How to Like Yourself

31/08/2015 1:35 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Sergey Galushko via Getty Images
Reflection of the girl in a mirror

What happened to your life and how many hearts did you break? What lessons have actually stuck and how much love did you take? And what is more: Do you actually like yourself?

An article I once wrote about meeting my teen idols as an adult scored more than 40,000 "likes" across two platforms of social media. But do 40,000 people like me? No, of course not. They don't even know me. They might think I am totally annoying -- a book nerd, a slam poet, a collector of typewriters, a Tolkien, Bronte, Bukowski & Conan Doyle fan and mother of boys who is so interested in male issues my friends often have to remind me I am female and should be mouthing off about female-centric rights, not male.

And yet I'd like to think perhaps half of the people who liked my stories on social media would not dislike me eyeball-to-eyeball.

But, forget about 40,000 people liking my article. There is a woman living up the road from me who can't stand me. Why? I didn't invite her son to my son's birthday party. (He bullied my son, who subsequently asked that he not be invited to the party.) I see her in the school playground and I try to make eye contact so I have an opportunity to smile and prove that I am not horrid. See? I am nice! But she looks right through me. To her, I am a ghost. No -- I am worse than a ghost, I am unlikeable.

The M&M's Factory

It's not that difficult to get people to like you. Be pleasant. Be kind. Treat others the way you'd like others to treat you. These are simple life lessons most of us have ingrained deep within our souls from the toddler years. Being funny also helps. (Did you hear the one about the blond in the M&M's factory?) But we now live in a world where many of our achievements and photos and opinions are measured by the number of 'likes' we get on social media.

My friend Amanda actually deletes Facebook posts after an hour if she doesn't get a solid reaction. "I only had 15 likes!" she moaned. This is a woman who cares for two disabled children and tirelessly campaigns for heightened awareness of their disability. When I had the flu, she cooked me a lasagne and dropped my kids at school. She is very pretty, very funny, very nice, very likeable. So why is she worried about whether a group of mostly strangers like a cutesy Facebook post about her one-eyed cat?

But, rest assured, over time you will change the way you feel about yourself. The same way your feelings about other people will change.

Cameron Diaz

I really, really like my friend Hailey. She is a Cameron Diaz look-alike who does not feel attractive and does not like herself very much. She is always shocked when anybody tells her she is pretty. She virtually dry retches in shock that anybody would think good things about her. When she looks in the mirror, she is blind. She thinks nobody likes her because she doesn't like herself.

It might be something to do with three divorces. Or it might be something to do with missing out on a mother's love. (Hailey's mum died giving birth to her. "She was a ballerina who could speak four languages. She had psychic abilities. She told my dad she wouldn't live beyond the age of thirty. She was two weeks away from her birthday when her waters broke and I was born and then she died. I've never forgiven myself. Never," said Hailey, punching the air, tears falling down her face, raw anguish.)

A tornado

But there will always be things about you that you didn't like about yourself in your youth that you now value as you age.

For example, I'm known in my family for my ability to move away from any conflict or argument very quickly. There will be a screaming match. And then silence. Then laughter or chatter. You'd never guess I'd been cross just minutes beforehand. It is impossible for me to stew and fester and harbour grudges. I never liked this quirk until now, in my 40s. I really like myself for letting disagreements pass through me like a tornado that never left any rubble.

So it's time you started to see yourself as others see you. Forget what you see in the mirror, forget what you have always thought of yourself. Try to like yourself the same way you like other people and things and issues and photos of one-eyed cats on social media. Don't waste time. You never know how many more nights you have left.

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