“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.”
You might not know this about me (though if you’ve seen my Instagram lately, or ever heard me list fun facts about myself, you might) but I was actually once the Bible quiz champion of Michigan. That’s right. I got the ribbons and everything. Check this out:
2002 was clearly a big year. The point is, 15 years ago, I would have easily been able to tell you that that verse comes from Proverbs 16:18. At age 28, I had to Google it.
I’ve been thinking about the concept of humility lately. According to Proverbs, pride is bad and basically leads to death. It’s not just the Bible either, the general populous seems to agree with the sentiment. Humility is a good goal.
What I’ve come to realize, though, is that it’s really easy to confuse self-love with pride and self-loathing with humility. I didn’t even realize this was something I was doing until pretty recently. In my mind, however subconsciously, I believed that having a low opinion of myself was the same as being humble. It wasn’t something I was actively trying to do, it’s just sort of the way my thinking developed.
What I neglected to realize was that having a low opinion of yourself is really just an awful idea. It’s not humility. It’s stupidity. Unless, of course, you’re a really terrible person like Ted Bundy. Then it’s fine to have a low opinion of yourself. Because you’re terrible.
But assuming you’re not a serial killer, having high self-esteem is actually super valuable. And it’s not at all the same thing as being prideful. Which might seem obvious to you, but it’s something that seems to slip past a lot of people, including me.
I’ve done a lot of cool stuff in my life. But when I meet new people, I don’t like to talk a lot about my experiences, because I don’t want it to seem like I’m bragging. And while that’s great and I don’t want to come across as full of myself, I think I’ve also allowed that thinking to diminish my opinion of my own accomplishments. Just because I don’t want to be known for bragging about my life doesn’t mean it’s not actually worth getting excited about. I’ve done cool things! I should be proud of that!
This week I’ve been trying (and at times succeeding) to recognize my accomplishments and allow myself to feel pride about them. Not headed-for-doom-and-destruction pride, but healthy pride. The kind of pride that embodies self-love and affirmation. The good kind.
And holy hell, it’s a lot harder than you’d think. Genuinely liking yourself apparently takes a lot of effort. But it also seems like a thing that’s worth the effort.
There’s a lot I don’t like about myself. I hate my weird toes and my chubby fingers and the freckle in the middle of my forehead. I hate my anxiety and depression and propensity for overthinking. I hate my fake teeth and the fear I can’t get rid of that they’ll fall out. I hate that my knees are covered with scars and my that my heart is so fragile and easily shattered. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the things I don’t like.
But what I’m trying to spend more time thinking about (and I’d highly recommend doing this) is the things I love about myself. Even though at first even the thought of making this list made me cringe.
I love that I am caring and kind. I love my tattoos and the shape of my nose and I think I’ve got a nice smile. I love that I’m able to feel such joy from small things like the sight of the coast or a seeing a dog or eating a donut. I love that I have survived some truly harrowing experiences and I have come out OK. I love that I have not been hardened by my life in the way I expected. I love that I have built a good life for myself, that I am determined, and making positive changes in my life. I’ve been sober for almost five months. I’ve reshaped my entire life and replaced my bad habits with healthier ones. Those things are hard and they’re worth recognizing.
The list of things I hate about myself is much easier to write. It feels like it’s easier to beat people to the punch. Oh, you don’t like me? Well, joke’s on you, because I don’t like me even more! It’s hard to imagine someone not liking me and then countering it with self-confidence. That notion feels entirely foreign to me.
But I think it’s about time I gave it a shot. Everyone is deeply flawed. But I think I’m learning that loving myself isn’t about ignoring my flaws and thinking I’m perfect, it’s about embracing the whole mess: the good parts and the bad parts. You might point out that I’m sometimes rude and gossip about people behind their backs. Yep, that’s true. Because, shocker, I’m a person. We are inherently flawed. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to love myself anyway.
I saw a post on Instagram today that was inspiring in the way that only grammatically incorrect tweets can be. But the sentiment couldn’t be more true.