Today I am 18, and as I step into a symbolic new era in my life, I can’t help but be immensely, incredibly, completely grateful. For my parents, my friends, my body, my health, music, art, everything.
I’ve found myself looking back at old pictures a lot lately. And aside from noticing (and grumbling about) the fact that every year I seem to look both much prettier and much happier in the summer than in the winter (please, cold weather, go away), I’ve also noticed something else.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been at war with myself.
Too nerdy. Too much of a teacher’s pet. Too try-hard. Too bossy. Not pretty enough. Not fit enough. Not witty enough, or attractive enough, chill enough, or kind enough. Not __ enough.
In particular, the pictures brought back memories of battles that I’ve been fighting with myself for longer than I’d thought. I’d forgotten it’s been a whole 4 years since I’d been at war with my looks, and 6 years since I’ve started worrying I was unfriendable. It all just feels so recent, so fresh. Even after all this time, how am I STILL dealing with the occasional but very powerful disgust at my own body? And how am I STILL dealing with being terrified of how other people perceive me?
But you know what? Today I’m calling bullshit on that.
I happened across a post by Sarah’s Day yesterday on Instagram. She’s probably one of the (if not THE) biggest health and fitness YouTuber out there. She shared a message on her Instagram that I’ve heard many times before but it never registered until last night. And last night it hit me hard.
She said, “Yeah but my thighs touch, I have cellulite on the back of my legs, my hairs too thin, my arms aren’t toned enough, my teeth are too big, I don’t even fill out a size A bra and… I just don’t look enough like HER yet. But don’t worry, when I do… I’ll be happy!
Just being completely real with my sisters here… this is the mentality I used to have. I never thought I was good enough. Why would anyone want to be my friend!? I wasn’t the funniest in the group. Why would anyone want to date me!? I wasn’t the prettiest nor did I have money to spend on gifts and dates. Why would anyone want to hire me!? I wasn’t the smartest out of the applicants.
Even when I began my health and fitness journey I never felt good enough. I let me cellulite stop me from wearing shorts. I worked out for over two hours a day in the gym because I wanted toned and lean arms so badly.
I look back on photos where I was ridiculously lean and ‘shredded’. I did it. I had rock hard abs, long thick hair, toned arms and itty bitty legs. And you know what sis… I had never been so exhausted, antisocial and sad.
The past 12 months have been a particular time of growth, self love, acceptance and confidence for me. Man I wish I could talk to my 16 year old self and shake some sense into her. But lucky me… this is my chance. To help any girls out there who are currently living with those thoughts above. Feeling like you’re not good enough.
I have so much I could say about this issue […]”
Then right after seeing that, I saw another post by a Yogi I follow. She was writing about a fellow Instagram yogi who passed away from cancer that morning.
Death seems to have been ever-present this month in some very close ways.
And it just sort of hit me.
How stupid am I? I’m sitting here worrying about how much food I should eat and how much exercise I should do to stay skinny when I SHOULD be grateful I CAN eat in the first place! I SHOULD be grateful that I CAN exercise!
I’m sitting here worrying about an evaluation I had to do for my English class when I SHOULD be grateful I CAN talk for 10 minutes straight about Hamlet (and wow, there’s a teacher willing to LISTEN to me do that too!).
I can breathe, walk (on my own two feet!), love, laugh, live! The list of things I CAN do is miraculously endless!
I can still remember my thirteenth birthday. It was on the Saturday that my Lego robotics team was to compete in a tournament for the whole day. I was already going into it rather sad (some of those horrid “not enough” thoughts had been plaguing my mind – oh yes, at thirteen), and on top of that I knew no one would care it was my birthday because we’d be busy programming the robots and giving our presentation and trying to win the competition all day long.
During our snack break, when one of our teachers came out and placed a homemade cake all lit up with candles on the table and the team started singing happy birthday, I couldn’t hold in the tears. Something broke inside me. I think this was perhaps the first time something like that has happened (though not the last). Of course, I was surprised and thankful and amazed that everyone cared enough to take the time to acknowledge (let alone bake a cake for!) my birthday. But most of all, I cried because in that moment I realized the insignificance of all those things I’d been sad about before.
Nothing compares to the feeling of being armed with the knowledge that you are loved unconditionally and absolutely. It makes you feel like you can do ANYTHING. More than that, it makes you REALIZE that you CAN do anything. In that moment everything just becomes so tiny.
But of course, my war with myself went on. It didn’t miraculously dissolve at thirteen years of age. More recently, I’ve thought a lot about attraction. I’m a teenager, okay? What else do teenagers think about but boys am I right? Kidding, of course. Kind of. In any case, a lot of my insufficiencies lately seem to center around that.
Yet I recently came across a man who is a “pick up artist” and posts YouTube videos about how he “picks up” any kind of woman. Let’s set aside all the things wrong with this, since that’s not what I want to get into here, nor do really I care to criticize him (he can do what he wants – and plus, it’s clearly working). I just want to comment that I was blown away. This dude was really good. SERIOUSLY good. If you won’t take my word for it, go watch one of his videos and you’ll see what I mean. But you know the funny thing? At face value, he wasn’t one bit physically attractive.
His number one allure? Absolute confidence. It emenated from him and seemed to say, “Hey, you. I’m talking to you because you’re amazing. But I’m amazing too and I’m worth everything and more. I don’t need you in my life. I want you in my life. Treat me how I deserve or not at all.” In fact, he’d been doing this for so long that he didn’t care if he got rejected anymore. His life didn’t hinge on validation from one woman! What power he had!
And boy oh boy did everything start to piece together. DUH. Who cares if you’re beautiful if you yourself don’t see it? Smart if you don’t appreciate it. Fit if you still think you’re fat. We get the love we think we deserve.
And so, as I got on my mat yesterday to do my nightly yoga flow (new year’s goals, woo!) I realized I’ve never been more grateful and purely happy in my life.
Though I still can’t say I’ve ended the war (I think perhaps we’re in a temporary ceasefire), I’ve come to realize where I think I want to go next, now that I’m 18. And what growing up means for me:
Adulthood is a continuation of the journey to self-love.
Adulthood is beginning to realize how precious life is, and not to take any day or any person for granted.
And I think, in the end, this journey will lead to ONE thing, and that is self-assurance.
A lovely person commented something on one of my YouTube videos a few days ago that really hit home. It seems to capture exactly what I’ve been feeling for the past few months.
She said, “…And that I am referring to is, that time is finite, and we have a very small time to live…. and you are not wasting any, because you are being aware on how you spend it.”
Since starting this YouTube journey, I’ve been surprised by many things, but I think most of all by comments like this from people who seem to have watched a single video and immediately seen what’s been tugging at my deepest heartstrings. It’s just so incredible. Life is incredible. Live it joyfully, live it fearlessly, and be grateful.
I recently read a post by Holly Butcher, a young woman who passed away just a few days ago this year and left behind a message to be posted by her relatives. In it, she says,
“I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to it’s inevitability….. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.”
Amen to that. Love you all and thank you for the birthday wishes. ❤