You know that annoying dude who takes part in every challenge but always bends the rules to the point where you’re not even sure if he’s playing the same game? That’s me. So when I see everyone sharing 40 things they love, I can’t help but think: “How can I make that more interesting?”
Gratitude is wonderful and there’s nothing wrong with listing stuff you’re lucky to have in your life. But I think coming up with 40 things you genuinely love about yourself is an even more valuable exercise. Because when do we ever take stock of all the great things that flow from the inside out?
It feels more empowering. Kinder. I’m reminding myself of what I have that no one can ever take away from me. They might not all be things I’m responsible for, but they’re mine forever and that’s worth a lot.
I highly recommend you try and come up with a list of your own. It’s hard. But worth every second. That said, here’s mine. I hope it’ll inspire you and make you see things in yourself you didn’t know were there.
- Optimism. I don’t know whether I was born with it, raised to be, or cultivated it — probably all three — but I refuse to accept anything other than the idea that the day after tomorrow will be better than today. It’s a great source of motivation to work hard and do my best, and it’s made my life a lot more fun in countless ways.
- Blue eyes. It might not be if it wasn’t for this genetic break of dumb luck, but blue is my favorite color. The sky, water, hope, trust, loyalty, wisdom, they’re all blue to me. So every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded I should stand for these things. Plus Superman, so it wins right there.
- Intelligence. I’m book-smart. It’s not a free ride to success, but it’s allowed me to breeze through a lot of things with ease that other people deem complete hell (like school). Sure, I overthink everything, but I can also wiggle out of a lot of situations where being dumbstruck just wouldn’t do.
- Terrible puns. If there’s a bad wordplay to be made, I’m there. Life’s too short to skip the crappy jokes. So I take one for the team and make them. And then I laugh about them anyway. Often, it catches everyone else too. Mostly because of how embarrassing it was, but hey, a laugh is a laugh.
- I’m short. The older I get, the more I can appreciate my default underdog situation. I might never see anything at any concert ever, but at least it’s easy to prove people wrong. No one expects a shorty to pack a metaphorical punch, but I do and I love the moment people realize it.
- Insane memory. The number of TV show lines, inspiring quotes, random facts and song lyrics stored in my brain is mind-boggling. I used to think this was useless for the longest time but now, as a writer, I never seem to run out of references and ideas to connect things to. Score!
- My smirk. I have a really great smug face. It says “I told you so” and “couldn’t help myself” and “bet you didn’t expect that” all at the same time. Maybe that’s why it always triggers a hilarious response in the person who sees it and then we all laugh together. Love it.
- Introversion. How to take care of baby Nik: Dump him into a pile of Legos, pick him up again four hours later. And now, thanks to this wondrous, connected world we live in, I can use the same quiet and daydreamy-ness to assemble a lifelong career around myself. Winning!
- Neat-freak. I’m definitely OCD when it comes to cleaning and organizing. And while I waste a ton of time checking if I have my keys for the third time, I also rarely forget anything. Locking myself out, losing my wallet, not knowing where my phone is, these almost never happen to me.
- Rationality. This wasn’t always the case, but thanks to my obsession with self-improvement, you can now tell me something doesn’t make sense, and if it doesn’t, I’ll agree with you and change my mind. Speaking of which…
- Open-mindedness. We live in a world where success depends on your brand and all brands must stand for something. Therefore, most people stick with their opinions, but it makes no sense. You’re human. All you do is change. We should applaud people who publicly change their mind, not trash them. From Walt Whitman: “I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
- Irrational fear of debt. Debt can be a useful tool if used wisely, but most people don’t and never will, so they’d be better off avoiding it altogether. I’ve always done that by default and while it’s not perfect, it served me well. I feel more in control of my financial fate than anyone I know.
- Mr. Nice Guy. I’m too nice. I’ll have the busiest week of my life yet still say yes to revising your CV if you ask me. I had to learn not to get taken advantage of, but I’d still rather have it this way than being too selfish.
- Paranoia. Being paranoid about people will drive you nuts, but obsessing over plans is useful. I’m always looking over my shoulder. I have a backup for the backup of the backup. You absolutely need some minor obsession with failure if you want to succeed in business (and I guess life).
- Goodwill. Because I’m too nice and always have a fallback plan, it’s easy for me to trust people first. Here, have at it. What can go wrong? If I feel treated badly, I can always retreat later. But everyone deserves a shot and most people don’t disappoint you with theirs. It takes goodwill to see that.
- Sense of rhythm. When a catchy song is playing, my body is moving. A slight head nod, a tap of my foot, a swaggering step on the street, you are not getting this infection with music out of me. Ever. And it is contagious. It lifts people’s spirits when they see it. Not to mention my own.
- Zero poker face. You can read my face like a book. There might be some situations when this is bad like, you know, actual poker, but most of the time, it makes communication a lot easier. And god knows we need that.
- Imagination. “In meinem Kopf ist es lustig” means “it’s funny inside my mind.” My head is like that. If I don’t like what’s happening outside, I can take the elevator and land in a world of fun and fantasy. So long, reality!
- Being my own best friend. When asked about what depression feels like, the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park said, pointing at his head: “There’s another Chester in there that wants to take me down.” Things like that make me cry. Because the only other self in your head should be one that lifts you up, pats you on the shoulders, dusts you off and says: “Come on, you’ve got this. I love you and you will figure this out too, like you have done with everything else so far.” That’s what you deserve. Nothing less.
