Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Love You Just the Way You Aren't

An oft-repeated phrase lately is “Always be yourself”. From Lady Gaga to Willow Smith, the entire culture seems to be channeling the sage wisdom of Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie pie be yourself haters gonna hate

This message is especially emphasized in romance. To paraphrase Princess Diaries, our culture now thinks of love as “being yourself, only with someone else”.
However, despite the importance of staying true to our fundamentals (and I don’t deny that this is important), have we perhaps put too much stock in “being ourselves”?
Let me explain: The current concept of what comprises “you” and “me” is a very wide definition. When I say that I want to “be myself”, what I’m usually saying is that I want to remain just as I am. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I accept every possible aspect of myself, and woe betide you if you don’t accept it too. If I plan to accept myself for “who I am”, then what you see is what you get.
Here’s the problem: If you’re reading this, chances are you’re human. (If you’re a hyper-intelligent monkey who’s learned to read, congratulations. The rest of this article doesn’t apply to you). As humans, we’re chock-full of some pretty nasty thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Maybe I’m too angry, or perhaps I’m too friendly (we all know that sometimes, that can be worse). Maybe you’re not a very clean person, or maybe you’re too clean and you make your friends uncomfortable. And no matter who you are (hyper-intelligent monkeys excluded), you know that you have a heap-ton of deep-seated emotional issues, probably all rooted in your childhood.
Sigmund Freud - How does that make you feel?
And that’s the fundamental problem with “being yourself”. Our culture has put such an emphasis on self-acceptance that any potential for growth or self-improvement has been all but thrown out the window.
This is especially true in romance and relationships. Gone are the days when hopeless romantics searched for partners who would mold and form them into better people and vice versa. Now we look for lovers who can “love me for me” or “take me for what I am”.
The problem is, “who you are” sucks. And as I’ve already said, you’re not alone in this. But that’s the whole point of being in a romantic relationship with someone! Relationships aren’t about finding someone you’re moderately attracted to who tells you every one of your behaviors and desires are just dandy. The point of a relationship is to have what’s best about you emphasized by somebody who cares enough to do so, all while what’s worst about you is slowly carved away.
Sure, weeding out your issues and self-destructive behaviors can be painful sometimes, and we’ve all been there. But the point of love is that it carries lovers through those difficult periods and brings them out on the other side as substantially better people.
Instead of accepting who you are for what you are, try working to become a “first rate version of yourself” (thanks for that, Judy Garland). Instead of looking for someone who accepts you for you, try looking for a person who brings out your best qualities and pushes you to be a better person (Of course, they need to be ok with you pushing them to be better too).
And yes, pushing yourself to be first rate is a lot harder than accepting yourself at face value. It’s even harder to be pushed to be better by somebody you really care about. I promise, however, that you and your relationship will be stronger for it.

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