I Like You as You Are
I recently began listening to a podcast called Finding Fred on the suggestion of a friend. It’s a series exploring the life of Fred Rodgers, Mister Rodgers, and “asking what a beloved children's show host can teach us about surviving and thriving in today's chaotic world.” I highly recommend it.*
I wanted to share the podcast with my husband, so on a recent trip, I started the first episode. At one point, a woman was relaying how watching the original episode of the Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood television show and listening to the song "I Like You as You Are," brought tears to her eyes as she remembered, “I used to like myself. I used to really, really like who I was, and I don’t feel like that right now.”
Those words caused me to pause the podcast and ask my husband, “Did you like yourself when you were younger?” He thought about it and responded that, yes, he remembered liking himself most of his life. Then he asked, “What about you?”
As I considered his question, I realized the reason those words on the podcast were so confusing to me was because the concept of liking myself was such a foreign thing. And like many things we presume are “normal,” I always thought everyone felt the way I did. However, here I was—over five decades old—and listening to this woman’s words and hearing my husband’s experience made me realize for the first time that some people grow up liking themselves. Those of us who were brought up in families or belief systems where acceptance was conditioned upon behavior have a difficult time thinking it’s even permissible to like yourself as you are.
Now, when you’re married to a psychotherapist, conversations can go pretty deep, but there’s no reason to go down the entire rabbit hole in this blog. Suffice it to say that after a great discussion, I realized my attitude about myself has evolved over the years. As a young pastor’s wife, I struggled to find acceptance by trying to fit into whatever mold had been designed by my current congregation. Maturity and experience has allowed me to embrace my unique gifts and be honest and direct about what I am not called to do.
Mother guilt is a real thing, and I still struggle to forgive myself for where I think I failed. However, being a grandmother gives a new perspective, and I am learning that my own limitations give me greater purpose in supporting and encouraging my daughter as a mother.
I think the greatest change has come in my spiritual journey. I no longer settle for easy answers, conform to someone else’s standards, or feel shame in my passion of conviction. Where my younger self felt keeping peace and not rocking the boat was the greatest goal, my current self celebrates the waves and, while realizing humility and grace need to be the directive, will speak boldly for freedom of thought and against marginalization and injustice.
In my conversation with my husband, I found it easier to use the words “accept myself” over “like myself.” There is still a part of me that worries liking myself will somehow sabotage the continual growth I desire. I realize I am a work in progress, and who I am today will not be who I am tomorrow. I find great hope, however, in a God who never changes. I believe my Creator has always and will always love and accept me as I am and, like Mr. Rogers, would say:
I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely
And I like you as you are
(Lyrics by Josie Carey | Music by Fred Rogers)