But you have to define yourself as something more than “not that”
Don’t let anyone tell you who the hell you are
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be open to feedback and self-awareness and self-improvement and growth, because you definitely should. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t shut everyone down when they make observations or real-time suggestions.
But when it comes to telling you who you get to be or what you’ll do, the only one with final say on that is you.
Their authority is what we’ve given them
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
We give others authority on our future the minute we care more about what they think than what we do, or when we frame what we want by what they want, or if we can’t even know what we want without thinking about external markers — which is actually what others want, and gives them back the authority to tell us yes or no.
Reject the limitations we’ve already accepted to date
That is the first and most important step — but arguably not yet the most difficult.
We’ve already accepted a number of limitations as truths — what we can and should do on basis of our parent’s income bracket, or our gender, or race, or age. And some of these limitations are real, but living into them is a thing we choose.
As a woman, I’m expected to be attractive. As a woman who actually is attractive, I’m expected to acknowledge this as the highest compliment I could be paid — my highest calling in life, with my daily tasks set to maintaining it (against reality, setting me and all women up for a game of inevitable sadness) and my highest goal to secure a husband in good standing — before my hotness “hits a wall.”
But I am not here to fulfill that expectation or validate that view.
But — important: shape your life as something more than a fight
We can’t just spend our lives framed by the inverse.
We spend so much time living our lives in reference to how others default-define us — either living in accordance to these standards, or spending all our time setting up dogged philosophical fences against them, developing heartfelt explanations and ideals around all those standards we don’t want and why — and instead of actually pursuing our own thing, we’re still living framed by others (this time just “no” instead of “yes.”)
I overall reject the “beauty” standards — or at least refuse to measure my daily life by them — I also make the mistake of thinking philosophically about rejecting the “beauty” standards too much— rather than filling those standards (and my life’s time) in with something constructive.
We have to choose a better framework
For ourselves. Something positive, not negative. Something constructive, not something simply in contrast to something else. Not simply a fight.
Writer Jamie Varon:
“The freedom lies in choice. Of beginning a new story for ourselves… This is empowerment. This is when we begin to change. This is when we stop from destructing our lives and ourselves and begin to build. To build and to build.”
We free ourselves when we start challenging our limitations.
But we only make ourselves happy when we replace those limitations with something more than the act of “challenging” or fighting them.
Self-awareness becomes the weapon against our own misery.
But self-growth through action is the tool to actually pursue happiness, and not merely be left with a void.
We have to build something more than a wall; win something more than a battle.
We are capable of amazing things — but “amazing” is about taking the second step. After adamantly choosing “no,” we have to also choose a “yes.”