One of the benefits of obsessively keeping everything is the creation of unintentional time capsules. Recently I found a word document on my computer titled “like don’t like.” On it were two lists: 1) What Don’t You Like About Yourself? and 2) What Do You Like About Yourself? According to the file info, I made the list in the fall of 2008, almost six years ago. A lot has changed since then.
Many of the things I used to dislike about myself have been fixed and turned into points of pride. I wrote that my “room is always messy” in 2008, where now I almost never let a piece of clothing touch the floor and rarely let dirty dishes sit for more than 30 minutes. I said that I was always “eating the same processed foods,” and now nearly everything I eat is homemade – including the sandwich bread.
Some things haven’t changed, but I see them differently these days. There was a time when I was ashamed of “always dressing the same.” It took a few years to realize the problem wasn’t the sameness, but what I was wearing. I didn’t feel stylish or put together, I was just safe and kinda comfortable. These days I am more confident in my clothes, but I make a concerted effort to limit my wardrobe to a small number of things.
I said that I didn’t like “my hips,” and while it’s true that they probably look better now than they did then, the real reason I love them now is because of how many people have complimented me on my figure. I guess sometimes the easiest way to love yourself is to let someone else do it for you.
Other list items are still works in progress. In 2008 I was frustrated because “I have a bunch of useless crap in my room.” I would never say that now, but I still wish I owned less. I’ve already gotten rid of everything I consider to be “useless crap,” now it’s a matter of learning what perfectly good possessions I can live without.
I wouldn’t say that I’m “tired all the time” anymore, but I still struggle with my sleeping habits. I remember one fantastic summer back in junior high. I stayed home every day, dictating my own schedule by what I wanted to do. It turned out that part of what I wanted to do was stay up until just after midnight watching Star Trek:Voyager in syndication, and wake up just in time for old Matlock reruns at nine. Once I got used to the schedule, I was consistently falling asleep moments after hitting the pillow, and waking up without an alarm right before 9AM. It was beautiful, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to get back to that blissful sleeping schedule.
Finally there are the things I still don’t like about myself: I still have terrible posture – in some ways it’s even worse. I still never change my hair, despite always wishing it looked different. I still wish I had flexible hamstrings. I still check Facebook too much.
There were twenty items listed for what I didn’t like about myself, and only eight for what I did. But there was a qualitative difference between the Like and Don’t Like lists. The Like items were larger, more meaningful, less petty. More importantly, seven out of eight of the things I liked are still true. I still like my eyes. I still like that I’m articulate and independent and that I don’t flake out on people. I still like that I’m doing a lot. I still like my singing voice. I still like my writing.
I think one of the best things we can do is look back honestly on who we used to be. It’s a reminder that we haven’t always been right about everything, which means we might be wrong about something right now. It keeps us humble, it forces us to put more faith in others despite their flaws. That’s why I updated my Like/Don’t Like list, added a date, and stored it away again. Perhaps a future self will look back and find me laughably ignorant. She’s probably right.