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'Tis The Season To Be Kind (To Yourself)

It is only after I've wasted too much of my morning Internet-stalking my obsession of the day that I can finally go about my own life. My most recent infatuation is Pandora Sykes, a British writer with impeccable style who somehow reads multiple books a week while upholding an impressive multifaceted career and raising two perfect babies. Following my extensive online creeping, I have convinced myself that parts of me have slightly transformed to be more like Pandora, and I can then live out my day accordingly by repeatedly asking myself, what would Pandora do? I mean, her name is Pandora, for goodness' sake! Who names their kid Pandora?! Someone who knows they created a human exquisite enough to carry such a name, that's who.

This is a problem I've had for basically my entire life: I fixate obsessively on another human -- someone with flaws and personal struggles and a very intricate life of their own -- and I overindulge in learning as much as I possibly can about them, which is made too easy thanks to Google and social media. Within an hour, I essentially know everything about this person and have even decided I want to name my future daughter the same name she gave her own. But really, I might do it. It was on my list of names before I even knew who Pandora was, I promise! It has simply been moved to the top of my list, that's all... I think I'm giving imposter syndrome a whole new meaning. I think might be a literal imposter.

I can't decide if this is a super unhealthy habit or if it merely serves as some inspiration for my own existence. Ok, fine, I too am leaning towards "super unhealthy habit." Dammit. I'll admit that the hour spent diving too deep down the rabbit hole of researching another human often propels me into an episode of intense envy and even self-hatred. By the end, I want to be that person, and it really is as unsettling as it sounds. I find myself so in awe of their work, their brain, their very ability to just be who they are, and then usually I also feel a twinge of jealousy about some aspect of their outward beauty too. When I come across a talented human who is as equally striking physically as she is intellectually, I can't help but wonder why God picks favourites, and why I'm not one of them. Surely you can't be über intelligent, hard-working, passionate, driven, and -- likely because of the aforementioned traits -- successful, all while being married and in love, caring for two precious children, and being an objectively nice-looking human! I realize this is getting creepier by the minute, and Pandora would probably be ready to file a restraining order if she knew someone on the Internet was ooh-ing and ah-ing over her to such a stalker-ish extent (please keep in mind I'm a small 5'6 girl who means no harm and doesn't like to leave the house). Also, in case you were starting to wonder, I'm very much not into women; a girl crush is about wanting to be someone, not wanting to be with them. Quite frankly, I've had more female celebrity crushes in my life than male ones. I think I've always had greater aspirations of being a fabulous woman than of having a famous actor or boyband member fall in love with me, though I would certainly welcome the latter option with open arms. Come to think of it, that would probably make me appear an even more fabulous woman, so I'm not opposed to being desired publicly by, say, Jake Gyllenhaal.

Now that I've shared with you my third identity crisis of the week and exposed my habit of obsessively Internet-stalking successful women I will never meet, I would like to retract everything I've just said. Just kidding, I have left it there not only to humiliate myself and invite people of the Internet to judge my borderline creepy tendencies but also because I think it reveals an important lesson. Maybe I'm the only one who needs to hear this -- and clearly I do -- but we are all so unique and different from one another, on entirely distinct life journeys, and it is so silly to diminish and wish away your own special existence in the hopes of being more like someone else. I've spent a lot of time wishing myself away like this. Wishing I looked different, acted different, had a different laugh, a different voice, a different personality; I have genuinely wished, at one point or another in my 24 years, for every single thing that makes me who I am to be different. And that is very sad.

I invite you to consider this: If today, at whatever age you're at right now, you came face-to-face with your younger self, could you even imagine saying the things you say to your reflection to that child? Could you imagine looking your sweet and innocent 5-year-old self in the eyes and telling her she is ugly? That she is stupid? That she is hopeless? There are so many terrible things I have told myself throughout my life, and many that I admittedly still tell myself today. But we were all children once, and that child is still within us; that's still who we are at the core, so if we wouldn't say those things to our 5-year-old selves, then we shouldn't be saying them now. I came to this realization because I often think about my hopes for my future children. Hopes that they will be happy, that they will be passionate, that they will be comfortable in their own skin. That they will see their beauty and their talents and be confident in their ability to succeed. That they will be assertive about what they want and self-assured in who they are and all they have to offer. Hopes that they will be all these things that I am not, or that I have not been for most of my life. And then I thought, if I hope these things for my future kids, who I will love so incredibly much, why shouldn’t I be hoping these things for myself? My own self that I should love with the same compassion and acceptance. My own self who is the only person I have no choice but to spend my entire life with. How can I hope these things for my future children if I don't even embody them myself?

