I like lists. On my desk at work I keep a list of things I need to do and another list of things I want to do. I use a grocery list at the store, made from the list of dinners planned for the week. I make and request lists for birthdays and Christmas. I read lists on the internet: best places to retire, small towns to visit, underrated films, recommended audiobooks. Now that I think of it, this blog is based on a book that is one big list. What I have never done is make a list of things I like about myself, but that is our first challenge of the new year: Make a List of 10 Things You Like About Yourself (then read it whenever you’re feeling down). As far as challenges go, this one seems much harder than it should be. For all of the talk about self-esteem and embracing who you are, we are fairly bad at this. So, even though this appears to be a very simple undertaking it’s fraught with fears, tears and unwelcome external input.
In my years of interviewing people for library positions sometimes we asked candidates to list three strengths and three weaknesses. This takes some finesse because you need to project confidence without arrogance and acknowledge weakness in areas that are not deal-breakers. I always hated this type of question. It feels so negative. If the goal is to help determine who is the best person for the job, it’s not helpful. Most people list the standard things that you should be good at in the workplace and then either wrap negative qualities in a positive manner or try to make positive things sound negative (“I work too hard.”) Once in awhile you’d get someone who was brutally honest in assessing their own weaknesses, but man, that is painful to witness, and crushing because although you admire the honesty, they aren’t getting the job. I’m guessing if we asked people to list 10 things they like about themselves it might be more revealing. Added bonus, if they didn’t get the job they could read the list to make themselves feel better.
When I thought about who I wanted to tackle this challenge with me my daughters, Elisabeth and Rachel, immediately came to mind. We FaceTimed on a cold Sunday evening to discuss our lists and had a great time talking about what it was like to be a kid, how our lists look now versus what they would have looked like as a kid, and whether this exercise has value. We all agreed that:
- It’s easier once you start
- Making a list as a younger kid, before middle school, would have been easier. Any list after that would be shorter and list different things
- Many of the things on our childhood list come from the external validation of others
- You must silence your inner voice because it wants to put qualifiers on everything
- It’s a valuable exercise both as an adult and as a kid
It would be helpful to recognize good qualities at times when you don’t like yourself.
As a 10-year-old, I’m guessing my list might look something like this:
10 Things I Like About Myself
- I am a good writer
- I can do a back handspring
- I am good in school
- I am good at drawing
- I am fast
- I am kind to animals
- I am a good swimmer
- I am a good dancer
- I am nice
- I am a good reader
My list today:
That’s my list. Nothing controversial, nothing amazing. If you cover your eyes you probably can’t remember 6 of the 10. And yet, I feel like I just stripped down to my underwear in front of you. It’s not a lack of confidence that makes constructing a positive list difficult. It’s the vulnerability. I made myself add two things I like about my physical appearance, too, neither of which I can take any responsibility for (qualifier!). Not because appearance is important but because a lot of women reserve their most brutal criticisms for their outward appearance. The biggest challenge in constructing this inventory is that the list of things I don’t like about myself rents a larger portion of my brain. For every item listed a little voice whispers objection or argument or an item to add to the list of things I don’t like about myself. I’d like to be better, do better, feel better, look better but I am happy to be me. I still like myself. Most of the time (qualifier!). How does confidence help you keep the negative gnats from blocking out your porch light? It’s a core belief in who you are and what you stand for. Elisabeth said that our discussion made her think about this quote, and I agree.
Now it’s your turn. Make your list. Don’t do it in a vacuum, get a partner or two, and whip one out. You don’t even have to share them with each other, or anyone. The list is just for you. Will I go back to my list when I’m feeling down? Maybe, but not necessarily for the items on the list. I will remember the process of making it and that memory will be filled with thoughts of time spent with my daughters, laughing and talking and just being. That is what will make me feel better.
Before you go…as honored as I am that I won the School Bus Safety contest in 4th grade, I have to admit that I did not ride the bus. I was a walker (also known as car rider). I have no idea what I included in my poster but something in the back of my mind believes the theme was pollution related…and I’m confident no one can prove me wrong. Thanks for reading! Next challenge: Make an Inspiration Board!
- Lived in Quantico, VA
- Favorite Toys: Bitty Babies, Bratz
- Future Career: Entrepreneur
- Preoccupied with: Pirates of the Caribbean
Currently preoccupied with: sewing
- Lived in Camp Lejeune, NC
- Favorite show: Lizzie McGuire
- Future Career: Nature Photographer/Teacher
- Preoccupied with: Lizzie McGuire
Currently preoccupied with: houseplants