What is it about our generation? We're collectively a bunch of lazy, whiny self-congratulatory babies. Now before you rush to your own defence, humour me for a second. How often do you congratulate yourself for doing something really, really basic like laundry, or getting up in the morning? It's a lot, isn't it?
I hate to be the one to break it to you but you're not perfect, and unless you're a really hardworking, motivated, Mother Theresa level saint of an individual, there are probably a few things you can do to improve yourself, your own life, or the world around you.
And before you ask, there's absolutely nothing wrong with loving yourself, in fact it's imperative, I absolutely encourage it. Personally, I'm a huge fan of me. I've achieved a few things in my life that I'm fairly proud of. But all the significant things came with effort. I know there's a tonne of things I could be doing day to day to make myself a more well rounded, tolerant, switched on individual. And although I want a round of applause every time I get to work before 9.15, I am also entirely aware that I'm being unreasonable.
As far as I'm concerned, to love yourself is to know what you deserve and what you're capable of. When you love other people you want them to succeed to the best of their ability. Why would you set lower expectations for yourself?
I absolutely blame Instagram for exacerbating this epidemic of self back-patting. We're constantly bombarded with motivational messages in sexy fonts, laid over sunsets, telling us we do enough, we are enough. This is fine if it empowers people to be confident in their own skin, to trust their own intelligence, or to realise that they don't have to change who they are to be accepted. It's not fine if it encourages people to stop trying.
The problem is, when we start telling ourselves we're totally rad, we tend to stop moving forward and we stop improving as people. We start to blame other people when things go wrong. We blame our employer, the system or the world because "I'm doing everything right so it must be someone else's fault". We forget that every time we point a finger, there's three pointing back at us.
The most terrifying part of this is that when we start accepting anonymous nonsensical internet posts as a legitimate means of validation, we stop wanting to learn, or to grow. There's always another life quote that'll tell you it's okay not to change. You start to accept yourself as a shit person because "That's just the way I am" and you don't address and modify negative behaviour. When you assume you know everything there is to know about a subject without picking up a book, you stunt your own development.
And here's the thing - there's literally no shame in not being great at everything. We are all works in progress. Whilst it's not embarrassing to not be at the top of your game, it becomes embarrassing when you start to applaud yourself for being mediocre. If you want to be better at life, make some bloody effort. If you don't care, that's cool, but don't pretend you've stopped at this juncture because you were so satisfied with yourself that you made an executive decision to settle.
You don't have to measure yourself against someone else's successes. You'll probably never be Beethoven or Steve Jobs. I don't think you need to become a clean eating politically active CEO of a start up who feeds homeless puppies on the weekend between yoga classes. Everyone's development is different. That #instagram life is just one aspect of being a person, and might not be in any way aligned with your personal goals. It's certainly a universe away from mine. I'm more concerned with not stagnating. Looking after my physical and mental wellbeing. Not selling myself short. Teaching myself new things and learning from others. Having manners and morals. Being a person I'd be proud to know.
I'm guessing you're probably a smart, capable person, who, with very little effort, could be making a tiny bit more of yourself. And you know what? You don't bloody have to. But you do have to be aware that you're not done growing yet. And no amount of telling people you are a perfect precious diamond is going to change that fact.
And of course, it's alright to be pleased with yourself for changing your bed linen or remembering to post a card on time. But these are not achievements. They're not defining moments in your character. Nobody is going to write on your tombstone "Beloved son, cherished husband, remembered to take the washing in that one time before it rained".
So I guess it's okay if you want to post some "good vibes only" #treatyoself, "take me as I am 'cause I'm never going to change" type shit on social media. But next time you do, ask yourself why you're doing it. Do you actually believe any of these quotes or have they got some kind of buzzword that triggers a momentary smug spike in endorphins? Is it a passive aggressive defence of your childlike need to have a reward for a task you've not yet completed? And most importantly - are you willing to achieve those good vibes by being a decent and helpful person who positively impacts the people around you, or are you just "putting it out to the universe" instead of working to make it so?
If you're certain that you're the best you that you can be without putting in a shred of effort, that's fair enough. But just remember, no matter how good that self-congratulatory quote looks in Helvetica, the only person you're fooling is yourself. And for the record, Marilyn Monroe never said that.
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