Where do you find your identity? In your looks? In your grades? In the groups you’re a part of? All too often, we can define ourselves by external factors, by how we look or what we do. We tend to rely on others’ perceptions of ourselves to form our own opinion about who we are, and we end up basing our worth on our outward appearance — on how well we measure up to cultural standards.
Deep down, however, we know that our identities extend far beyond external circumstances. Who we are cannot be defined by these factors, but can only be found in our unique, internal character – that which far surpasses and outlasts a mere reputation. Though our bodies will age and our situations may change, the beauty of our intrinsic worth and value is imperishable.
After all, when we think of the people whom we love the most, we don’t dwell on their looks, their job, or their friends. Rather, the closer we are to them the more we appreciate their essence instead. Whatever outer flaws or imperfections our friends might have disappear altogether as we get to know them more and see their inner character for what it is.
While we overlook the outward circumstances of those we love, however, we often do not allow ourselves this same grace. We continue to focus on our reputations and let others’ opinions of us shape who we think we are and should be. Imagine how beneficial it would be if we granted ourselves the same love that we give to our friends and sought to appreciate ourselves for all that we are – without comparison. If we could just allow ourselves to celebrate the uniqueness of both ourselves as well as those around us, perhaps we would be reminded of how precious and beautiful each human life is – including our own.
As the writer Haruki Murakami put it, “A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else.”
What is an area in which you know you don’t love yourself well? What can you do you begin to change that?
Image via Bethany Small