being kind to yourself, me from 1999, and other notes for 2018

If somebody will make a film about my life, it’s probably going to be about a girl who has struggled all her life accepting herself. I think I’m still working on that now—a constant, life-long battle of looking at the mirror and never really seeing yourself, just the things you don’t really like.

Younger me was always wishing she was this, she was that. She… she grew up being surrounded by not-friends who made her feel like she must be something else (something more) to be loved. But younger me, she was a survivor. 1999 was a tough year, just one year among other years, when my entire life was in survivor mode.

I used to think I got through all of that. The bullying, that never-the-number-one-just-always-the-second feeling, the where is your father questions, and the constant self-loathing bred from barely scraping by everyday—I thought I got past that.

That’s what I used to think.

2017 had other plans.

Don’t get me wrong—2017 was great. There’s just so much to be thankful for and I never take those for granted. I got to travel. I got new friends at work. I got promoted, twice. Retained old friends. Strengthened my relationships. These things—these are good things.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned growing up—is that happiness is never just about the external forces that make our lives. Happiness is about peace, about going to bed at night with this silence in your heart that never exists when you’re incomplete.

While those things are great, while the external forces of my life have done its job to make me truly happy—younger me sometimes shows up at night, and asks me, “is that the best you’ve got?”

Is this already the best version of yourself?

There was a line in this movie, Edge of Seventeen, that perfectly summarizes how I feel almost every day.

I would get this feeling like I’m floating outside of my body, looking down at myself. And I hate what I see. How I’m acting, the way I sound. And I don’t know how to change it. And I’m so scared that the feeling is never gonna go away.

Sometimes younger self looks at me in utter disappointment—or maybe that’s just her face. 1999 me had the ultimate resting bitch face.

I’d say it was toward the end of 2017 that I realized that this younger self, this 1999 me, she was being mean to me.

I was being mean to me.

I am the one who keeps telling me that I’m not good enough. I am the one who keeps replaying scenes from 1999 when this girl told me, while looking at me dead in the eyes, “You know why you don’t have a father? It’s the same reason you’ll never have real friends. You’re too much.”

I’m sure she said that way less dramatically but I remember that scene often. Sometimes, I remember it everyday for an entire week—when the days are particularly long, and when the nights are cruelly cold.

I think we spend so much time loving other people, that we sometimes forget how important it is to love ourselves first. The ultimate dream is to look at 1999 me and not be bothered by it. I like to think I’m getting there. I’m getting to the point where my younger self no longer shows up to berate me but to challenge and inspire me.

I used to think that I don’t know how to be happy—and now I think that’s because younger me keeps telling me I’m not. And I listened to that. When good things happen, I always felt like trouble is just waiting by the curb, ready to take it all from me. I jumped from one place to another, jumped from one friend group to the next. Left one job to find another.

Those are conscious decisions. Some of it, I don’t regret. The others, I use as references for the future.

2017 was a wake-up call. There was one day that I literally told my friend, “I think I’m happy.” And she had smiled at me and said, “I think so, too.”

That was the change I have been waiting for—the day when I can see happiness for what it is, and not as something that just passes by. The day I was finally kind to myself, that’s when the you’re-never-gonna-be-good-enough voices stopped.

So maybe 2018 is going to be year when the words happy and stay will no longer scare me. Maybe 2018 is going to be the best year, or the worst year. I don’t really know.

But if you’ll ask me about the biggest lesson I’m taking into this new year, it would be this: stop beating yourself up. You’re okay. Be kind to yourself. It’s hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time.

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