By Máire Nakada
Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress.”
How many of us are unhappy with who we see in the mirror at times because we aren’t what we would like ourselves to be? How many of us have wanted to be something more than who we are? Someone better. Someone that is completely new. I think you’ll find that most people have had these thoughts at least once in their lifetime and it’s completely normal. When I realized how often I was thinking these thoughts in the 9th grade I knew something had to change.
Whenever I looked in the mirror I already had a frown on my face. It was like I was mentally preparing myself for the disappointment that was about to look at her reflection. These self-derogatory thoughts plagued me for more than a year. Although I was working hard in school, dance, and XC running, I couldn’t shake the idea that there was still so much to become and achieve all the time. I wanted to look different and be a different person. Why? Because I thought that everyone around me was already everything they were going to be and I wasn’t there yet. I wanted to be finished trying so hard and just be the Ultimate Máire already.
After a while these thoughts became exhausting. It wasn’t until my family was watching Annie one night and the song “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” came on that things began to change. I didn’t think much about that song until the next morning when I was getting ready for school. I looked in the mirror before leaving the bathroom and I smiled at my reflection as a joke instead of frowning at what I saw. It felt different but nice.
I tried it again the day after, and the day after that. Eventually I started to pick out different things I liked about my face when I smiled. I liked the way my eyes got smaller and arched like happy almonds. I liked the way the creases around my mouth and cheeks made lines that can only be seen when I smile. But most of all: I liked the way I felt when I smiled at myself. I felt positive, happy, and relaxed.
With a little more time I began to make a habit of smiling at my reflection. I started my day with a bright smile in the mirror then I faced my daily routine. I had no idea how much I was changing my mental image of myself from a simple smile. I know my smile is not perfectly lined with straight brilliant white teeth, but it is my smile and no other person has the same one. It took me a while to accept that. After realizing this, I made a huge connection to how each human is not perfect but we are all unique in our own ways which makes us so beautiful.
I started to be ok with the thoughts I had in the 9th grade about always reaching for something more to make myself better. This time these thoughts were encouragement to push myself to be the best version of Máire possible. I was no longer exhausted with the thought that there was always going to be a way to change myself. Instead I embraced this thought and realized how good it could be from a different perspective. At any given moment I could change my life. I could be the Máire I was at that very moment and start on my journey to becoming the best version of me I could possibly be without anything holding me back.
It was at this point in my life that the quote, “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress” really started to take root in my thoughts. It was so freeing to know that I was something God made completely unique and different to anyone else and that I could change who I was for the better if I really wanted to.
So now I leave you with this thought: You are the creator of your own destiny. You were born a masterpiece able to change. What will you do with the tools God gives you to make yourself better?
Máire Nakada is a college freshman at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Máire was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015. Learn more about Máire here!