A wise man once told me, “We tend to tolerate imperfections in others more than in ourselves.” I had to think hard about that, because I grew up around people who weren’t so forgiving of my shortcomings. For example, my peers who were more athletic than me: they would knock me down when I couldn’t perform on their level during P.E. Or take my peers who were more academic than me: they would express their disdain of my “uneducated” points of view regarding religion and philosophy. “Uneducated” in the high school sense meant not gushing over Greek mythology and cliche Nietzschean quotes. My “stunted” academic worldview also irked many of my teachers.
But then I thought more deeply about what the wise man had said, considering that “we” was not a generalization of everyone, but more an attempt to identify with me. Because I do in fact, when I thought about it, tolerate imperfections in others more than in myself. I beat myself up for not being the athletic and fit teenager I wanted to be. But I never put down others for being in the same boat. And when I finally started weightlifting and improving my body, I would sympathize with others striving to do the same. I would see someone at the gym struggling to get in shape, and in my head I’d cheer them on. I didn’t want to be like my peers in high school P.E. were.
Now I don’t beat myself up only in fitness, but in so many areas of my life. I feel I fall short as a moral person, as a friend, as a brother, as a worker, and as a writer. I could keep on going, but it would be depressing (for me!). But when I look at others and notice their shortcomings, I tend to gloss them over. I like to see the best in people. So why can’t I see the best in me? Or at least, accept who I am right now.
I’ve decided to start acting as if I’m okay as I am. I’ve been repeating to myself that phrase “I’m okay as I am” for a week now and honestly it hasn’t made much difference. I guess I can’t convince myself. But when I do repeat it, at least for a moment I do believe I’m okay, that I don’t have to change for anyone, and that what I do already is good enough. Because all my life I’ve worried about whether or not I’m good enough, whether for family, friends, peers, co-workers, bosses, even God. And I get so trapped in the thought that I’m not good enough that I make that thought a reality: I give up on my dreams, ambitions, and projects. I let them lie on the ground like a pile of dirty laundry. An overwhelmingly nasty, stinky, and grody pile of laundry. And I extend those characteristics to myself. But I want to clean up, and I got to start somewhere. I’m gonna start by accepting I’m okay as I am. I’m not that pile of dirty laundry, I’m clean.