Loving myself feels like a long lost love I once had, a blossoming spark that has lost its appeal.
In my relatively young life, I have internalized some really harmful things about myself, things that we do everything to keep the young ones from ever learning about.
My childhood and teenage years were by no means traumatic. I was loved, nurtured, and priviledged. I grew up as a third culture kid, raised by (formerly) tiger parents and the staunch belief that I am destined to do great things in this world. Big ambitions, high expectations, yaddi yaddi yadda.
My parents have taught me to be self-sufficient both at home and at work, but somehow I missed the memo when it came to… myself. It seemed like everything I was working for was for some higher purpose… for good grades, academic praise, prestigious college, a successful career. I felt like a I was always walking on the edge, because if I didn’t attain the next goal, that meant I had failed.
And then, it happened.
I got rejected by all my so-called dream colleges and found myself in a gap year, desperately paving the way back to myself.
Throughout these years, I have almost always had some physical ailment – crippling back pain in high school, a year-long cold my first year of college, and other pain points that moved up and down my body at different points in time.
There was always something wrong, to the extent that I started to believe I had manifested these pains. My sensitive self has always taken critical feedback a bit too much to the heart, and it seems like my body suffered the blow.
What started as external stress – teachers, friends and parents – trying to mold me into what they believed was best for me, became the own voices in my head telling who I should be.
I spent years doing things that I thought I should do, and not because I wanted to. Not truly. High school memories of feeling completely out of touch with myself in hours of Model United Nations conferences, getting heart palpitations to place a mere fifth in track, and dedicating sleepless nights and weekends on clubs and work that I believed would boost my resume; these only ended up with me feeling like I could never be good enough. I could be good, if I really tried, but I was never great, not even if I tried.
If you asked me who I was, I would list out all the things that I was doing and pride myself in those achievements. In those moments, I felt validated in my efforts to be that self. Don’t get me wrong – I cherish and hold my past self close to me. Though I may look back in disdain, they are nevertheless amazing learning experiences that have allowed me to make wiser decisions down the line.
At 22, I made leaps in my career. At 23, I want to love myself more.
All this rambling about my past is just a preamble to what this post is really about: learning to re-love myself.
Loving myself means forgiving my past for whatever she endured. It means learning to detach from that past, the people that hurt me, and the hurt that I caused on myself. I need not forget to forgive, as these memories are the reminders for the why that I live by now.
Something that has stayed constant throughout my life has been writing. The long-winded and cryptic diary entries remind me of who I once was, and who I no longer am.
I’ve written to remember precious memories, and I’ve written to lash out furious thoughts that I could never share with anyone. I wrote to comfort myself, to decrypt past entries with new perspectives. I wrote because it was a way to heal myself, even if I felt more at odds with myself afterwards.
I write because it pulls me away from that troubled identity, granting me the view of the omniscient reader watching from above, all-knowing and forgiving.
I want to write more. To write deeply and foolishly, and to look back on past entries with unabashed certainty that my naive thoughts are testament to the purity of my experiences. To give myself the self-assurance that I had been seeking elsewhere all my life. To be my friend, my comforter, my biggest supporter.
No more intrusive thoughts of not feeling good enough. No more thoughts of feeling undeserving, unworthy of this gracious life that I’ve been granted. No more insistent voices in my head whispering vile words of hatred whenever I fail to deliver.
At 22, I proved to myself that I was capable of becoming good at what I pour my heart into.
At 23, I want to nurture the soul that has bore that brunt.