I’d like to think that it’s fate that my birthday this year falls on the same day as the Love Yourself Linkup. A lot has changed for me in this past year and so it’s crucial to fight the usual bouts of disappointment I typically associate with this annual event. I am officially closer to the age 30 than the age 20 and instead of feeling like my youth is slipping, I need to look at this birthday as one year closer to happiness.
The lure of admitting defeat gets stronger with passing time. As I begin to hear the biological clock ticking away, I often wonder how much longer I can keep this up before having to succumb to my greatest fears in order to sustain my hopes for a family. But as much as I’d like to fall in line with the crowd, I know that happiness is still out there. The yearning I have for it is more palpable than ever and as the desire for stability grows, so does my resistance to the currents of practical living.
How do you keep swimming when you have no idea what direction the shore is in? (Yes, I’m going to try to keep going with this ocean metaphor)… You just do. There is no answer other than what your basic survival instinct is telling you to do: keep your head above it all and continue searching.
Right now I’m going through somewhat of a tough time. The instability that surrounds me feels like it will close in at any moment and I’ll crumble right along with it. And so in an attempt to try to be my own happiness, to be my own best friend, I am going to write a letter to myself (and hopefully it’ll resonate with you too).
You’re turning 26 soon and let me tell you: you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It may seem like everything’s been for naught, like everything feels like a waste of time. But I promise you that it is not. I promise you that you are going to make a difference to someone, somewhere… and soon. The things you create and the ways you love are limitless and there is no reason to keep that from the world.
I want to write on something a bit different today. The Love Yourself Linkup has been a great way to explore ideas and personal stories on self-image, but for this post I would like to focus on something we tend to forget about until it’s corrupted – the value of our professional work. It’s a different kind of self-love that’s not often given attention due to cultural norms in the American workforce. When I say value, I mean in it a variety of senses: monetarily, creatively, metaphorically. As young professionals in a depression era, we’re unfortunately subject to a skewed value system in which the unemployed abound and the employed tread lightly for fear of losing their coveted positions, even if they’re really not so great. Too often we let our desire to be liked dictate the course of action we take when wanting to take a stand for our worth.
I wanted to speak on this topic because I have way too many talented friends and colleagues who are being taken advantage of, without them even knowing it. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced it firsthand as well. It’s become so evident to me recently because I’m a mid-20-something meaning all of the people I socialize with are going through a similar professional crossroads. You usually begin at the bottom of the totem pole after you graduate college. I graduated 2010 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, entering the workforce at probably the worst time to have such a degree. And so the imposed societal instinct is to suck it up and take what you can get, if you can get anything at all. Prove yourself worthy, exceed their expectations, and stay quiet. While I still believe this sort of work ethic is important, it also underscores the rip current that takes you further and further away from reaching the status and value you actually deserve.
Please find the courage within to fight for what you are worth.
Catch-up dinners with close friends are a wonderful thing. Sometimes they are just casual and fun and other times they become some of the most inspiring and motivational conversations you’ll ever have. Last night I had one of the latter kind with a friend who’s known me since the beginning of college. She’s seen me be everything from ridiculous to amazing and seems to always understand the beauty in the things I do. Pretty priceless, huh? We got into a discussion over our current states of restlessness, almost drowning in our desire to make our dreams manifest into reality. She read aloud to me Linda Holmes’ article on NPR, Hey Kid: Thoughts for the Young Oddballs We Need So Badly. I highly suggest you read the entire thing, but here are a few of my favorite parts.
The fact that nobody is doing what you imagine doing is the beginning of your idea, not the end. People want to read things that haven’t been written, see things that haven’t been made, and hear things that don’t yet exist. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see yourself reflected in what’s being shown to you, let alone what’s being heavily marketed to you.
Everything worthwhile has a strong feeling in it, which means if you’re going to make great stuff, you’re going to have strong feelings. This is part of why people associate artistic types with moody outbursts or temper tantrums or lying around saying, “Oh life!” And it’s sort of true.
Out here, we are already waiting for you. We are already anxious for you. Out here, we want to see your stuff. Don’t get me wrong — some of us will disappoint, reject, confuse, misunderstand, mislead, or even exploit you. (Not the good ones of us on those last couple. But some.) But we want to see your stuff. Keep going.
UGH. That is SO good right? Of course after reading it, I’m thinking “I wish I had written that,” but more importantly I wish I had read that when I was younger. The world is prime for our individuality to shine if we allow it to. If we believe in our original thoughts/ideas/creations and put them out there and exercise them, who knows what will happen. And the beauty is in our possibility, our potential. We – meaning I – need to stop trying to arrange ourselves to be reflections of icons of success or cultural importance and instead place priority on becoming a genuine and unfiltered reflection of the inner creator.
I’m usually spouting one-liners or quoting inspirational pins about how to chase after and believe in your creativity. While I fully stand behind all of that motivational media, I sometimes forget that creativity permeates everything and dreams do not solely entail artistic pursuits. Thankfully I was reminded when I read this blog post by Lisa Jakub. She cites a Thought Catalog article on “drones” versus “dreamers” and shares her distaste for the negative connotation often given to more traditional 9-to-5ers in the world. The dictionary definition of a dream is a strongly desired goal or purpose. There are no other parameters, no right or wrong, and no mention of any social norms. All that matters is the instinctual feeling of wanting a certain life for yourself.
