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During a recent Sex and the City marathon, I watched an episode where Carrie tried to stop smoking so that she could date this guy Aiden. He told her that he didn’t date women who smoked, so she convinced herself that she could stop any time she wanted and tried to kick the habit for him. However, her first thought was that he should just accept her for who she was, and if he couldn’t, then he could kick rocks. At the end of the episode, we see Carrie flushing her last cigarettes down the toilet saying that ultimately, she was quitting for herself…not for a man.

It made me wonder if I had ever attempted to change anything about myself for a man. About 2 years ago, my then boyfriend-now husband helped me to lose 60 lbs. While he said he loved me just the way I was, he also told me that I could do better when it came to my health. He said he wanted me to live long and that I was “too fly” to be carrying around all this extra weight. While my ego was a bit bruised, I knew he was right. I had put on some weight and was just basically being lazy about taking if off. When my co-workers decided to start The Biggest Loser challenge at our job, I told my husband about it and he was hyped! “You should do it!” We became a team and he made me fruit smoothies for breakfast every morning after yanking the blanket off of me at 6 am forcing me to work out. I hated him for making me get up out of bed like I was in boot camp, but I appreciated his support and encouragement. Eight weeks and 30 lbs later, I won The Biggest Loser challenge at my job. I had changed…for the better.

But I don’t think I changed for him. I did it for myself, but how many of us would be willing to admit that those who love us might tell us the truth to give us that little kick in the ass that we need to get moving? Whether it’s losing weight, quitting a habit or changing the way we dress, sometimes we hear the suggestions of others as criticism rather than concern or encouragement. Now of course, there is a such thing as tact. I’m not saying we should respond kindly to anyone who belittles us by calling us fat, lazy, disgusting or stupid. But if you know there are some things you can improve on and someone else points it out, is that so wrong?

I’ve been told all my life that people, especially those who claim to love you, should accept you just the way you are. And for the most part, I agree. I’m talking about who you are at your core. Your values, your heart, your spirit. But at the same time, if a person isn’t growing and evolving, then he’s stagnant…or regressing, and that’s no good. Since no one is perfect, doesn’t it make sense that we should always be striving to better at something? People who constantly try to do better and improve are not really just “being themselves” – they’re always looking to be their better selves.

What if “yourself” is someone who is bitter or angry all the time? What if “yourself” is someone who is overweight? What if “yourself” is someone who smokes? What if “yourself” is someone who has a hard time speaking up for themselves at work? If you just continue to just be “yourself” in any of those scenarios, then you could miss out on meeting a great guy or making friends because of your anger. Or you could develop heart disease or die of lung cancer if you’re overweight or smoke. Or you could miss out on that promotion because you feel that “yourself” is shy when really what you lack is self-esteem. Should those who love you just accept you for who you are, or should they encourage you to do better? To be better?

Next time someone tells you the truth – the hard truth – rather than bark back that they should love you or leave you alone, listen to what they’re saying. If they have a valid point, then take their input into consideration and determine if their constructive criticism is something you want to change for yourself. If you think they’ve got it all wrong, then thank them for their opinion and keep it moving. Or tell them to kick rocks – your choice. At the end of the day, any changes you make should be made because YOU want to, not because you want a man or the approval of your friends and family. It simply takes a willingness to take an honest look at yourself. In the end, it’s not up to other people to recognize how amazing you are and accept you just the way  you are. It’s up to you realize that you can attain or achieve anything that you want for yourself.

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