Archives for posts with tag: self-acceptance

How many of you are familiar with Marlo Thomas? If you are my age, you may recall her as the spunky, spritely Ann Marie in the 1960’s sitcom “That Girl.” ( I wanted to be her.) You kids out there may recognize her as the spokeswoman for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, founded by her late father, the comedian Danny Thomas.

Somewhere between That Girl and St. Jude’s, Ms. Thomas married talk show host Phil Donahue, and more notably, generated the idea for a children’s book and album entitled, “Free to Be You and Me,” which celebrated diversity among all people.

I was too old to be in the target audience for that admirable endeavor, but the catchy title has stayed with me.

I’ve borrowed and adapted it for the title of my Icebreaker Speech this evening, which is:

Free to Be Me and Me

As a child, I learned to view the world simply. There was Good and Bad, Right and Wrong.

Doing what I was told was “Good;”  sassing or talking back, “Bad.” Simple, right? Especially for a kid with a burning need to be “Good.” I tried as hard as I could to be good. It was the only way to be.

There comes a moment in every kid’s life when childhood collides with reality, and shades of gray begin to color a previously black and white world. At some point, we must accept that we will not do everything right, all of the time, no matter how hard we try.

Nobody’s perfect, especially me. This was a tough concept for me to grasp.

Although I like to see myself as a certain sort of person, the reality is, I’m not just one way.

A hard worker, capable of staying on task for hours and producing great results, I am also capable of spending hours online, playing Lexulous with my friends,  filling shopping carts with shoes I will never buy, watching cat videos, and clicking through long slide shows with titles like, “8 Secrets about (the movie) Mean Girls.”

I’m a loyal friend, but very likely to forget your birthday, or worse, buy a gift that sits unwrapped and unmailed in the trunk of my car for months.

A health-oriented individual, I  nonetheless drink 3 cups of coffee each morning, wine nearly every evening, and my exercise routine fluctuates between walking my dog three to six miles five times a week, and sitting on my you-know-what for months, lifting nothing heavier than an ice cream scoop.

Despite a desire to present myself as put-together, I can spend an entire weekend in the same sweatpants, with my hair  doing whatever crazy thing it likes.

I’m the most morbid optimist I know, fretting into the wee small hours, equally certain of impending disaster and that everything will be just fine after all.

You get the picture. Despite my lofty aspirations to be the best, most productive version of myself, I fail. This used to discourage me to a degree that I would give up, and berate myself over every failure. I was just never good enough, smart enough, or anything enough. It’s the kind of faulty world view that leads dieters to eat the whole pack of cookies because they’ve already eaten one. (Not that I would know anything about that…)

It’s easier for me to recognize  and accept  conflicts and contradictions in others than  myself, but I’ve been working on it. If I can forgive you for disappointing me, shouldn’t I extend myself the same courtesy?

I  am serious and earnest, and silly and snarky. I ‘m a shy show-off.  I  dread going to parties, but I’m often among the last to leave.

Back when I was kid, I  wanted  to be a free-spirited single girl like Ann Marie. Today I’ll settle for  being Free to Be Me and Me. I encourage  you to be Free to Be You and You, too.

A number of years ago, I realized that I could no longer see at close range well enough to attend to the basics of self grooming. Not yet ready to abandon makeup application and eyebrow plucking, I bought a magnifying mirror. Once again able to manage my daily primping, I could also see every flaw I had been avoiding for years, along with all the new indignities as they arrived: every wrinkle, spot, gaping pore and broken capillary was literally larger than life.

I mentioned my new mirror to my stylish (and much younger) co-worker. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “How do you stand it?”
As I answered her, I realized the truth and beauty of my reply.

“I figure that if I can get over the way I look magnified seven times, I can be confident that I will always look better than that to everyone else.”

I remembered our conversation the other morning, as I was getting ready for work. I stood in the bathroom, appraising myself, with half damp hair and no makeup. I noticed the way the hair at my temples  was coming in almost white, and how suddenly my eyes seemed bluer. I had a sudden reaction- not shocked, not smug, but just calm. “I’m beautiful.” It was more of a response to the way I was feeling than the way I looked: that I was where I should be, and that things would be ok, even if I couldn’t see exactly how.

My immediate response to the thought was regret that it had taken me 55 years to actively and spontaneously feel that way, and to wish that I had been kinder and more accepting of myself.   My next response was the awareness that the feeling wouldn’t last, and that if I didn’t get moving, I’d be late to work.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

Greggory Miller

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