"I Am What I Am and That's All That I Am."

...says Popeye the Sailor Man

This is what I sometimes say to myself…not a bad statement from a humility standpoint. After all, if I’m honest with myself, “I’m just another Bozo on the school bus of life!” In fact, in my opinion, being humble is one of the greatest and most recognizable traits of emotionally healthy people. It allows for self-deprecating humor which -- as a dyed-in-the-wool Irishman -- is my favorite way to laugh.

On the other hand, this does not mean I advocate for low self-esteem or thinking of yourself as “less than.” Personally, I don’t want to hate myself; be afraid of my shadow (certainly Popeye was a great example of a character who always took on life fearlessly!); and I certainly don’t want to experience each day as a chore to complete.

This is all because self-love is so important to me…not self-aggrandizement on the one extreme or self-flaggelation on the other. For me, it’s important to avoid these extremes because, if I don’t love and take care of myself, how can I expect anyone else to love me or to witness the best of what I can be?

I believe that each of us was given at least one God-given talent, and usually, if we take the time to find it and give ourselves a break, we usually have many. I also think that this is one of the biggest spiritual tasks of life – finding out what that gift to the world is and “being it” to the best of our ability.

One time, years ago, when I was very depressed and beating up on myself, I was house sitting for my best friend who was abroad for a couple of weeks. I had gone over to her house to check on things one Sunday afternoon and, much to my horror, her basement had about three inches of water from a severe rainstorm the night before.

My self-critic was in full bloom – always happens when I’m depressed! – and I was having one of those days when I hated just about everything about myself. But after wishing I could run in the other direction or, at the very least, call in Roto-Rooter, I took a small cooking pot and slowly but single-handedly cleaned up that mess – took me about an hour and a half of hard labor to do it.

On my walk home – I only lived a short distance away - I actually said to myself, “You may be a loser in every other way, but you ARE a good friend.” And I swear, that recognition was enough to make me feel better about myself for at least one day – if I couldn’t be anything else worthwhile, I could always be a good friend and, as a matter of fact, I always have been.

But back to the Popeye thought – “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” -- where he loses me with his famous slogan is: he also seems to be suggesting that he could never change. And, THAT’s a thought to which I adamantly take exception.

As my friend, Linda Levine, a highly skilled DC therapist, says on her website:

“The great news is this: neuroscience tells us that the brain canchange and lay down new tracks at any age.”

What a wonderful notion…it means that I can shift from being miserable to being happy; I can shift from self-loathing to self-love; I can even shift from being a self-centered good-for-nothing to one of service to my fellow man. I can turn towards self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, and most of all I can choose to be my magnificent self – which is all God ever asks of us anyway.

Thank you, Universe – this is great news for even the most miserable, cantankerous, resentful and vindictive of us all. There is always hope because changing is just a thought away…I LOVE that concept and hope to practice it until my dying day.


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