"Cool" Me / by Michelle Cowan

I want to accept my introverted nature. I see people going out all the time, extroverts or introverts who like to be surrounded by people, and I think something must be wrong with me. I love going out with my friends, but a night in often hits the spot. I forget that not everyone has hobbies like reading, writing, and practicing music. Others enjoy team sports or shopping or chatting with friends at every turn. I, too, relish going out with friends on a night when I am in the mood, but it appears that frequently, I require an evening alone, enjoying me, doing the things I like to do on my own.

Why do I deny myself that pleasure? Well, because staying in does not match the image I have of myself as a "cool" person. The cool version of me finds interesting things to do, goes out, dances, lives it up, and has long, deep conversations with people into the wee hours. She doesn't sit around watching TV or reading until 9:30, when she starts packing it up for an early bedtime. But guess what? The real version of me likes BOTH. And that's far cooler.

However, knowing that I am cooler as a balanced person does not mean that I always act on that knowledge. In fact, this notion of a "cool" self permeates the overall vision I have for my life and leads to cycles of disappointment.

"Cool" me would have X job in X location and would be working on projects X, X, and X. She would live in X kind of place and keep X hours and wear X kind of clothing. She would be at X place in her career, relationships, and life goals. She would have X number of influential contacts. The list goes on and on - of things "cool" me has, that the real me does not.

Truth be told, I am content with my life. I am not bored. I enjoy the things I do and like where I am. Part of me trusts that without much effort, life will continue to unfold, and I will continue to feel happy. Just stop striving! But the achievement-oriented part of me worries so much about other people's perceptions, constantly pushing me to do more, to reach higher, to be better. And although these sentiments have their place, they should not even come close to ruling me.

Pursuit of the "cool" self ends in shame and disappointment. I never reach those levels. And oftentimes, the real me doesn't even want the things the imaginary "cool" me wants. She wants a steady life, with regular excitement and spontaneity. She wants to live comfortably and have loving relationships with family and friends. That's about it. All the other stuff is fluff.

By relying on the "cool" self to judge my life, I'm denying my true self. My true self likes a lot of the things "cool" self likes and does a lot of the same things. Her life is much the same, but she has another side, a part that does things I might not think are so cool. She is connected to the world in a way that makes achievement less significant. Real me is far cooler than "cool" me. Far cooler.

The challenge lies in accepting her. I must let her shine and give her what she needs instead of expecting her to run on the fumes my cooler self thrives on. Real me doesn't have to move so quickly. Real me likes things just as they are and wants to rest. Real me isn't nearly so frantic, though she may not attend all the parties or call ten people every day. She loves people in her own way. She writes letters and spends quality one-on-one time with people in addition to the few parties she graces with her presence. She radiates a beautiful spirit.

We can all discard our cooler images and accept what is really there. This way, we lose the need to live up to unrealistic expectations and give ourselves a chance to fully rest and enjoy life. It also may give us a window into what we really like and don't like. I can accept me today. I am not the person I was yesterday, nor am I a person I imagine myself being tomorrow. I am as glorious as ever right now, just as I am. Food for thought: Everyone else is, too.