I Am Perfect, Why Aren’t You?

What ever follows I AM will come looking for you, because we become who we believe ourselves to be.

As parents, our children first learn from us what words to put after I AM.

Will they learn to say I AM messy, disorganized, ornery, spirited, stubborn, a hands full, or I AM Courageous?

Will our children learn to say I AM a princess, a spitfire, a drama queen, a little dictator, a brat, bossy, a pain, or I AM Ambitious?

Words of I AM first become our armor, eventually becoming our skin, and by adulthood, they are our soul. Every time we hear or say I AM, we become exactly what follows.

I was always told from a young age that I am stubborn, headstrong, bold, daring, thick-skinned, strong-willed, precocious, creative, wordy, spacey, disorganized, a mess, forgetful, flighty, fair-weather and a little chunky. Don’t get me wrong. There were also I AMs like kind, smart, and friendly too, but for the life of me I have never understood why those latter ones got buried underneath the uglier ones for so long. And for many years into my adult life, I carried all of these words with me in my box of I AMs. I accepted and wore them as my truth. I could still hear them being said about me, and by the voices who had initially said them. And as I aged, I learned every synonym for each of them. Over time, my list of I AMs grew to included my own expansion- a disaster, a failure, a wreck, unforgiving, haughty, stuck up, cold, callous, a survivor, a liar, a manipulator, and sometimes, a little funny.

I began to find that the more I embraced the I AMs I was given as a child, the more confusing it felt to display the opposite characteristics without often questioning their authenticity. One big one for me was discovering that I AM in fact, not thick-skinned, tough or head strong, as I had been told countless times in my youth. I AM sensitive. very sensitive, in fact perhaps overly sensitive at times, and my sensitivity is something I have masked with being stubborn, callous, and funny to protect the real I AM. I know today that I am strong. But strength, I have learned, does not come from being hard and tough and closed off. It comes from being vulnerable and open to finding and accepting the wisdom and support of others. Its about believing in, and embracing your good qualities, while acknowledging your bad qualities as weak points in the walls; in order to build yourself up into a solid strong foundation, free from being easily swayed by the negative winds and certain hardships of life that will surely come to try to blow you down.

I went through a very muddy period in my life about a decade ago. I was making a lot of dingy choices, based on a lot of early given I AMs. The choices didn’t ever feel quite right, but I was convinced this was who I was, who I must be, who I had become after a lifetime of being told I AM. After all, wasn’t I the bold, daring, stubborn, headstrong, disorganized, always running away, messy screw up? And so, If the shoe fit?.. I recall I used to even say a lot during that era of my life, “Well hell, if I’m already guilty as charged, I might as well get to enjoy the reason for my sentence and experience it to the fullest!” What a powerful statement of I AM when I think back to it. Because you know what? I did. I am not proud of those times. I began living up to all of the negative I AMs I had been given, stifling the positive ones, and eventually was giving myself the I AM of deserving negativity and worthlessness.

Somehow one day, after a time of living the I AMs I thought I was, I woke up and realized that I felt compelled to try something different. I had a need to start listening to the genuine I AMs buried somewhere down in there. The ones I had been ignoring about myself in all those quiet moments with only my thoughts, when my guilt and shame and feelings of disconnect would rise up just a tiny bit and say, “Hey, you know you’re not really any of the things you claim to be by living out right? I AM good. I AM strong. I AM better than this. I AM waiting for you to realize I deserve better. I AM worthy of being the person who I create, not the person who was created out of that old box of labels.” Shoot, that little voice had a lot of nerve to say so much! And for reasons I truly cannot explain to you now, I decided to give that little voice a chance. And just like that, things started to turn around and the who I AM of today started to grow.

I AM not perfect. Let’s get that out there right now. I AM very much a work in progress. However, from that time period to this, I have shed many of those negative words and replaced some of them with my own genuine, authentic, evolved self-assessments and honest realizations. I AM here. I am a fighter. I AM a ball of sensitivity. I AM vulnerable. I AM brave. I AM loving. I AM flawed. I AM loyal. I AM a protector, I AM a leader. I am funny! I AM insightful. I AM creative. I am not actually the best, but I love my effort. I am not always consistent. I am not always kind with my delivery, but almost always well-intending. I am hot tempered. I AM committed to learning to be slow to anger. I AM crushed when I feel abandoned. I AM haunted by the memories of those I’ve hurt. I am still learning how to exhibit true forgiveness, for myself and for others. I AM working on patience. I AM working on showing my honest self without fear of judgment. I AM trying to allow myself acceptance of my own faults and show grace for others’ as well. I am a little chunky, and this one can stay, because I like myself this way. I AM happy. I am truly beautiful on the inside, and appreciate that I was graced with a nice-looking appearance on the outside. And I AM no longer ashamed or diminished by other’s insecurities while around me and my strengths. My only wish is they’d see their own qualities apart from comparison. I AM a good friend. I AM real. I AM strong, only because I have learned to admit that I am not strong on my own. I am a work in progress, but I am certain of my direction.

i-am-enough

As a parent, I have four more opportunities to impart what it is to find and become I AM. Its tough when there are so many viewpoints on how to raise “healthy” well adjusted kids these days in the face of a world of look at me, and overly opinionated I AMs. So my plan has been this. I try to remember every day to speak into truth to each of my babies, that they are beauties. That is my word, borrowed from my grandfather, to tell each of these humans in my care that they are Good. They are worthy, they have the potential to be amazing because they are amazing. I tell them they are perfect. Then we laugh. I explain they aren’t actually perfect, but who is? I tell them they are perfect to me and that I believe in them, so they need to walk with their heads held high and believe they are perfect to themselves. Now go ahead, read that and think up all the ways my I AMs for my children are damaging and unrealistic in society’s distortions of equality and intense preoccupation with deflation of ego. We live in a world where its encouraged to take people down a notch when they get too high, right? That you don’t deserve the trophy just for showing up. That you better not stick your neck out above the crowd and be proud of yourself in front of others, because who are you anyway? Well I wholeheartedly disagree. My goal is to raise each of my children to say I AM the BEST. That is not a comparison to anyone else, that is just a statement of themselves, to carry with them always and build a strong foundation of I AMs within as they grow. I want them to be the best they can be because they are the best in my eyes. They heard this I AM first, and my hope is that they will be this I AM in their journey.

I AM.

Trying. Not perfect. Content. Beautiful. Happy. Giving. Optimistic.

Who are you?

sunset Jenny Bennett
Photo credit: Life is Swell Photography. Jenny Bennett