I crunched on a deliciously salty tortilla chip covered in fresh, spicey salsa and thought about how I shouldn’t be eating it. I had had a big lunch and really wasn’t that hungry for dinner, but I love Mexican food… I kept crunching and looked across the table at my date… my mom! Her day had been spent thinking about our upcoming move, her church activities, her daughters, and work. We sat in silence for a while (except for the chip crunching of course) before I asked:
“Mom, what do you admire most about yourself?”
She looked up at the ceiling in thought. “Well, I don’t admire—”
“No,” I interrupted, “I asked what you admired.”
She looked back up at the ceiling. “Well, I like that I can look at a situation and see a simple and efficient solution. No matter how frazzled others are, I stay calm under pressure. I’m pretty savvy, too, especially in business. People really trust that I know what I’m doing.”
True, true, true! I love all of those things about my mom. I’ll also add, I admire her sharp technology skills. Whenever that blue screen of death appeared on my laptop (pre Mac years), I’ve always had my own personal Geek squad—which is pretty amazing!
When she asked me the same question, I was unprepared. I had asked the question in a spontaneous attempt to break a limited pattern of thought that was turned inward on “shouldn’t haves.”
I thought a while. I, too, admire that the more panicked a situation, the calmer I become—no doubt due to my mom’s example. I also admire that I’m an especially happy person at work. I work in a stark college testing center where students begrudgingly roll in to take their required assessments. It’s not my dream job, but I come in every morning with a genuine smile. And, guess what? Smiles are contagious! Not only do I see frowns turn upside down, I even get people to chuckle sometimes—especially when I send them into the testing room saying, “Happy testing!”
So what does it mean to admire anyway? According to the American Heritage Dictionary it means, “To regard with pleasure, wonder, and approval” and the Macmillan Dictionary defines it as “To have a feeling of great respect for…”
How often do we find ourselves caught up in a to-do list or in tallying our “should and shouldn’t haves” during the day? I often find myself so focused on my routine, my day, and my productivity (or lack thereof) that I forget to step back and celebrate how wonderful we all are. Unfortunately, we’re programmed to think it’s vain to admire ourselves. What’s more, it seems that bashing and criticizing ourselves (and even others) is almost a reflex. My mom’s first response to the question was what she didn’t admire about herself. But I honestly can’t think of a single person I know who’s not amazing and beautifully unique. And if the Bible says we’re “wonderfully made,” why shouldn’t we regard ourselves with wonder and approval?
To regard yourself “with pleasure, wonder, and approval” and to have “great respect” for yourself should be natural. Each color of a rainbow expresses brightness and loveliness, yet red doesn’t look like yellow. In the same way, each of us expresses intelligence, beauty, and creativity in individually glorious ways. It’s time to see past all those glaring flaws, and it’s time to give each other permission to marvel at ourselves.
What if we lived in a world where people knew their greatness and celebrated it? This celebration doesn’t include arrogance but joy and freedom. If we all recognized our greatness every day, think how much more inspired we’d be. I guarantee we’d have less “down days,” less regret, and less conflict—with ourselves and each other because we wouldn’t be focused on inadequacy but on our limitless potential for good. We’d acknowledge and utilize to the fullest our individual talents every day. That sounds pretty cool!
But first we have to give ourselves and each other permission. Ask someone today what they admire about themselves—give them permission to regard themselves with pleasure. And if you feel down, stressed, stuck in routine, or even happy take a moment to think of the qualities you most admire about yourself. I’m giving you permission right now! Step back to regard yourself with “pleasure, wonder, and approval.” Nourish the “great respect” you should have for yourself always. You have every right!