- Discipline. I don’t want to do some things any more than anyone else you know. I just grunt and say “fiiiiiiiiiiine, I’ll do it anyway.” In a world where most people fail to show any, having a basic sense of moral duty and obligation to whatever you’re tasked with doing is quickly becoming a way of positively standing out from the crowd. It shouldn’t be this easy, but it is.
- Minimalism. This is definitely an acquired taste that was born out of necessity, but it grew into an amazing source of time, energy, and happiness — although none of those things are front and center. To me, minimalism is about making room to solve true problems in your life. To find the resilience to carry on with little when life takes things from you.
- Lightweight. I weigh 140 lbs, give or take. Weighing less means eating less, paying less, processing less, spending less energy on making energy. Plus, it means I’m really good at stuff like push-ups, which are a great form of bodyweight exercise. This makes my life simpler and, thus, better.
- Dexterity. I’m really good at things like balancing and all sports that involve toggling, hitting, catching or throwing balls. It’s good for fun and party tricks, but it also means I rarely drop things, I can close doors even when my hands are full and I can type fast. Kinda neat for a writer!
- Faith. I’m not religious. Mostly because all religions wrap everything that’s good about them into some form of ridiculous, sometimes even inhuman doctrine. But I have a lot of faith and I don’t think it matters whether you call what you believe in God, karma, Vishnu, the universe, midichlorians, Zen, the lifestream or the good spirits of the sitting bull. At the end of the day, you want to believe life makes sense. Whether it does or not is secondary. Believing everything has a purpose is purpose itself.
- Manners. Where I grew up, we don’t slam doors. We sit straight at the table and put our devices away. We say “hello” and “bye” and “thank you.” I’m no Brad Pitt so I can only imagine how much this has — sometimes literally — opened doors for me in life. Manners are a very basic form of respect and, again, one that’s often missing today. Check.
- Straight, healthy teeth. I can take zero credit for this, but thanks anyway. I knew a lot of kids with braces, retainers, and all sorts of dental, and I guess mental, torment. I’ll take the glasses in third grade again, thank you.
- Family first. This obviously requires a family you’d actually want to put first which, luckily, I have. But it’s good to know your roots are something you can always come back to. A safe haven to recover and recharge in. A room full of people who’ll always have your back — and you’ll have theirs.
- Language-natural. When I shotgun a bunch of commas all over the place, it usually turns out okay. When I read a line in any Latin-based language, I guess okay. I’m no math guy, but words? I love them and they love me.
- My voice. People tell me my voice is very calm. When I did Instagram stories every day, some would listen to them to fall asleep. If that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is. Can’t sing to save my life, though.
- Self-compassion. Related to #19, but when I have a hard time, I don’t give myself an even harder one. I lean back, breathe and say: “Okay Nik, do you want to take a break? You can take one.” Sometimes, I accept. Other times I say: “No, I can take it.” But I always check in with myself.
- Bullshit radar. My BS detector is pretty good which, luckily, extends to my own. When a 22-year-old yobbo tells me about all he’s done, but can’t back up any of it, I call BS. And when I tell people something that’s not true or that I haven’t lived through, I call BS. Better for everyone this way.
- No complaints. I think most people I know would tell you I bitch very little about things. That’s good. It means I have perspective. That I know most of my problems are things other people wish for. And that in the grand, cosmic context of things, they’re probably not worth fussing about.
- Awareness of death. Don’t quote me on it, but the fact that I’m going to die probably pops into my mind at least once every day. I don’t want to and I don’t think anyone does, but I feel much more comfortable knowing the guy with the scythe is always around. If I make an effort of knowing him while I’m alive, maybe he’ll one day greet me as a friend, not an enemy.
- Appreciation for the little things. My first (leased) car was a 2010 BMW 116d. I thought it was a huge deal. You know what shitty first cars most people have? A BMW?! That’s insane. And I treated that car that way. It was always clean and every time I opened the door, I felt a little spark of joy at getting to drive. My sense of “this is a gift” wears off rather slowly.
- Habit drag-and-drop. When my ex-girlfriend challenged me to drop coffee, I went cold turkey on the spot for 100 days. When I decide to add a new piece of writing to my roster every week, I publish it every week. It took a long time to get there, but being able to change your behavior at with a snap of your fingers is a priceless habit itself.
- Loyalty. If I’m your friend, I’m a real friend. Not a fair-weather one. I write, I call, I check in with you. Sometimes, it takes me a while, but I always answer. We all drift apart from people here and there, but for the ones where it counts, I can at least say I make every effort not to.
- Work ethic. When you’re working with me, you better get things done. Because I do. When I’m there, I’m there. No 3-hour coffee breaks when we’re on a deadline. I’d rather finish this thing, then get outta here, instead of wasting all this time now only to have to pull an all-nighter later.
- Philosopher. If you walked in on me and my best friend casually chatting, you’d probably declare us nuts within two minutes. One is quoting Nietzsche, the other asks whether wormholes exist. I hate small talk. That’s not what we’re here for. I want the big talk. Always. And I love it.
- Tech-savvy. I love new tech. I love learning about it, thinking about it, experiencing it. Even if I’m never going to use it. And if you put me in front of something I’ve never seen before, I’ll figure it out. I think this will be a huge advantage when I’m 60, 70, 80 years old.
- Romantic. I’m such a Ted Mosby. As I get older, I tone it down and avoid the creepy, not-at-all romantic stuff, but I’ll always be a hopeless ball of goo at heart — and I have a feeling it’s gonna come in handy one day.
Some things on your list will be the complete opposite of mine. That’s okay. Others might be the exact same. But this one thing I know about you with absolute certainty: When you write down 40 things you love about yourself, you’re only scratching the tip of the iceberg.
And there’ll be a whole lot more where those came from.