In a TED Talk I was listening to the other day, the guest asked a question that had never before crossed my mind: Why are we so diligent about physical hygiene, but do next to nothing to take care of our minds? What can we do to condition our brain hair and swipe the deodorant on the armpits of our emotions? By making better analogies, for one, maybe.
But for another, we can make an effort to love ourselves.
This is incredibly hard. But incredibly worth any effort, no matter how small. Scroll on for a starter guide to being in control of your own happiness, for filling your head with rainbows, and for existing as the human form of the 😌 emoji—illustrated by the ever-talented Elliana Esquivel (her Instagram and Facebook, for the pleasure of your eyeballs).
Guess what? You have the power to carve out the space in your life that’s filled by people you actually like. It doesn’t matter if you make it a size that fits your handful of friends + favorite barista + extended acquaintances, or juuust big enough to fit your dog. I once had a friend who, whenever we would sit down together, would issue a constant stream of complaints about her life, the world, and everything in it. The negativity got so heavy that I’d sometimes leave our conversations feeling like I was carrying a giant tuba of negative emotions around all day. It’s one thing to be all ears for a friend who needs to unload general angst (we all do, and that’s what friends are for), but it’s another for that to 1. remain one-sided, and 2. become the only words exchanged in every one of your encounters.
Even though this girl had a good heart, and I tried hard to console her, it was time to carefully phase out the friendship to create more space for the people who brought out my smile and/or engaged in conversations about which U.S. president had the best hair.
There are so many reasons, guys. You’re alive, for one thing. Your heart is pumping blood in all the right directions, for another. Next time you wake up thinking “I SUUUUUUUCK TODAAAAAY,” first, stop that. Then, feed yourself some pancakes. But THEN, take out a writing utensil and piece of papyrus or stone tablet or whatever, and write down everything in your brain that you think makes you cool. Your obsession with Leonard Cohen is cool. The way you keep your sink INCREDIBLY CLEAN is cool. Your muffin baking skills are cool. Your ability to take the longest, deepest, cattiest naps is cool.
And when you’ve got the list, you can do one of two things: rip it up and throw it in the trash so that you can start fresh every time you need a reminder of just how COOL YOU ARE, or stash it in an old textbook to whip out whenever you need a reminder of just how COOL YOU ARE.
If you’re not comfortable with this, write it down in your brain. Next time you’re waiting in line, anticipating the eye twitch that will develop from the triple espresso you’re about to order, make a mental list (to start: your coffee order is badass).
The prospect of doing things and going places by yourself (that are usually done and frequented by a group) can be paralyzing. When did doing things by yourself get attached to the word “lame”? NO ONE IS LAME, and spending time alone is kind of the best thing ever. You’ll begin to realize that you like hanging out with yourself. You’re cool, remember?
See a movie, eat dinner, sit in the park, go to a museum; there are no expectations, no reason to feel self-conscious, and most of all, no one to steal bites of your food at dinner. Also, the popcorn’s all yours.
There’s no better way to work on your mind than to give your eyes and opposable thumbs some distance from the pixels. I’m not saying you have to go as far as taking a ferry to a remote island off the coast of Canada with only a pocket knife and dried fruit, launching your phone off the nearest cliff with a slingshot. Don’t unplug completely if you’re not into that idea (movies, TV shows, Trivia Crack are all okay), but try deleting your apps for Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat for a day here and there. There’s too much room for FOMO, jealously, and risk of getting sucked into a virtual world so deep that you miss what’s going on around you, right now.
Do you know how many times I could’ve walked right past Zach Braff in the park while I was drafting a tweet, instead of observing the beautiful trees, flowers, and pigeon crap around me? (Probably 0 times, but I’LL NEVER KNOW NOW, WILL I?)
Most humans are programmed to nope at the thought of performing for the general public (it’s science, and most humans care what most other humans think of them). But every single time I pass by someone singing along to their iPod (Does anyone still have an iPod? Plz advise), or dancing a little as they cross the street, all I think is how great it must feel to not give a rat’s ass about what the world makes of it. It’s so smile-inducing that I want to stop them mid-lyric, take their face in my hands, and say with conviction: “Your existence is delightful. Godspeed.”
I don’t, because respect for personal space, but next time you’re considering a public display of vocal chords, imagine me whispering that into your ear… so that one day we might transform the world into a giant compendium of JGL dance sequences.
This is one of the sweetest things you can do for your mind. What better version of yourself is there to forgive, to teach, to love, and maybe to warn about the food poisoning you’d get on your next birthday? Speaking to a more innocent, naive, and boogery version of yourself will leave you one thousand steps closer to being able to speak to yourself in the present.
When you’re finished, be reminded that the person to which the letter is addressed is no longer a boogery ten-year-old; it’s you. And if you can love that boogery ten-year-old, you can love yourself now.
Take pride in your opinions
Don’t ever settle for less than you deserve
Forgive yourself for your mistakes
Take care of your body and your mind
Never apologize for something that makes you happy (…as long as it’s not destructive to others, like a passion for popping water balloons in crowded subway cars. I SAW THIS HAPPEN.).
This is easier said than done, because comparison is the way we make sense of what’s going on around us. It’s how we tell trees from Chris Pratts, for example. In that case, it’s useful (to avoid making out with a tree), but most of the time, making comparisons is a complete waste of energy. This especially goes for what you see on Instagram, or even Twitter. The media you consume is curated, doctored, manipulated into something that’s sure as hell not reality. >I rest my case.<
But it also means not thinking you’re better than other people. This is equally wasted energy, and you can end up acting like a total butt if you’re not careful about concealing the competition bug. Write your papers the best you can write them not to see that you scored higher than your arch nemesis, but to be happy with your own effort. Do you job well not to climb the ladder past your coworkers, but to take pride in the finished product of your work.
YOU ARE THE ONLY YOU, citizens of District 13. No one holds the same things that you hold in your brain basket. You are unique. Painfully, beautifully unique. So instead of letting your precious energy slip away by comparing yourself to your friends, enemies, and house pets, or by striving to be someone you’re not, work on being the best version of yourself.