Children learn by observing, by absorbing what they see and then mimicking those behaviours (insert citation from a scholarly article here to support this potentially false claim that I am 90% certain is true), so how the hell can I expect my future kids to be all these things if I'm not even practicing them in my own life? While I'm very far away from having babies, this is still something that crosses my mind from time to time, and it reminds me to work on becoming the person I want my kids to have as a mother. Of all the qualities I wish for them to have, the most important one is kindness. But kindness begins with ourselves. We can be kind to everyone we meet, we can offer kindness to strangers all day long, but if we go home and look in the mirror and have nothing but mean things to say, then we're not really that kind after all. We have to extend the kindness we give so freely to others to our own selves, and we have to truly believe that we deserve it. Tearing yourself down and wishing to be someone you're not will never, ever lead to happiness. It will only make you believe that you have to abandon everything you are to become something you're not, something you were never meant to be.

I'm not saying we can't be inspired by (or even a little obsessed with) people we admire. It's perfectly healthy to look up to someone and draw inspiration from their career. It's totally acceptable to think someone has great hair and to try out a similar style on yourself. And it's obviously really okay to choose your baby's name solely because it's the name someone you look up to gave their own baby... Duh. The important thing is to not get carried away. One of my favourite quotes that I try to live by is this: "Another woman's beauty is not the absence of your own." It's easy to look at what someone else has and to view their gain as your lack. But seeing one person succeed doesn't take away from your own success, and seeing amazing qualities in someone doesn't take away from the amazing qualities in yourself. Unless this is The Bachelor, in which case one woman's beauty and likability really does take away from another's, which is just one of the many reasons you'll never find me on that show. Number one is the excruciatingly embarrassing and highly unnecessary "activities" the contestants are obliged to partake in, closely followed by the fact that I would absolutely crumble being constantly compared to a dozen other girls who are all essentially trying to MARRY the same guy. Gross. Oh, and also because I'm in a happy, committed relationship, but that's tertiary.

Now that I've debriefed you on my reasons for not being a contender on the world's most simultaneously addictive and pitiful reality show, I'll end us off with yet another quote from my bottomless box of wise words. The following wisdom comes from the lead singer of the Foo Fighters, apparently. I'm obviously not very familiar with their music, as I have no idea if this was taken from a song lyric or if it's just something he said one time (perhaps during a heartening, King Henry-esque speech while at battle with the Foos?). Regardless of context, he says, "no one is you, and that is your power." It makes you think: If you're trying to be someone else all the time, who is going to be you? You're just as valuable as anyone else in this world, and you have your very own gifts to offer. You weren't put here to be like someone else (unless you're a twin -- then I don't know what to tell you), and you certainly will not be happy if you're trying to find fulfillment by acting like someone you're not and pursuing dreams that aren't your own. It can be very hard to look inward for the answers. It takes a lot of work to learn how to truly listen to yourself. Or better yet, to unlearn everything you thought you were and thought you should be. I apologize for overdoing the cheesy quotes today, but this has reminded me of yet another one that I love and it's just too fitting not to include: "Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?" Oof, that one always gets me. I'll leave you to ruminate on that nugget of existential uncertainty. Perhaps you've always felt in tune with your intuition and have a strong connection to your sense of self, in which case I envy you, and you are exempt from this week's homework (and the associated existential dread!). As for me, I'll be here contemplating and dissecting every little thing I've ever done in my life with the aim of uncovering who it is I truly am beneath all this social conditioning and intense virtual stalking.

Here's hoping for clarity about which voices in my head are my own and which are just the echoes of societal expectations/dreams of being more like Pandora Sykes that have accumulated over the years (or hours). I'm not schizophrenic; I'm a millennial. There's a difference.




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