My friend hadn't looked this good in years. Her thick, dark curls were glossy and bouncy, her eyes sparkled and her skin simply glowed.
Jenny had ended her tumultuous relationship with her partner of two years and moved out of the apartment they shared together.
They had broken up so many times over the year and got back together within three days every time. But this time was different.
It was written all over her worry-free face. She hadn't seen nor spoken to him in six months. I was pleased for her, of course, but also curious.
"How'd you do it? You know, like, walk away, for real this time?” I asked.
“I had a talk with my sister and realized I had to choose.”
“Between your sister and your ex?” I said. Whoa. Now that was tough love.
"No, between him and me. And guess what?" she said. "I chose me, and it feels so good," she added unapologetically.
The wonderful beauty and simplicity of those words, not even meant for me, resonated so loudly my entire soul rang with the realization of it. You must always choose you.
And yeah, I can see the critics already rolling their eyes at what they see as another piece of narcissistic advice from a member of the most self-absorbed generation, and you know what?
For years, I actually thought the same thing: choosing you was selfish, and putting everyone's wishes before your own made you a better person.
But actually, it doesn't.
Choosing yourself gets a bad rap, and is largely misunderstood mainly because it is conflated with a whole bunch of other unsavory attitudes.
Choosing you isn't about being unethical, conceited, trampling over others to get on in life or having a general lack of consideration toward your surroundings.
Choosing you isn't about treating life as a rat race, using clandestine and underhand methods to get what you want, when you want, by any means possible. No, that's just called being an asshole.
"So then," I hear you say, "if it doesn't mean all that bad stuff, what does 'choosing you' actually mean?"
Choosing you means you can focus on your goals and dreams and make sure you reach them, or at least give it your very best shot.
Some people would rather remain in a safe and approved career or mode of living they absolutely hate than tell their loved ones they're quitting to pursue their passion.
As a result of them resenting every minute they spend in their job, they survive. But since they're not doing something they love, they fail to thrive .
Choosing you means you don't have to pretend to be interested in stuff you don't particularly care for, or get involved with things because other people around you are. It frees you up to live life authentically and enjoy your life through exploring the things that genuinely interest you.
Not long after I turned 25, I realized I wasn't all interested in keeping up to date with celebrity gossip, the latest cult TV series everyone "has to watch" or getting into the glitzy clubs all the cool kids hang out in.
Now I'm totally comfortable admitting that I do find it more interesting to be up all night working through the unread titles on my Kindle, experimenting with vegan cake recipes in the kitchen or planning another solo backpacking expedition.
And does that make a slightly introverted geek? Well yeah, it probably does, but hey that's just who I am and I happen to be okay with that.
Choosing you means no matter what job you take, no matter how your academic record reads, how many kids you have (if any), whether you're single, married or just looking for Pokémon, you don't let those things define you and you remain true to the essence of who you are.
You don't need to allow yourself to be subsumed under all these things which are, in fact, external to who you really are. The sum of your identity is far more than who you're with, what you do or the sum in your bank account.
So many people are afraid of who they are and don't know their identity, so they clutch vainly at these things in an effort to hide their true selves behind a carefully crafted image.
If you strip those things away, who is the person let behind? Choose to be known for that person you were born to be, the one who existed before you allowed the titles, labels and possessions to take over.
The sum of your identity is far more than who you're with, what you do or the sum in your bank account.
Choosing you means you make self-care a priority, and consistently make decisions which are conducive to the health of your mind, body and soul.
This include things such as eating well, exercising and taking time to do things you enjoy. Choosing you isn't about overindulging yourself and letting yourself spiral into destructive habits. When you truly choose yourself, you seek to make choices that will build you up in the long run rather than being seduced by the allure of instant gratification.
For me, I start and end my day off with prayer and meditation. This is of such paramount importance that I would rather ignore social media notifications and messages because in the long run, I am no good to anyone, let alone myself, if my head isn't right.
Choosing you means you — like my inspirational aforementioned friend — won't accept toxic relationships with lovers, friends or family members.
Choosing you means you will protect yourself and your space, and not consistently put yourself into a situation which erodes your mental health and gnaws away at your emotional well-being.
Choosing you means not being compelled to stay at someone's side out of guilt and walking away when you're at risk of losing yourself to someone else's needs, desires and whims.
Choosing you means sometimes you will need a break away from people who are emotional vampires, unwittingly and unrelentingly transferring their negativity to you.
Rather than making you selfish, self-centered or conceited, the art of choosing you actually equips you to be live truthfully and to be the best person you you can possibly be. Fulfilling your potential and being a happier, healthier person means you are better equipped to help others.
Ultimately, we come closer to developing the kind of character which can benefit society and have a positive effect on those around us as we radiate the boldness, health and honesty we practice by choosing ourselves.
By letting go of those things, mindsets and people who no longer add value to our lives, we can let our true selves shine.
Marianne Willliamson says it best,
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure... We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world... As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Very often, we try and dress up neglecting ourselves as courageous, or pretend that ignoring and sidelining our own needs is selfless.
But the truth is, it takes real guts to choose you. And it takes courage to use the talents and gifts you have to fulfill your purpose.
It's time to stop hiding behind the wishes and beliefs and desires of everyone else around you. Choose you.