Sooooo, I kinda gotta hand it to the Biebs on this one. Unbeknownst to him, he might have hit the nail on the head with the message in that chorus. “Cause if you like the way you look that much oh baby you should go and love yourself. If you think that I’m still holding on to something you should go and love yourself.” Though the context is different the message is still very much valid. My over assumed value to others and/or my want and need to be valued by others is just an extension of my need to go and love myself.
Being a boy mostly raised by women (my mother and sisters) shaped me in ways different from boys with brothers and a perma-dad. Growing up Pentecostal in the 80’s through the mid 90’s shaped me differently than those raised in other faiths or no faith whatsoever. Being raised as a black kid in predominately white neighborhoods was an experience. I looked different than the people I spent the most time around (the neighborhood kids) and acted and spoke differently than the people I looked the most like (school friends).
“Some people are going to like you, some people are going to love you, some people are not going to like you at all, and some people may even despise you. You might as well be yourself. That way, at least you will know that the people who like you, like you for who you truly are.” - Matthew Kelly from The Rhythm of Life
I was teased by the black kids at times for how I talked and dressed. I didn’t really understand why my religion didn’t permit me to be or do many of the things good people who also loved God were able to do. I saw everyday how the white families lived and the things they did that my family didn’t and I was jealous of my friends with other males in their daily lives. As a result I adjusted myself, even lied at times to better fit the environment I was in and not feel so different. All of my negative experiences I felt had some direct tie to my being different. Either they happened because I was different or because they happened, I became even more different.
Believing I was different and damaged prompted me to seek wholeness in outside approval. I achieved this with an alter ego. Ben Gear was me but that guy was a lame with issues so I created B.G. a much more ‘cool’ and confident person. People responded to B.G., he was a man of the people. He was fearless in new situations and met everyone, related to all, and tried to enhance the overall experience around him. But that wasn’t enough, I got greedy and confidence turned into arrogance and that arrogance produced “Geezy” (pronounced Jeezy), an over the top conceited asshole. He wasn’t a man of the people, he was a man above the people. A center of attention, selfish, user of anyone and anything that could push his agenda of being better than anything resembling the normal human condition. Geezy was the necessary antithesis of Ben Gear, my authentic self, because he represented the not different and damaged person I hated being.
“Uncover, discover and discard” is the purpose of all twelve of the steps in AA. The fourth step forced me to delve into all of my issues, the root causes and conditions. There, I was able to see what and how I had been wronged/damaged. I don’t like either of those terms because they connote victimization and there is no ownership in victimhood. Having done the work, I was able to see where my thinking inaccurately shaped my self-worth, which defined my wants and needs, thus charging my actions and reactions...and the creation of someone like “Geezy.” Overall, this reshaped how I perceived myself within those situations.
Different is not a bad word.
My longing to ‘fit in’ wasn’t unnatural, what I was trying to fit in to was. I’m sure my white best friend probably had thoughts about his best friend being black. I’m sure other families saw things about my family that they were envious of. I hadn’t yet realized that everyone has different experiences and that having different experiences is actually what unifies us all as humans.
My experiences in life shaped me to be the person I am today. It is impossible to deny those experiences, they are my truths, so it is pointless to try. Actually, trying to deny them has proven to be more damaging because it sent me into a cycle of inadequacy. Everything different than me seemed better and necessary for happiness, so I strove to be everything I wasn’t. Once I reached it I saw something else I wasn’t and went after that. I chased and most times became everything I wanted, except happy with myself.
“At every moment you choose yourself. But do you choose your self? Body and soul contain a thousand possibilities out of which you can build many I’s. But in only one of them is there a congruence of the elector and the elected. Only one, which you will never find until you have excluded all those superficial and fleeting possibilities of being and doing with which you toy, out of curiosity, wonder or greed, and which hinder you from casting anchor in the experience of the mystery of life, and the consciousness of the talent entrusted to you which is your I."- excerpt from the diary of Dag Hammarskjöld.
Growth, adaptation, and change are all good things, I still try to pursue them all everyday. The difference from me then and me now is that I am trying to grow from my truth rather than away from it.
Though society promotes a specific archetype of the aesthetic that defines attractiveness; one of which I certainly do not meet, I am not ugly. Though there are scholars among whom know a lot about everything, I am not stupid. Though I’ve been through a bunch of shit that really sucked and negatively impacted my opinion of self and in turn my behaviors, I am not damaged.
I am person who has seen successes and made mistakes. I am a person who has helped people as well as harmed them. I am a person who feels on top of the world some days and lower than dirt on others. I am a person who has had experiences, good and bad. I am just a person, and every other person has had exactly every feeling I have. They were just produced from varying of experiences. Therefore, I am no better or worse than anyone that has, does, or ever will exist. I need not define my value by my experiences but by the resolve I exercise after them.
I try, really really try, to keep at the forefront of my mind that there are no good or bad sides to me; there is just ME, simultaneously flawed and perfect. If I can remember that, then I can form relationships from the most authentic self I have available to me at that time. The people who welcome that version of me will be the same people who will help me see and address the areas that need improvement. When I accept that all the parts of me make me wholly human, I can start to like and eventually grow to love myself. I won’t need anyone to make me feel good about who I am and no one will be able to make me feel bad about it either.
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”- Marilyn Monroe.
This is true as it pertains to the people I attempt to allow access to my life that choose to not be in it, unless I’m a-okay. But if I can’t handle me at my worst, I will never be able to access me at my best to offer to anyone else to be apart of. Understanding that everyone will not be a good fit for the best version of myself nor I for theirs is a truism that needs acknowledged and embraced.
Ben Gear is a brilliant idiot, a hideous beauty, an egomaniac with an inferiority complex, and damaged perfection. There is zero to hate and an infinite number of things to improve and that is what makes me Perfectly Imperfect. That is what makes me human. Since I will never be anything else(but human)“...I should go and love myself.”
...and so should you.