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What do you feel about you?

This might sound wrong, but I've often caught myself treating good-looking people better than others. And I've noticed others do this too. It's one of those things we know is inherently wrong but constantly find ourselves doing it subconsciously. It often means no harm (doesn't mean that it does no harm) but I felt there was something deeper to unwrap here. Something we all seem to either take for granted, or abuse it: how we feel about ourselves.

As weird as it may sound, I used to be super intimidated by extremely good looking people, especially women. Obviously, for no mistake of these gorgeous folks with a skincare routine. But I realized this was rooted in two things within me. First, I considered myself as ugly. And second, in my head, I always put people who looked good at a much higher rung than rest of us peasants. This phenomena vanished when I started seeing them as humans instead of mystical creatures who're perfect and would shun anyone who isn't.

Such seemingly vain aspect of our personalities dictate so much about how we perceive each other, and ourselves. I once stumbled upon a Reddit question that asked the challenges of being ugly and hundreds of answers were around how ignored they feel. And that obviously is correlated with how confident we feel about ourselves. We're so hard wired to impress others that we tend to obsess on things that we get impressed by.

The reason I'm talking about this is because we start extrapolating this one aspect of our personality towards things that have nothing to do with it. And I'm not even talking about our professional lives, where our level of qualification usually dictates the amount of confidence we feel. But this is just us as people, living our lives, grossly doubting every single thing about ourselves. It just happens to be that the way we look is the first proxy of how people judge us, in many cases our entire personality. And it makes us so conscious that we end up making it the center of our world.

I know I'm overweight, I know I have dark circles, I know I'm not super intelligent and I know how badly I pronounce croissant (or whatever it is called). There's no hiding it, either I'm trying to outgrow these frailties or learning to live with them. But being insecure about these and letting them come in the way of what I want is just reducing myself to the weaker parts of my personality. I understood this so late in life that I have let go of many things (& people) because I didn't feel the confidence in me to ask for what I want. It's so bold of us to assume things will just happen for us when we don't even have the courage to ask for it. And on top of that, to feel unfair when it doesn't happen.

An unfortunate outcome of this is also that we start feeling dismissive about our own personality and how we perceive the world. The thoughts, ideas and intentions that make us who we are get shadowed under the constant feeling that they're good for nothing. And it's a slippery slope from there. We start fitting in and begin substituting our thoughts with those of people we deem as more confident - ones who've apparently figured everything out for themselves. Our entire personality then gets reduced to what we see and hear to ape others rather than being a channel for our inner self to shine.

In this phase of letting my inner self shine, I've started publishing personal essays online. How does someone who had written and deleted an entire novel get the confidence to put these essays out? Now, I honestly don't care about how I'll be perceived because of what I write, nor am I looking for any validation out of this. I value the high I feel after publishing a satisfactory essay more than what a stranger might make out of it. That gives me the freedom to say things I otherwise wouldn't have had the courage to. I would some day like to extend this level of selfishness to other facets of life as well, where I stop feeling the weight of other's perception upon everything I do and just do it.

I've also come to realize that public perception doesn't make us any better or worse as people. At best, it's just a lens we have of other's opinions of us. The problem begins when we start using this lens to calibrate our inner self worth. And these opinions can never make us feel adequate, they're not meant to.

Having said all of this, I still feel my heart beat out of my chest before sending a risky text or asking for what I want or doing many of the zillion things that need even an iota of confidence. The only difference is now I somehow try to pull the trigger while my heart continues to shout at the top of its voice to save myself of some familiar humiliation.

While we pull the trigger, the key also is to know the places where we derive our confidence from and being okay with it. I was almost in denial about what gives me confidence, thinking I can't be so vain and superficial, I'm above all this. But things changed when losing a few kilos of weight did more for my self confidence than anything else. Things changed when wearing good clothes and being well groomed made me feel better about myself no matter how trivial I thought these were. So it's okay to source our confidence from something very deep within ourselves or something very superficial and still not feel guilty about any of it.

Almost everything in life becomes easier when we have the right amount of confidence. We attract better opportunities, we make good friends, we stand up for what we need and most importantly, we feel good about ourselves. Keeping everything constant, sheer confidence can positively change outcomes for a lot of things in life.

It was a strange realization but things for which I used to victimize myself was me just avoiding the courage it often takes to stand up for myself. I still struggle at this but atleast now I realize I'm being taken for granted and can decide to do something about it. A big change from pretending to be normal without any confrontation while my self-respect was being whooped.

Now it's easy to say coming-of-age phrases like love yourself, but that love gets meaning only when we truly believe we deserve it. And to deserve it, there has to be a strong anchor upon which we uphold ourselves, time and again. An anchor that genuinely believes we're worthy enough of everything good in life. An anchor that gives us bursts of courage to make first moves when life demands it. An anchor that prioritizes ourselves more than other's perception of us. An anchor that holds us strong when the vain aspects of our personality start taking over who we are as a person.

So let's hold on to this anchor for now while we figure out how to pronounce croissant the right way or continue to lose weight or obsess over how we look if that is what allows us to feel good about ourselves. Or let's just learn to do it anyway while being perfectly aware of these imperfections.


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