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Today, I turn 44 years old. Forty freakin’ four!

Every year on my birthday I reflect back on the previous twelve months and ask myself: What improvements have I made in my life? What did I learn?

Aside from learning to hold a plank for over two minutes and learning to shake up an impeccably delicious blueberry lemondrop martini, this past year, I’ve also learned to stop caring so much about whatothers think of me.

It started with small things like not feeling embarrassed by the imperious eye rolls from my snobby foodie friends when I ordered chicken tenders at a restaurant or not feeling self-conscious in front of people when Debbie Gibson’s “Electric Youth” popped up on my iTunes. Zappin’ it to ya, indeed.

After that, I started working on larger obstacles. I practiced being less reactive and worked on becoming more proactive. I made conscious efforts to not concern myself with rumors about my love life or gossip about who I was sleeping with. I stopped caring about the unsolicited recommendations about my fashion choices and the passive aggressive insinuations regarding my writing topics. Don’t get me wrong — I know I’m subjecting myself to it all. Because I express myself to a large audience, it’s inevitable that people will share their opinions and advice on my beard, my lazy eye, who I date, what I write, my weight, the books I read, my photos, the food I eat, my friends, my tone, the movies I watch, how much I curse, the sex I have, the work I do, the songs I sing, my thoughts, the company I keep, the jokes I tell, the places I go, the hair on my ass, the money I have, and my attempts to drunkenly vogue after I’ve sloshed down too many of those previously mentioned blueberry lemondrop martinis. But that doesn’t mean I have to adhere to it all.

Chinese philosopher Laozi once said “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner” and he was absolutely right. For most of my life, I’ve attempted to squeeze into a cramped mold to appease others. It’s an exhausting, miserable existence.

When I was awkward little boy hurriedly darting out the door to the school bus, my own mother used to yell out “Remember who you are!” In this pretentious age of likes and double taps, it’s so easy to forget who we really are. Not giving a shit what others think is a never ending battle. Hell, I still use filters to give my photos a glossy sheen and I sometimes still twitch with self consciousness when I catch a shady queen side-eyeing my love handles. But this past year I’ve made solid strides to unabashedly love myself more and be the truest, most unapologetic Tyler I can be — hairy butt, chicken tenders and all.