Several days ago a friend posted a link to this article (about Mila Kunis & Jennifer Lawrence’s soaring popularity. Note: I haven’t actually read the article so I’m making assumptions about what it’s about) on Facebook and highlighted this quote from the piece:
“You must be gorgeous but humble, smart but self-mocking, talented but awestruck by others with talent, young but wise beyond your years, perfect but anxious to admit your flaws to the world. And you’d better do it every second of every day.”
and I thought to myself, self, I think you’ve got that nailed (go you). So then I commented on the post: I think I’ve got that nailed… (and then because I didn’t want anyone to know that I wasn’t kidding I added) when can I expect my check?
and no one “liked” it (aka, no one praised me for my cleverness or agreed that I was as perfect as the most perfect celebrity is expected to be).
and a few days later (apparently still seeking praise) I mentioned it to my beloved who also didn’t praise me for my cleverness or validate my perfection . Instead she shared with me that I may be missing some of the humble portion and I scoffed and made an adorable shock face in response to mask my hurt (but not very effectively, luckily, so she caught it and we worked through it).
and it’s still sticking with me (not the hurt, but my initial reaction to the quote)… I still feel like I hear myself described in it… at least other people around me have done so much before as a means of praising me. I set myself apart from Jennifer and Mila by gaining a ton of weight in early adulthood that took me out of the movie star gorgeous category (that, and my hairy, stretch mark prone skin and big feet), and with that rationale for why I am not rich and famous I stand firmly by the belief that the quote describes me.
and that’s disturbing.
But not because of what you might think. Let’s dissect:
- gorgeous but humble–fine
- smart but self-mocking–ok
- talented but awestruck by others with talent–of course
- young but wise beyond your years–right
- perfect but anxious to admit your flaws to the world–yup
- and you’d better do it every second of every day–(tires screeching to a halt) wait what? no… that’s where it all starts to get a bit screwy.
I actually (and this is where the “not as humble as I think I am” comes in… but hell, at least I’m self reflective, eh?) think I see those first several items as a result of being myself. So, they’re authentic… they’re okay… if that’s what shows up when I’m being me then so be it (and if that’s what America wants then may I sell many books)…
But that last one… that strips all the authenticity out of it. For me, and for anyone else. Because if by being my authentic self I end up being some or all of those things, fine… but if being my authentic self results in being gorgeous and boastful about it, simple and self celebrating, of average talent and closed off to the gifts of others, young and dumb or old and immature, or imperfect and eager to admit my flaws to the world (by the way, reading all those aloud also feels like I’m reading a description of myself… so there’s that) does that make me any less worthy of love and acceptance than anyone else?
It’s rhetorical, but: No. It doesn’t.
And therein lies the problem. The problem is not that we hold ourselves to what seem like impossible standards because of the conflicting nature of the most desired qualities (most of us are walking dichotomies anyway), the problem is that we hold ourselves (and others) to standards at all.
I want to be the person in the first quote, and it’s great that (I believe) a lot of that shows up when I’m being myself… what’s less great is trying to be that person when something else wants or needs to come out. I have a version of myself that I want to be, and I don’t always get to be. Sometimes I get to be the less attractive me and spend time learning from life through that lens. If I expect anything other than to be who I am in any given moment, I’ll be disappointed.
The only thing we need to expect anyone to be (self included) is authentic. It’s one of the most challenging things we can do; so if we’re going to praise and revere anyone for who or how they are… let’s praise those who choose to be themselves.
I feel better now.