It's funny that I'm writing this because I've had a long standing grudge with any article that promotes self esteem.
It's not that I'm against the building of self esteem, it's not that I want you to start reading book that call everyone a fat, ugly hag... au contraire! It's constantly on my goals list to give more compliments and make my friends like themselves as much as I like them, which sounds like two very basic things, if only self esteem could come from the outside, which it can't, which is why I generally dismiss anything telling you to "be yourself!" as overly repetitive and trite. You say skeptic, I say realist... Poh-tay-toes, poh-tah-toes? This is why I'm going to ask you all to forgive me for this next little tirade. Forgive me because you've heard it before, forgive me because everyone says it, but listen to it and accept it because I mean what I say with every molecule of my body.
The expression 'keeping it real' has always struck me as funny, because keeping? Really? How many people are actually, consistently true to themselves anymore? I'm not blaming you, I know it's hard, but it seems whenever I leave the house nowadays someone's telling me they took business instead of archaeology "because there's a recession!" and another girl who responds to the rejection of just some silly, immature boy by going tanning and knocking back another Sex on the Beach. Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever just want to explain, "Well, going to the wrong school for you now actually makes much less financial sense because you're going to hate it so much you'll drop out and have wasted two years of your life, along with thousands of dollars?" Am I alone in this logic? Do I maybe have a career in financial planning?
(And do I really have to explain why tanning beds give you skin cancer?)
So, on being real:
When I wrote "A Love Letter" on body image, I was flattered by compliments from all over the blogisphere for my confidence and positive body image. Ready for some realness? You couldn't be more mistaken. When I write pieces like this, when I put the cards on the table, it's not because I've been there/done that/gone now. I don't propose to have the ultimate answer, nor do I think I've solved the problem. Does this make me a hypocrite? No, it just makes me another human, in the very same boat as you. I'm not saying we're all a bunch of liars, but how much of your personality do you repress on a daily basis just for the sake of the approval of other people?
Today I sat and nodded as a boy ripped my views up, telling me that everything I felt about, all the excitement I had for my new government was completely wrong and I was naive for having faith in anything. I don't care about this guy at all, yet I said "I respect your opinion" and smiled and didn't argue for the sake of being polite. Something your grandmother will never tell you: This is stupid. I kick myself now.
Everyone loves to talk about freedom of speech, usually followed by a reference to the good ol' cliche 'slippery slope' arguement with someone calling someone a racist/ homophobe/ sexist / insert anything here-ist. I love, I love so much that so many people respond to some very questionable arguements by respecting the other person's freedom of speech to say that, but you have the freedom to be offended, and you have the freedom to argue back. Speak up. Say things that benefit everyone involved in the conservations; don't say petty things because you can, say feelings, say facts, say things that matter to you and know that you more than deserve these; so many people fought for you to have this right, and for you to waste it is an insult to everyone who lives in a prohibitive theocracy elsewhere who desire change. If nothing more, use your voice to be a voice for others.
If people love you, they will listen to you. They will listen to more than your words, they will listen to your lifestyle. They won't make fun of you for wearing headscarves in the rain, they'll kind of understand when you ditch a big, prestigious school to go to a tiny feminist one, they'll just smile when you try to live your life based on the movie Amelie, and they might even accept that even if every single other person in your family did superb in math, a great mark in English is just as special even if it's very, uh, different from what was expected. And, most importantly, when you argue that the NDP is the greatest party for the province of Nova Scotia and Simone de Beauvoir is the smartest woman to have ever lived and The Beatles are the. greatest. band. EVER! they might not accept it, they'll argue back. And you'll listen. And it will be swell.
This weekend, I will probably go out, smile at a few guys, but keep dancing with my friends and secretly be a little relieved when the night's over. I'll have spent too much money on drinks trying to calm my nerves to party in a scene I don't really dig with people I really admire. Then, the next morning I will go to the market and buy a croissant and shrieked my heart out and giggle with two of the loveliest girls I have ever met. A small defeat, and a small victory, will both be accomplished. I still won't have my answer as to whether I'd rather go look at photographs of the slums of Berlin then dance than do shots with people who will only later stare at me when I accidentally let my love of the theories behind socialism and really old dresses slip out. I'll probably do the latter anyways.
So, here I am, a few hundred words later, nothing resolved but a weight off my chest. Because even though I've answered nothing, I've let you know that there are people out there who do care about you, who want to get to know you better, and who actually like you more when they can tell you're having a genuine good time. We are here, and we like you because you listen to Sonic Youth and Miley Cyrus, because you get a weird sense of superiority out of knowing you can name all the lobes of the brain and what they operate, and because sometimes you eat three donuts in a row without breathing when you're sad. Just know that it doesn't have to be sometimes, because, as one of the greatest literary genuises of our time, Dr Seuss, once said, "those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
Make yourself matter.