Before I was able to love myself, I use to think about all the people that I wasn’t like. I would think about heroes, the people that we hold in high esteem as models for the best that humanity can be – and about how I wasn’t meant to be like them. From historical figures like Harriet Tubman or Gandhi to everyday local heroes in our comminuties who are known for their acts of courage, overflowing generosity, and sense of commitment to bettering the world around them – I knew I wasn’t one of them. My destiny in life was just to be the best ordinary person I could be. I thought “some people are heroes … and some aren’t.”
Then, when I first found love for myself – which was quite an amazing period in my life – I noticed something: I was already my own hero. I no longer separated myself from these “heroes” in my head. Rather than seeing what separated me from them, I began to see just how much I had in common with them. I began to think of them not just as heroes, but as allies; people that I was spiritually side-by-side with, in a sense. People that I could learn from who could also learn from me – and I realized, in pretty much every case, these people would also welcome me seeing myself as equally valuable to the betterment of the world as they.
Don’t underestimate the ways in which you can contribute. I’ve often noticed that the difference between people who are able to feel a sense of contribution and those who don’t feel it has to do with a simple acceptance of one’s imperfections, and that these imperfections are not a block in and of themselves to doing different things that you may not be an “expert” in. For example, I do not play drums like a professional. I don’t even play like a good amateur; I’m not that good at drums. But I do not think of myself as unable to play drums at all – because I can, you see. I’ve done it before, and had a good time of it and made some very nice music along with a band, even if my bass drum strokes didn’t always hit on time.
This principle goes for just about everything; do not think of what you are able to do in terms of being limited to only the things that you do very very well. When people do this, they limit their sense of self, reducing themselves to one- or two-horse acts. It reduces a person’s sense of well-rounded personhood. If they are cut off from or unable to engage in these one or two things that they do well, they suddenly feel worthless, because “they don’t know how to do anything else.”
The saying that a specialist “knows more and more about less and less” has been attributed to several different figures in history. But very often, this is what modern life does – it makes things look so zany and complicated, and then asks you to choose one kind of life to live, one kind job to specialize in, and so on, to the exclusion of all the other things. What a waste of humanity! There is a great deal more possible cross-pollination between different job / life tracks than most of us are led to believe. Whatever makes you think you are automatically excluded from that?
This isn’t some feel good speech about how you can be anything you put your mind to, or anything like that. It’s just a recognition that society can often be very reductionist and restricting to a person’s identity – so much so that we often define ourselves in very narrow terms, out of the need to fit in and “find our groove.” The trouble is, when we overdue this specialization, we lose the essence of who we are in a more complete, well-rounded sense – the ability to be all of ourselves.
Positive folks understand that despite the push to specialize and get into one groove, in reality, people are very complex beings. For example, I know a very quiet, introverted woman who is very cute and pretty, and kind of shy. She wears colorful skirts, and a nice selection of classy jewelry. You’d never know, if you didn’t talk to her, that she is a motorcycle daredevil – which she totally is. Why shouldn’t all of us have the confidence to explore all the different [seemingly unrelated] facets of ourselves?
We know in principle that such a huge span of different interests and perspectives is possible with in one human being. But how often do we let ourselves be the beneficiaries of such possibilities? You may decide, for now, to stay right where you are, and that’s cool – but don’t automatically exclude yourself from something life has to offer unless you intensely dislike it or if is/makes you feel unsafe. What other reasons are there to limit one’s possibilities?