(Warning: Strong language ahead!)
I used to think that everyone else had a perfect life.
Everyone else had a perfect life, and mine was shit.
More importantly, I was shit.
Yes, everyone was perfect, and I was doody.
I thought this until I was 27 years old.
And now I know others think this, too.
Recently, I was talking to a friend who was revealing her inner critic’s voice: “You are a screw up. No one else would screw up as badly as you do. Look at what a mess you are. Fuck up, fuck up, fuck up.” She truly believed that no one else would “let” themselves get to where she was in her life.
No one else was as inadequate.
No one else was doing “it” wrong.
And I laughed.
And said, “Honey, your critic is a douchey little nose troll.”
And I told her the secret.
We all are damaged. And dark. And scary. And deeply, deeply flawed.
Everyone has baggage. Some of it is purple. Some of it is daddy-related. Some of it is hugged-too-much. Some of it is loved-not-enough. Some of our baggage is heart-shaped, or head-shaped, or even toe-shaped (yes, I have known toe-shame. Seriously).
The point is that whatever shape our own inner shame/critic/baggage takes, we all have it.
I should have a better job. I should make more money. I should be married, with 2.3 children, and own a home, and an ethically appropriate dog, and car, and appropriately organic pantry and laundry system.
I should be thinner. I should be more toned. My cellulite is disgusting, my tummy is not tight enough, and if I get any softer and squishier, no man will ever want to sleep with me again. People will laugh at me if I show any skin. Perhaps I should adopt another religion, for benefit of wearing full ceremonial dress?
I am so stupid. Who do I think I am? I am such a fuck up. Why do I even bother?
I am so, so lonely. I don’t deserve anyone’s love.
I used to like to look at people and imagine their lives. This became much more fun when social media was introduced as an every day/every hour thing, because it became much easier to torture myself, and it was especially fun before I realized that everyone is fucked up, because I envisioned their lives as perfect—she has a perfect marriage, he is so loved and cherished, their family is so lucky, I bet no one makes them cry at Christmas dinner, she probably never hates her body.
She is perfect. And I am doing it wrong.
And then, slowly, I started to quiet my own douchey little nose troll critic.
First, I wished that I could keep my good bits—nice smile, funny humor, tiny and adorable ears, make good coffee—but get rid of my fucked up bits—body shame, intense dislike of paperwork and chores, fierce introversion— and mold myself into a perfect Kristin.
And then, even more slowly, I started to realize that all of my bits made me into a perfectly, wonderfully, complete, somewhat fucked up Kristin. No one is as uniquely, awesomely, fantastically screwed up as me. In all my own little ways. Quirks and quarks and idiosyncrasies and moonbeams.
And now, instead of categorizing them as good or bad, I see them all, simply, as Kristin.
Kristin Nicole Aloysius Monk—
I have an intense, debilitating fear of moths. All of the moths should die. Despite the impact on the ecosystem, and the planet, and the peach trees. I don’t care, but if one touches me, or comes into my peripheral vision, god help us all.
I will wear the same pair of harem pants, every day, in the privacy of my own home, or grocery store, or yoga studio, until they smell.
I love to taste all of the pies—the yoga pie, the surfing pie, the skydiving pie, the road trip pie. All of the experiences I can that will not actually kill or maim me (or have small probabilities of doing so).
I am extraordinarily kind. I’m not going to give you a list of deeds, because that takes away from them, doesn’t it? But I am.
And exceptionally introverted. Like, please understand that if I don’t recharge, I will probably melt. And have to spend a week by myself. To recharge, from all of the uncharging.
I am intensely loyal. And I’m from New Jersey, so if you mess with someone I love, I suggest running. Quickly.
No, but for real.
Finally, realizing that Kristin cannot be a list.
Because I change. Every day. Sometimes, several times a day.
I am good. I am bad. I am happy, and I am sad (I am a poet!).
I’m not interested in being perfect anymore. In getting it “right.”
I can do my best as me, and you know what?
That is perfect.
And so are you.
Believe it. I believe in you.
Go tell your own self-critic he is a mean jerk.
And we’ll make it through—together.
After all, we can’t all be doing it wrong… right?
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photos: elephant archives