Think about how you feel right after you get a fabulous job offer, end an excellent first (or fourth) date, nail that big presentation at work, or are simply having a good hair day. Save that feeling in a corner of your mind.
Now think about how you feel right after you get fired or laid off, someone rejects you, you make a big blunder in front of your boss, or you can’t get your tie straight no matter how many times you tie the darn thing. Save that feeling in a different corner of your mind.
Now take the two feelings out and compare. Is there a difference between them? Chances are good there is, and that it’s a huge difference. But there doesn’t have to be. And, actually, there shouldn’t be.
Something I’ve been working on personally – thanks in large part to a dear friend who keeps telling me how fabulous I am in some vain hope that one day I’ll actually start to believe him – is maintaining a feeling of being attractive, confident, intelligent, and self-assured independent of whether I get what I think I want or deserve in my life.
Because whether I get the job or the guy or the compliments or the paycheck or my hair ends up the way I want it to on any given day, one thing remains the same: I’m still basically the same person from day to day, only one a mere 24 hours older (and perhaps a few seconds wiser). When things go awry, or simply not the way I’d prefer, I’ve started repeating a certain mantra to myself (silently, of course): “I am still the same person I was when things were going my way and I felt on top of the world.” This serves as a gentle “snap out of it” to myself, a reminder that the only thing that has changed is something external, something that in the end won’t matter and, chances are, I won’t even remember a year (or a month) from now. (Seriously… right now: what were you worrying about this day two years ago? Can you even remember off the top of your head? Unless it was a major life event – which deserves worrying about – you probably don’t even know.)
And external things don’t determine my worth as a human being. They don’t determine what sort of behavior I should tolerate, what sort of standards and boundaries I set, what treatment I deserve or accept. They are zero indication of how intelligent or attractive or worthy of love I am. Other people might think that external things like a boyfriend or diamond jewelry or a certain kind of job or $500 shoes or something else are such indications, but you and I know they are not.
My aforementioned friend, who is really more than just a friend, but to explain that would simply complicate matters, likes to tell me I am an amazing, gorgeous, intelligent woman who just hasn’t realized it yet. I usually respond with a list of all my flaws, which usually include comparisons of my body to Heidi Klum’s and mentions of how the lines around my mouth are becoming startling reminiscent of my mother’s as I edge into my 40s. He brushes these things off as technicalities that don’t matter, things people overlook when they are dealing with normal people outside of the realm of supermodels and movie stars. About which he may have a point.
Because when things are going well, I do feel pretty damn fabulous, and the older I get the more I relate to something a boy I liked told me in middle school: the girls who are pretty in middle and high school are at their peak then and then fade out as they age, whereas the girls who are average during those years are prettiest when they are in older, because they grow into their beauty. The older I get, the more attractive I feel, and it’s a weird sensation.
Now I need to work on feeling that way – amazing, gorgeous, attractive – 100% of the time, not just when things are going my way. Because if it’s true on the way up, it’s also true when things are stalled and when things are seemingly moving backwards. I’m me, through good times and bad, and I need to remember it and stop letting the setbacks make me forget what a strong and beautiful person I am. And you should, too. Or so I’m told.