I’ve lived most of my life on the fence between my creative self and my intellectual self. The latter was of course always touted as the more likely moneymaker of the two, yet here I am slowly dragging my feet through the mud of being artist. While this is a valid and worthwhile choice, I cannot pretend that I am above or any more enlightened than others who would have chosen the other way. If I had desired to become a doctor or if I had desired to major in technology, I would have done it to the best of my ability and that would have been just as admirable as what I am doing now.
While I’m always gushing over other traditionally “creative” individuals – artisans, choreographers, designers, chefs, etc – today (and hopefully moving forward as well) I would like to congratulate those who pursue the dreams that are not so directly related to my own. To the doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists, teachers, and everything in-between: I appreciate your dreams more than I can ever say. It is your creativity within your chosen profession that keeps the world functioning, growing, evolving. Your mark, while it might not a visual one done by hand, is a thing of beauty as well.
So if you enjoy what you’re doing, if you are living out your desires… keep doing that, whatever it may be. Have faith in the value of your dreams and allow that to be your guide. (Now it’s time for me to peace out because I’m getting cheeezy).
[ image via tumblr ]
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One of the biggest mental setbacks I have is the fear that I’m not as great as the people I admire and aspire to be like (artists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, etc). Those beautiful creative professionals seem like they have everything together so effortlessly and they continue to surprise me with their ability to stay fresh, relevant, and inspirational. Despite knowing that they all had to start somewhere, I always find myself feeling so far behind with so much left to go. Why do I feel like I have to start big and so close to the end?
I keep forgetting that you don’t begin a success. You become a success.
Self-image is a weird concept. It suggests that we have an idea of our identity that was/is self-created or self-manifested. What always confounds me about this is how greatly our self-image is actually propagated and influenced by those who surround us. Whether it is loved ones or strangers, it’s often in their eyes that we see our reflections in. Of course as soon as I say that I am also reminded how often I actually don’t see myself the way others do. I almost always see myself lesser than how others see me – uglier, more judgmental, not as talented, and so on.
So while I stand behind the idea of ignoring what other people think, I find that I personally need to do the opposite and listen to what other people think. As I’m navigating through my quarter-life crisis, I am constantly facing the fact that the only person doubting my abilities and holding me back is myself.
Like with any other personality fault, this is not something I can easily overcome. I’m 100% sure that it is equal parts nature and nurture that bring me to this crucial point in my life.
Every few weeks I tend to experience an identity crisis. I have the awful plague of being a creative and ambitious individual which means nothing is ever good enough, including myself. In order to pull myself out of this hopeless hole, I have to do something that will lead me back to remembering who I really am. Sometimes it’s rambling on to my boyfriend about how I’m too far behind to do anything worthwhile in my life, to which he usually responds with reassuring words about how everyone loves everything I do. Other times it’s chatting with best friends who usually tell me how much they admire my strength and courage.
Today it happens to be that I’m reminded of who I am by my birth date. Everyone loves reading descriptions of themselves and their potential futures, in hopes that their own self-image and desired goals will be confirmed as what destiny had intended for them. While I do believe that we are in control of our own lives, I also think you can’t get anywhere without knowing thyself.
My life has been riddled with fear of failure and self-doubt of my talent, despite all the evidence of my success. But thanks to divine luck, I have a best friend slash life coach who has a never-ending arsenal of encouraging words of wisdom. During my visit to see her graduate, she was actually the one giving me source for life inspiration. She handed me three books by Sark and asked me to choose one of them, as a gift to take home with me. I chose The Bodacious Book of Succulence: Daring to Live Your Succulent Wild Life.
For this week’s Love Yourself Linkup, I present to you my favorite excepts from this motivational read paired with pictures from a study abroad trip I took to Ireland about five years ago (I still yearn to go back).
A succulent is a plant that gets its nourishment and water from the inside – it replenishes itself.
I wish for you the ability to self-replenish, to be juicy, ripe, filled to over-flowing.
We deserve to be the caretakers for our spirits and dreams, and this means truly sensing and listening for our most alive route.
Step back into the light of your creative purpose even if you’re not sure what it is.
This post is part of the Love Yourself Linkup, an ongoing series focusing on self-image to foster an engaged community of writers and readers to connect, share, and love. Anne The Adventurer bravely revealed her struggle to recovery and began this linkup to encourage other writers to share their unique experiences and journeys. You’ve read a little bit about it already, but here is the longer version of how I became who I am today.
For the greater part of my life, success for me was determined by the grades I received. The number one goal was to be at the top of the class in all subjects and to use any energy I had to get there. Yes, I was the Asian cliché: a timid and quiet overachiever raised in a strict environment who just wanted to make her parents proud. This deep sense of obligation was engrained in me early on and the only way I knew how to exist was to strive for perfection and do what was asked of me. Straight A’s were a standard of normalcy and the only acceptable report to bring home. Anything less resulted in a loss of privileges and along with it, strong words of disappointment, grief, and anger.
It was tough adolescence, but please don’t get me wrong. I was given as much love as I was given discipline, but my parents just had a different way of showing it. They were wonderfully generous to me, just not in an emotionally expressive way. You could say my mom was a little bit of a Tiger, but this was her own flavor of motherly love. If she didn’t push me to be better, who would? I’m sure this was the thinking behind it, but unfortunately it took me a lot of time to accept it as a positive force in the grand scheme of things.