Expectations. The little devil on my shoulder. I have realized that I have imposed expectations upon myself. No one else. I did it. Not standards of ethics as much as completely unreachable ideas about the type of person I must be. I can't decide if I use this as my personal gauge of worth or if I have just, over the years, conditioned myself to believe that this is just the way it is. Somehow, though, I have created this version of me that I strive to live up to everyday and understandably often, well, don't.
Now, I am not saying that it is an acceptable option to throw your cares aside or just completely let yourself go. I am a big believer in having goals and standards, but gauging your self-worth on reaching those standards is a different ballgame.
I have always worked to be a role model. I want to be the type of person that is worthy of being looked up to, even admired. I have always considered what legacy I want to have. Someone asked me once, "What do you want people to know you for?" I have thought about that question a lot for the past few years. Obviously, I hope that people know me for my music, but beyond that I think about what people would say about my character. My hope would be that I am known for being kind and generous, thoughtful and genuine, charismatic and hardworking. While in theory these all sound like truly upstanding hopes, I have found that I often, inevitably, fall short. In falling short I end up feeling guilty or disappointed in myself. So basically I am setting unreachable expectations, and then feeling guilty for not reaching the expectations that I set for myself. That just seems silly.
You see, sometimes, I am in a bad mood or I just feel down. Perfectly reasonable for a human being to not feel up to putting on a smile for the world(*sarcasm), but in my mind it was far more important to fake the smile and hide the sad behind it. The problem is that it's not only unbelievably exhausting, but people can see right through it. How am I supposed to be known as genuine if I'm not being entirely myself. It's a little like lying by omission. Just because I don't admit to the sadness it doesn't mean it's not there so it just ends up buried under that "strength" I've been mastering for so long.
I recently had the revelation that my striving to be a role model, yet hiding the not-so-perfect parts of myself is directly relatable to a photoshopped photo in a magazine. Am I really a good role model if I am presenting a photoshopped version of myself. That is exactly what I am doing: photoshopping my identity. I am smoothing out all of the insecure, nervous, unsure parts of myself and replacing the hurt with a shiny version of what I want the world to see. So if that is the case, then I wouldn't consider that a 'good' role model. I would never want anyone to feel like they didn't have room for error or hurt so why is that the example that I'm setting? A good role model would be open with her hurt and strive to learn and grow from it. She wouldn't hide behind a smile, she would share her path to finding true strength in facing the hurt head on.
Another thought. I love to be the friend that people come to when they are feeling down. When they are contemplating decisions or feel embarrassed, hurt, or wrong about something. I can't think of a time that I have judged any of them. Instead I love them. Do I always agree with their decisions? Of course not, but I listen and encourage and respect them. So I keep wondering why I can't do that with myself. I know that not one of my friends or family members would judge me for my failings. They wouldn't think less of me for my not feeling whole. They would hold me closer and help me carry the weight. They would forgive me and love me through anything.
So my goal is to start extending that grace to myself. To grow from the mess-ups. To learn from the disappointments and to never be afraid to let others see me for me. Don't worry I'm not going to go full sap fest, but I don't want to be afraid anymore to be vulnerable. I still hope to be someone worth looking up to. I still want to be someone who is respected. As for my role model status, I truly hope that I will be able to project a more real version of a strong woman. Not someone who is 'perfect', but someone who isn't afraid to embrace the not-so-perfect parts of herself in order to be stronger and more confident.