On Being Enough: An Open Musing (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my open musing on being enough. To read part 1, check out my previous post.

Now that we acknowledge the growing pains of striving, how do we balance this from a perspective of self?

In more concrete, personal terms: should I start dressing differently?

The answer to this is more complicated than as it applies to accepting that at some point, we’ll encounter a rough patch on the way to getting where we want to be.

Following from my interpretation of what was likely an innocuous statement with exaggerated wording as an all-out assault on my self-esteem, I found myself scanning through the racks of Zara Men at the mall near my family’s house in Illinois. I grabbed a swath of clothes: some which I thought actually looked nice, and others which (in a true sign of the times) I perceived to be what the cool kids wore.

I discovered two things.

First, Zara’s clothing is largely not meant for someone of my build.

Second, when I finally squeezed myself into what felt to be an absurd definition of a size medium, I looked ridiculous in the “cool kid” clothes. And I felt ridiculous. I didn’t see myself in the dressing room mirror; I saw myself in a costume.

Things I don’t usually say about myself when trying on clothes.

This was the sort of critical eye I wished I’d had when I looked at myself in the dimly lit changing stall that defined my early high school fashion experience — I’m convinced that the cologne soaking the store’s air had some sort of mind-altering substance woven into its chemistry convincing me that yes, I did look so laid back and effortless and stylish and so essentially Californian.

Never mind that I had only been there twice prior to starting my freshman year.

As I interpret it, the realm of fashion is one of self-expression. It signals to the outside world who we are, what we’re like, what our tastes are, what music we might listen to, answering a myriad of questions about our personalities without having to utter a word.

In my last decade of self-discovery, it’s become abundantly clear that trying to fit myself into another’s mold doesn’t work for the same reasons that my Zara experience was such a spectacular boondoggle — if something out of character doesn’t work outright, it feels disingenuous.

This is why an idea of one’s best self is important: it’s without a sense that one is inhabiting a life that’s any other than their own, and imbues a sense of true confidence that could not exist without a sense of self-acceptance. So I might wear a suit in a cut and a color I love, paired with a shirt and tie combination that’s at once thought-provoking and pleasing to the eye — a stark contrast from what I typically wear, but still true to myself.

It’s this best-foot-forward approach that works to partially stem outcome-dependent mindsets. It’s why on a recent audition for an improv troupe, I walked in feeling mightily underprepared, and proceeded to bomb in a most spectacular fashion.

The next morning, I was laughing about it with my coworkers, taking complete joy in what had befallen the night prior.

How?

Acting and artistic expression are two things I hold most dear, which can be confirmed by any who have come to know me beyond environmental context. Naturally, the thinking would be that falling flat in such an important aspect of my life should be crushing. Where was this uncharacteristic ebullience coming from?

How could I be happy if my best wasn’t good enough?

The answer is simple: I recognized that I had significant rust from not having done improv for over a year prior, and went out and did the best I could in that moment and had a blast with some incredible people. Additionally, prior acting classes implored us not to personalize an audition rejection — a bias toward thinking “they didn’t like my performance” rather than “they didn’t like me.”

Because performance is something that can be improved. As a person, that’s who we are, and we can only do our best in each situation with which we’re faced.

Thus, a wardrobe can be “improved” in the sense that one can feel compelled to invest more time and money in higher quality clothing, but I would argue that the most important aspect is the feeling such clothes give to the wearer.

And how does all of this tie into my example from part 1?

A first date, much like a job interview or an audition, is a moment in which we try to bring our best selves to the table.

It’s why I asked what to wear in the first place: I wanted to wear what reflected me in my best light, and why the negative feedback so debased me. A heightened sense of insecurity lends itself to nervousness (which I very much felt), ultimately affecting my confidence and inhibiting a full, radiant self from being put forth.

In the end, all we can do in any given moment is our best. It can be planned for, or it can require more extemporaneous thought and action, but we owe it to ourselves to rise to the occasion as well as we can, recognizing what’s out of our control and allowing ourselves to be comforted knowing that we gave it our all.

We know we got it. Happy 2018.