I was at the neighborhood pool recently on a sparsely-populated day. Instead of losing myself in a book or napping amidst splashes and chatter, I found it difficult to focus in the relatively-quiet surroundings. So when the little boy playing in the pool spoke to his babysitter, I couldn’t help but hear their exchange:
Why are you laying on the chair?
Because the sun shines on me and makes me brown.
Do you like to be brown?
I don’t want to be brown. I like the way I am.
The few of us who were listening had a good chuckle, but his last sentence stuck with me: I like the way I am.
I wondered if his wisdom was a result of childhood innocence or healthy parenting, or both.
I tried to recall when (if ever) the last time was that I could truly say, I like the way I am.
I can’t honestly say without reservation that I like the way I am, but I can say I’m beginning to understand who I am.
I’m forever trying to improve my health and strength and weight. That’s not a bad thing—except, maybe, for all the years I took weight-loss pills. I made up my mind in January that I wouldn’t take them anymore. I wanted to get healthy in the healthiest way. Now I workout or run 5-to-7 days per week, and I eat healthy, mostly-clean foods (most of the time). I’m seeing progress, albeit slow, but progress just the same. Still, I can’t truly say that I like the way I am from a physical standpoint.
Of course, there’s the topic of liking who I am as a person…my personality, the essence of who I am. I’ve been doing a little reading and research on enneagram personality types (if you are familiar with them, I’m apparently a 4w5). I am a Type 4, The Individualist, also known as “The Sensitive, Introspective type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental.” Type 4s are “emotionally complex and highly sensitive.” They also tend to believe that “there is something fundamentally wrong with them.” As if that’s not enough to deal with, I also have a strong leaning towards the Type 5 (The Investigator), thus the 4w5. Basically, this means I’m an Individualist with a side of Investigator. Investigators are “Thinkers who tend to withdraw and observe.” Together, as a 4w5, they make The Bohemian, aka The Artist, who is “deep, intense, moody, disciplined, focused.” Folks, do you see what I’m working with? There’s not a whole lot to like here!
A little boy who hasn’t yet absorbed and internalized society’s standards of physical beauty, nor researched his personality type, announced with ease and confidence that he likes the way he is. Call it childhood innocence or naivety, but maybe he was exhibiting what we all once believed about ourselves before someone pointed out our flaws, shamed us, or told us we were supposed to be better or different. Maybe he was happy with himself because society hasn’t told him yet that he shouldn’t be.
While we can’t reclaim naivety or regain innocence, we can choose what and who we listen to by determining and setting boundaries. This morning, I heard someone on the radio talking about boundaries. She described boundaries as knowing what is okay for you and what is not okay for you. As long as we know those two things, we can, at least, gain peace. And I’m starting to think that inner peace is the key to liking the way we are.