I often imagine the goals I might accomplish, the stunning human being I might be if only I could…
I don’t quite know how to finish that sentence. Something about me always seems to fall short of my own expectations. I’m not pretty enough, not strong or active enough, not intelligent enough. Of course, I know enough about my mental health to know that this kind of self-talk is just symptoms of larger anxiety about my place in the world, but the negative thoughts still add up.
I suppose that’s why I’ve embarked on this self-development journey, punctuated by my enduring fascination with high class etiquette and business etiquette. I sat myself down today and thought of the three main adjectives I use to describe the ideal self I picture in my mind, and thought it would be a great self-help exercise to figure out what really lay in the depths of those three choices.
And what are those three adjectives I chose?
These three words encapsulate exactly the kind of person I want to be.
“And how do you know you aren’t already this person?” I hear you, or perhaps a more positive inner voice, ask.
And the truth is, I don’t, not really. But when in doubt, writing always helps me clear my mind, so let’s jump into what these three words mean for me in terms of my own self-growth goals. Who knows, you may find something of yourself in them as well!
When I think of the word “strong”, I think of muscle and energy. I think of endurance and I think of a voice that carries weight when heard.
The word, when I think of myself, conjures an image of me walking with my head held high, a small but sure smile on my face that gets bigger as I greet others or think of positive, silly thoughts to myself. In this image I have a sure step, a confident posture that fills the space I occupy with my presence. I am dressed in bright and eye-catching colors, a reflection of my relaxed but inspired inner self.
And most of all, in this image, there is a focused assertiveness that itself endures beyond the simple snapshot my mind has created for me.
Now that I type it out, I realize I already do these things. I am always checking to make sure my posture is good, that I am not looking down or closing myself off to people through my body language, and that when I step outside the world knows that a force to contend with has entered into its public arena.
Still, it is in private – and, I’m not going to lie, during small talk – that I feel myself withdraw into my mind, perhaps where I feel safer, and become quiet. Now, this isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but it is a feeling that makes me seem closed off to my own self, as though the generosity of my time and energy only extends to others and to their pursuits.
I think maybe, this is where I’d like to change. To be stronger for myself in private. To not feel like I have to put on a show of strength in public. I want it to feel natural and easy, familiar even.
Becoming active and sticking to solo travel goals for myself is one idea that comes to mind as far as investing my energy back into myself. Refilling my own cup first, as one friend of mine might put it. I have been thinking, a day trip to Catalina or to an art museum in L.A. might be wonderful now that the world is opening up from quarantine…
When I think of the word “polished”, I imagine myself in a timeless ensemble, possibly a dress, a well-fitted coat and heels, and I am on my way in to some important meeting. Perhaps I am meeting with a client. Perhaps I am going to a social event. Who knows, maybe it is even a date!
But whatever the occasion may be, I am not only wearing the appropriate clothing for it, but I am put together. Not a hair out of place, as it were.
My hair is done, my makeup is flawless, my outfit is bold but classy, and I know with complete confidence that I am ready, physically, mentally, and emotionally, for whatever situation I am about to enter.
Not only do I imagine this of myself, but I also think of someone who is well-cared for and who is healthy. “Strong” pops up in my mind here too. Polished to me means a strong, manicured whole.
As someone with mental illness, I already know that my self-care game could be better. In previous years, work-life balance was difficult to achieve, and I sacrificed both my health and peace of mind in the name of work.
No, this new “polish” I will cultivate will be more than just skin deep, more than empty smiles and pretending I didn’t pull an all-nighter the night before.
For me, the key to a great work ethic starts with showing up for myself. It requires slowing down and prioritizing the daily tasks that ensure I have the polished presentation I desire – for whatever purpose it may suit. That capacity to slow down is my weak point, I think. I want so badly to believe that I can accomplish all the things instantaneously, but life doesn’t work out that way. In fact, pursuing that kind of extreme productivity is a one-way ticket to burnout, which I learned the hard way.
So what do I do?
I have some ideas.
First, I create a morning routine, a self-care ritual that gets me ready for the day. Not the most original idea, I know, but having a set more schedule that is guaranteed to have me out of bed and moving, energized and ready for the day? That sounds like something worth investing my time.
Second, I create an evening routine, heavy in self-pampering and filled with the aroma of peppermint tea and burning lavender candles. Something that takes me out of the hustle and bustle of the day and tells my mind that not only is it okay to relax and unwind, but that we are so good at being productive that we’ve actually carved out a time in our busy day to do just that.
Finally, I think taking a personal development workshop or seminar might be worthwhile. A YouTuber I follow for investment and life advice named Rose Han listed a personal development course she took as one of her most valued purchases, and since hearing her experience I have been considering that it might be worthwhile for me to do as well.
This one is easy: I want to achieve my own understanding of beautiful. Not some plastic or fake conception, but whatever it is that in my mind is most beautiful, I want to embody.
I already know that my understanding of beauty is more wistful or even sober than others might find. There is an untouchable grace to the things that really capture me – the sweet perfumed scent of a wilting rose, the cool blue of twilight as the sun falls from the sky. There is a delicate poetry in the things that bring me back to myself.
For all this talk about strength and polish, I also want to be soft and fragile, quietly magnetic, elegant as I walk into the room. I want to be timeless, appearing at once as ancient as some kind of ethereal queen whose name has been lost to the ages, and as charming and approachable as a 20-something socialite.
I started waxing lyrical there, but I think I captured the essence of the picture in my mind that the word “allure” creates. Charming, beautiful, magnetic.
My friend says that my presence can seem intimidating to others. This isn’t what I’m going for necessarily, but I recognize that the words I’ve used to describe my understanding of the adjective “alluring” carry a desire for social as well as physical power.
I say I wish to be as potent as an ancient queen. I want to be as people-savvy as a socialite. I want to be magnetic, elegant. Elevated and above. Who? I’m not sure. It isn’t that I want to posture or make people think I believe myself better than them. More, it’s that I want to be at the highest potential of what is most natural to me.
I want to embody that which I find beautiful naturally. Those colors, poses, fabrics, looks that most appeal to me, those facets of nature which most speak to me, I also want to become.
I am many things, but I am also an artist. And, I’m starting to see that the craving for self-empowerment which seems to be the common thread between each of the three words I have chosen, is a desire to use my mind, body and spirit as my own personal canvas upon which to paint my own image of power, grace, and self-actualization. In living color.
This one is going to require a little bit of money and/or creativity, but filling up my space and time with beauty, and adorning myself in the elements which I find bring out my own beauty the best, is the course of action I want to take.
Whether it is using clothes and makeup to make a statement, sitting down and painting with colors that capture my focus (I’m thinking bright reds and oranges right now), or going and visiting some art or musical showcase which makes me feel like I am wafting along on a sea breeze, I think taking a deep breath and allowing myself to just… experience my inner wanderlust through the beauty of the world around me might be a great first and second and third step.