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The diamond in the buff

For years, I’ve gone from pillar to post trying to improve myself. I considered myself a starter home. A fixer-upper. I was under construction so much, I needed a building permit. I was always in search of the next book, the next DVD, class or teacher because I thought it took a village to raise a neurotic. I did everything. I envisioned prosperity, had my colours done. I pushed the envelope; I thought “outside the box,” explored the power of now like there was no tomorrow  I saw Anthony Robbins so many times that he got a restraining order.

My life coach called it perfectionism. Perfectionists call it having standards. This was the same coach who said I needed to love myself. This infuriated me. It’s like someone saying, “Will you calm down?” You just want to ram them with your car. I fired that coach and got a new one who recommended I stand naked in front of a mirror and say I love my body. So I started to take my shirt off and he said, “No, wait until you get home.” See, even he wasn’t committed.

I don’t know why this coach was in such a hurry for me to love myself. It’s like a minister saying, “Go and sin no more.” If people like me weren’t sinning, there’d be nobody sitting in those pews, now would there? So me loving myself would be bad for business. In fact, if I weren’t a seething morass of low self-esteem, these people would be unemployed. And that would be bad for the economy. I am pretty certain my obsessive-compulsive disorder helped my third therapist buy her new house. I said, I am pretty certain my obsessive-compulsive disorder helped my third therapist . . . Oh, never mind.

It’s bad enough that I thought I was broken, but I tried to fix others. I spread the joy around. I tried fixing people who thought they were perfectly fine until I came along. I became a motivational speaker. I motivated everybody. Maybe that old lady didn’t want help across the street. Maybe she was just hailing a cab. I motivated my hairdresser so much that he became my landscaper. Instead of trimming my bangs, he now trims my bonsai.

My kids didn’t escape, either. I dragged them from harp to piano to soccer lessons. I made every event a Kodak moment until I was exhausted, and now if they ever do thank me, it’s usually for something I don’t even remember doing for them in the first place.

I also tried to improve their genetic lot in life. I enrolled them in French Immersion. I can’t speak French. Some of my family members don’t speak English that well, eh? But I wanted them to be bilingual. Now I can’t understand a word they’re saying. They should come with subtitles.

After all of that sacrifice, my kids ran away from home. Sure, it was to start university, but they never even said goodbye. They said au revoir, farewell, so long, auf wiedersehen. And they sang it in three-part harmony, like the von Trapps. Now, I’m left alone in the empty nest that I have to clean myself because I motivated the cleaning lady so much that she’s now in med school.

I’m not worried about it. No, I don’t worry as much as I used to. In the old days, there was worrying to be done and I was the one to do it. I worried on behalf of everybody. My favourite activity was something I liked to call preventative worrying, where you worried ahead of time so that when something did happen you wouldn’t be surprised. Now, I can’t be bothered because everything that I thought could happen to me actually has. Shakespeare said, “Life is but a stage and we are merely players,” but I say by the end of your life you’ve played all the parts. I have been a jerk, been treated like a jerk and been jerked around by a jerk.

I am making friends with my vices. I do things too quickly. My tai chi instructor says I move so fast that it looks like I’m disco dancing. As a survivor of the Donna Summer era, I take that as a compliment.

There is a release in knowing I have no untapped potential. I have also stopped hoping that others have any. Like when people tell me who they are, I believe them. I wasn’t always like this. When I was young, if a boyfriend said, “Hey, I’m bad news,” I thought he was kidding. For me, men were like cigarettes — the warning was right there on the package, but I went ahead and lit up, anyway.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that there is no self-improvement section in the bookstore specifically for men. No book called Men Who Love Too Much. Men tend to fix things, not people. They tinker with engines, not personalities.

So, in 2011, I’ve decided to accept that maybe my house is in order. Sure, I may need a coat of paint here and there, but it’s too much effort to rewire myself. Some may call this denial. I think denial has had a bad time of it in this society.

I don’t mean to be motivational about this, but you have no potential. I mean if I can accept myself, so can you. Go into the bathroom right now and take off your clothes and look in that mirror and say, “Hey I might as well love this body the way it is, because 10 years from now, this one’s going to look pretty darn good.” Do that a few times without puking, and then try it with the lights on.

After all, you are a diamond in the buff.

Besides being a humorist, Deborah Kimmett is a motivational speaker who inspires groups with presentations through her company, Wit with Wisdom. She is also an author and a regular performer on CBC Radio. Visit her at www.kimmett.ca

Filed Under: Deborah Kimmett

About the Author: Deborah Kimmett is not just a funny face. She knows a thing or two about life. Whether on the stage, or in the conference room, this witty and wise woman knows laughing matters. With her hilarious stories and interactive exercises she ignites, inspires and offers strategies for success. Side Effects: You might get your sense of humor back. Visit her at www.kimmett.ca or on youtube at www.youtube.com/user/DebKimmett

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