One fine morning, I woke up and decided to love and accept myself just the way I am.  It was one of the worst decisions I ever made in my life.

I loved myself through long days of eating junk food and watching TV, until I became overweight and unhealthy.  I was too lazy to work out–well, what of it?  I was the type who liked to spend her day on the couch, and I accepted myself that way.  I accepted my unemployed self, too–not all of us are a good fit for a regular job, after all.  And who was I to force my special inner child to do things it didn’t want to do?  Anyway, I was going to be a writer.  Never mind that I wasn’t writing anything, forever waiting for inspiration to strike.  Truth is, I wasn’t doing a goddamn thing except mooching off my very patient family.  But to admit this would have meant being critical of myself.  And criticizing yourself was bad and mean.

So I loved myself right into sloppiness and mediocrity and low expectations.  And one day, I realized I didn’t like myself anymore.  And it was freeing.  I looked at my existence and thought “Um…I’m kind of a loser.”  It felt great to say this out loud.  Now that I was no longer delusional about who I was, I could start to work on my life and make it better.

I’ve come a long way since then, but I make sure to remind myself of that time once in a while, when it seems like my standards may be slipping again.  Not to get all New Age cheesy about it, but the Universe gave me a learning experience about just how pathetic I’m capable of being.  I have learned and I’ve moved on, but I will still say, in my best Grumpy Cat voice: “I don’t love myself…GOOD.”

If I post a picture of myself wearing a fashionable hat, will I be fabulous?

If I post a picture of myself wearing heels, will you love me?

If I post a picture of myself having drinks at the bar, will my life be exciting?

If I post a picture of me and my boyfriend grinning into the camera, will my relationship be happier?

If you Liked me, does that mean you like me?

If I post about how much I love myself, will I love myself?

If I’m having one of those days when I’m curled up in a ball in my room, but I still drag myself to the computer and post about how fantastic my day is, will my day be fantastic?  Will I be accepted?  Will I become one of you?  Will you give me the secret password to your world?  If I keep talking, will what I say mean something to you?

Or will I turn off the computer and go sit in the sunlight in my garden, where I don’t have to be anyone or say anything?  What’s on my mind right now?  Absolutely nothing, and it’s beautiful.

Something that’s been difficult for me to get used to since coming to the States has been all that boundless optimism.  Not that optimism is a bad thing, not at all.  But in America it gets a little over the top.  It seems there’s always another inspirational story of the person who just lost her home and job, lost both her legs in a car accident and was diagnosed with a terminal illness, but still managed to crawl her way through a Marathon using only her arms to pull herself along, with a big smile on her face.  Even though she was homeless, she still managed to collect enough donations to participate!  And the key phrase in these tales:  “And she never complained.”

Well, maybe she should have complained.  I’m just saying.  Of course endless bitching doesn’t do anything for you, but it’s human to complain when you’re in a bad situation.  It’s a bit Stepford Wife-like to go through it with a fake smile plastered on.  It gets even worse when this concept is used in the “We are the 49%” context.  Remember that website—it was supposed to be the conservative response to the “whining”of Occupy Wall Street, and it was filled with stories like “I have to work 3 jobs just to survive, I get no health benefits and I sleep in a garage.  And I never complain, you wimps!”  Well, again, you *should* complain.  If you’re getting screwed over by the society you live in and you don’t complain, you’re not an optimist, you’re a doormat.  Not to mention that if the things which are happening around you are dishonest and morally wrong, not to complain is to comply with whatever is going on.  If I were a cynical European (heh), I could even say that the optimism myth is used to keep people passive…nahhh, right?  “No matter how much they’re stomping on you, act happy!  Smile!”

Okay, so I should add that my attitude toward American optimism is not that completely…well, pessimistic.  Some of my difficulties come from the way I was raised.  When I was a little girl and my parents would get together with their friends, their favorite activity, besides chain-smoking through the night, was that of making witty quips about the meaninglessness of life, and how it always ends in disaster.  It’s not that they were gloomy—they would spend plenty of time laughing at the absurd joke that was human existence.  I guess you can’t blame them for doing so in the drabness of the Soviet bloc, but this kind of cynicism is a general Euro-habit.  I’m automatically suspicious of too much positive thinking…there *can’t* be a happy ending to all of this.

I’m not saying this was a good way to grow up, and I like how determined Americans are, how they believe they can achieve greatness and that no matter what obstacles are thrown in their path, if they put in their best effort, they can overcome them.  That is the good side of American optimism, and a quality I admire.  I just hate to see the powerful using the innate optimism of this country’s citizens to hoodwink them.  I like Americans too much to watch this happen to them…without complaining about it.