If you can’t love yourself, that’s OK

JUNE 19 — Last week, I spent an hour or so talking to students at a local private college.

It was nice being around the young, the not-quite-disillusioned and those yet to step across that threshold of adulthood.

I don’t miss my youth and all its travails and the tumultuous state of my emotions; when I meet with younger people I wonder how they are faring in this new world that, at times, terrifies even me.

So many are anxious. I hear stories of panic attacks, of depression, of an unshakeable malaise that might seem odd to some of us older people.

We adults forget, sometimes, that growing up isn’t any easier than being all grown up.

Whitney Houston used to sing about that “greatest love” — of learning to love yourself. A theme that still runs through many popular songs and self-help books.

How do you love yourself if you loathe yourself? It’s hard enough dealing with the world and societal expectations.

The answer, perhaps, lies in that old philosophical chestnut: to know yourself.

I don’t mean in the sense of taking various online quizzes to find out your MBTI profile, astrological sign or Marvel Avenger soulmate.

This urgent need to put ourselves, and other people, into convenient boxes with pretty labels is, I think, part of the problem.

Whatever you are, whoever you choose to be — those things are not as immutable as the dead echoes of constellations.

As Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars.”

If we view ourselves, even as we age, as constant works of progress, it becomes harder to hate who we are.

We are not doomed to become our parents, nor are our likes or dislikes fixed.

What I wish the young would see is that their self-worth is not something to be measured on any sort of scale.

That it’s OK to not really like yourself now, that it’s perfectly normal not to. After all, we don’t immediately like people we meet for the first time.

While we can’t always fix our first impressions of strangers, we can always tweak our personality traits and maybe, not be so hard on ourselves about it.

With time, and like in my case, laziness, you might even grow fond of little quirks we develop.

To be fine about being grumpy or maybe a bit flighty and to understand that in the end, it’s really about choosing.

You could choose to change things about yourself or choose to live with them — when you decide to choose those things, they become a little easier to live with.

“It’d be easier if I just died,” I hear not just from youngsters, but adults.

Easier doesn’t mean better and it’s hard sometimes, trying to live when bits of your brain are trying to convince you to give up.

That’s what we’re not told early enough — that yes, life is hard. It is complicated. Being human is complicated.

It’s OK to not love yourself today because the beauty of life means that might change tomorrow.

If tomorrow isn’t better, then maybe the next tomorrow will be.

To see life as a continuous line of tomorrows, reminding ourselves that a better tomorrow (or at least one better than today) is possible — it makes it easier to get on with the business of living.

No matter how bad life gets or how many tears you’ve cried today I hope, to whoever needs reminding, that you remember: That the only constant in life is change.

If you must believe in something, believe that things can change and that you, too, can adapt to whatever happens.

Maybe, just maybe, that could involve hating yourself a little less or loving yourself a little more.

As I’d read somewhere, a long time ago, the greatest power a human being has is the power to change their mind.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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