On Being My Own Advocate and Demanding More

It does not escape me that in many situations, I am simply a hypocrite.

I tell others to take care of themselves while I skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I make sure my friends know that each and every one of them is nothing less than spectacular while I think of myself as no better than gum on the bottom of a dusty work boot. I ask — and even demand — that my loved ones practice self-care while I scarf down Kix cereal at an alarming rate and try not to slip under the current wave of anxiety and depression I’m wading in, using Netflix as my raft.

I preach and I preach and I preach.

I offer advice and whatever support I can, with virtually every scrap of counsel containing one theme: “Demand better for yourself.”

I want people to know that they deserve respect, love, attention, support, care, opportunity, and compassion. So I urge them to fight for themselves, in the hope that eventually they can get to the point where they love themselves completely, wholly, and without shame.

It’s not news to you this world tears us all down. You know that. I know that. We all know it. Because we’re all experiencing this same world at this same moment and space and time.

It’s not news to you that from a young age we are asked to put ourselves down. Between persistent messages about what is attractive and what is not, what is appealing and what is not, and what we should/shouldn’t do in order to be accepted and liked, we are constantly being told to change ourselves.

We are told that modesty is close to sainthood, and that self-deprecation is endearing. As such, confidence is mistaken for cockiness, self-respect confused for arrogance. In a competition, we like the “humble, down-to-earth” person who trash-talks themselves over the “conceited” person who is perhaps “too full of themselves.”

Well, no offense, but I think that’s total crap.

I would much rather we all think highly of ourselves, and know that we deserve respect, to be treated well, and to be loved. I’m not asking for a world full of Kanye’s here (Though, as you might expect, I love how much that guy loves himself). No. I think we can find a middle ground. Yes?

So I’ve started with the people around me. I talk them up, hoping that it’ll help them in some small way to realize that they should demand nothing but the utmost respect and very best for themselves.

And I’m tired of being a hypocrite while I do it.

In the past few years, and especially the last several months, I’ve come to realize that if everyone else deserves the very best in life, deserves to be treated with respect and deserves to be loved unconditionally, well, shit — so do I.

It’s been a long road to get here. They don’t tell you as a kid that the hardest challenge in life is going to be learning to appreciate yourself. Well, that and figuring out how to set the clock on your microwave.

For the majority of my short life thus far, I’ve allowed people to walk all over me.

I have been the person waiting for an alert, a chime/ring/buzz, and praying to entities I’m not sure I even believe in to make it so.

I have been talked over and talked down to by the people I’ve loved most.

I have been ignored by people whose phone calls I answer day or night — people for whom I leave my phone on 24/7 so that they may get the care/support/help they need at any and all times.

I have been put down, bullied, and cornered by people I cared for.

I have had people I trusted with everything give me panic attacks and leave me sobbing on my kitchen floor.

I have allowed others to make me feel like I am a hindrance, an obligation, an annoyance, something that would be more easily thrown in the garbage than loved and supported.

And I’ve had enough.

No more.

I refuse to spend one more day treating myself like the rights to respect, love, support, comfort, attention and opportunity do apply to me, and letting others treat me that way as a result.

Now, demanding better for myself is (obviously) not something I’m used to. This realization and subsequent decision have been extraordinarily difficult to digest because my natural state is close to martyrdom.

I’ve had to push myself outside of my boundaries and my oh-so-comfy comfort zone in order to stand up to people I never thought I could. I’ve had to accept that demanding more might mean losing people who are unable to reach my new standards (or simply refuse to). I’ve had to become okay with ruffling some feathers (something I’d previously avoided at all costs).

I’ve never much cared for the old adage that “you can’t really love someone else until you first learn to love yourself.” What I do believe is that you can’t really ask others to demand better for themselves when you refuse to first demand it for yourself.

So, here I go, off on a quest for better, for more. Won’t you join me? It’d be easier together, I think.



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