misery loves company, but so does success.
So choose your adventure and remember that all or nothing, death or glory as far as loving yourself goes....isn't an option.
Doubt, fear, happiness and acceptance are all normal. They will come and go like unwanted house guests. Just leave the door open and make sure you clean up when they leave.