Who Would You Be?
I’d be Ghandi, I’d be Martin Luther King, Jr.,
I’d be Me!
If you could be like anyone, who would you be and why? We used to pose this question on the inpatient units, just as a conversational warm up with patients. Some answers were predictable-Oprah, Jesus, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, or Princess Diana. Some people wanted to be famous and gifted, like Tiger Woods or Elvis or notorious and talented, like Amy Winehouse or Tupac Shakur. Others still wished they had some sort of genius, like Einstein or Washington Carver. A small subset of folks were inspired by a significant caretaker in their lives like their mother or uncle, or a teacher.
I (Rebecca) was always torn between characters like Nelson Mandela–paragon of good deeds, forgiveness, and self restraint.–and Angelina Jolie, who in my mind is all of those things and stunningly beautiful to boot. I would admit this sheepishly, realizing how hopelessly idealist I sounded but knowing that, in my heart of hearts, I would really love to able to set aside my selfish preferences for the good of humanity and appear lovely and graceful while doing so.
Of the many answers that we’ve heard over the years, the one that surprised me the most came from my niece, Maddie. She replied with unabashed certainty, “I’d be me!” To this day, I have only heard that answer a few times. It wasn’t lack of imagination that kept Maddie and those few others from picking someone else, they simply had no desire to be anyone but themselves.
When Maddie first uttered “Me!”, I was instantly envious and, without the irony escaping me, added her to my list of, “If I could be like anyones.” I was so taken with the unwavering confidence and self-esteem in her identify and sense of self-worth.
When I lament challenges I’ve been cursed with-being fussy, anxious, etc.-I have frequently looked at other people who seemed better off than me and wished I could be them. In 12 Step Recovery, they call this judging your insides by someone else’s outsides. But there have definitely been moments that it looked like other people were having a much easier time than I was.
While we can’t all have the attitude that Maddie showed that day, we can improve our self-esteem by making small tweaks in our approach to our thoughts. Just noticing our self-judgments is a mindfulness practice that can go a long way to reducing the harmful impact of these thoughts. When we increase our awareness of whatever thoughts and feelings come up for us as we compare our lives to others, we open up the possibility of releasing those ideas as just thoughts, not necessarily the reality. Admiring the qualities of others and noticing and letting go of the self-judgments that may pop up can help us re-frame our negative self-judgments.
After all, maybe Angelina Jolie is standing around, wishing to be me!
Warmly, Rebecca and Gioia
Recall qualities that you admire in someone else that you also possess-for example, Angelina and I might share the quality of compassion, or commitment. Create a few small 3.5 x 2.5 inch size cards, that you can keep with you, or give away, using color, lines, shapes and symbols to represent these special qualities. We’d love to hear-post comments or images on our Facebook page!