This post is somewhat of an experiment, and very different from what I normally publish for this monthly series of posts that are less library-y and more blog-y. You see, I've been buddy-reading How to Be You by Jeffrey Marsh with a friend. We read one chapter a week and then discuss. Sometimes we share the answers we gave to the questions Marsh asks. Sometimes we talk about the memories that arose as we read. Sometimes we talk about how hard but important it is going to be to embrace the ideas the author discusses. This week I'm jumping the gun, though, because one of the exercises in Chapter 5, "Let Go of Punishment and Control", really hit me hard, and I want to share.
On page 96, Marsh invites their reader (Marsh is famously non-binary, which is yet another reason for me to like them) to: "Ask someone who loves you what they like most about you." Wow. This is an exercise in vulnerability if ever I saw one, and I - like so many other people - am horrified at the idea of being that vulnerable.
But I did it. I asked the person who is Dante to my Randall what he likes best about me. His answer? My sense of humor. I couldn't help but smile, because that's a thing that I value about myself as well.
Before I asked him, though, I'd been thinking - and here's some more vulnerability for you - that I'm also someone who loves me. I not always kind to myself, but I do think I'm pretty rad on the whole. I'm going to be 46 soon, so it's about time that I started liking this person with whom I have a life long relationship, right? So, in keeping with the ideas from Marsh's book and as an exercise in self esteem and vulnerability, here are some things I like about me:
- I'm clever. Yes, I'm smart, and I'd like to think that I've earned a certain amount of wisdom, but I'm also clever. I can see how seemingly disparate things fit together, sometimes in ways nobody imagined before. It's a thing I used to think everyone could do, but it's not. I'm not unique in this attribute, but it does seem to be rare, so I value my cleverness.
- I'm a good friend. I am, for a few people in my life, the one person who is allowed to call them on their bullshit. I think that's because I do it lovingly and always phrase it that way. "I love you no matter what, and support you in your decisions whatever they may be, but..." is a thing I've said to friends - and meant every word. I also do the opposite. I've lost count of the times I've exhorted my friends to be kinder to themselves. "Hey, that's my friend you're talking about there. I think you should cut them some slack."
- I have a culinary imagination. This is another thing I thought everyone could do until I learned otherwise. I can think about a recipe and rearrange it in my mind with other flavors that people might not think would work together, but that are fantastic. I have made risotto everywhere from pure as heck vegan to meat meaty meat. I can tell you which cheese will taste better in a specific circumstance (even though I'm now lactose intolerant). This talent also made it easy for me to sell wine back when I was a waitress.
- I'm always looking for ways to improve myself. I will admit that I don't always enjoy the "why am I not best at this already?" part of learning something new, but I've come to embrace that stage as just a part of the process. I can easily tell you all the things that I'm currently trying to improve, but that's not the point of this post. However, I can say that the things I'm trying to improve are about skills and not the core of who I am.
- Kindness is my highest aspiration. I'm not nice. Nice doesn't get the work done. Nice is... well... nice...? But nice always seems to want to tell people what they want to hear even when it's not the truth. Kindness, on the other hand, wants the best for people, even if that means a failing grade or a less than stellar evaluation. Kindness is also compassionate, and compassion is something we are sorely lacking in our culture.
So how about you? What's something you like about you? Feel free to tweet it or put it in a comment here, but you don't have to. Please, though, take a moment at least to ask someone you love and trust to tell you what they like about you. I know when I told the friend with whom I'm reading this book the thing I value most about them, it really resonated and I've seen that friend really embrace that quality in themselves.