A close friend told me recently that she always admired the fact that I didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of me, I just did what I wanted and that was that. To an extent, she’s correct. Though, in recent years I lost sight of my bull-headed confidence. I questioned my actions and asked myself the dreaded question: Will people like me if I do this?
Recently, though, I stopped asking myself this question. I revisited my old way of thinking, which got me through a childhood of constant moving (England to Florida to Connecticut to different schools within my town).
Anyone who doesn’t like me the way I am is not someone I care to know.
I cannot live a life where I try to change myself to fit someone else’s expectations. For a long time I hated myself and the way I looked because when my body was changing as a preteen and I gained weight, my mom constantly made comments about my lack of fitness and the size of my stomach. While she probably meant it in good faith (she’s a fitness junkie), the comments really stung and I internally developed a system of constantly critiquing my appearance. It took me years to unravel that, but the little voice still lingers. Weight gain/loss yo-yoing, burgeoning eating disorders and poor esteem were my constant companions in high school and college. I’m not blaming my mother, for the record. I allowed her opinion (and others’ as well) affect my view of myself.
I found solace my senior year of college in feminism, specifically in the area of body acceptance and body positivity. The concept that all bodies are beautiful was something I internally felt, perhaps because I always allowed my view of someone’s personality affect how I viewed them physically. Perhaps you could be a model, but if you’re prick I can only view you as ugly.
I began to look in the mirror and once I noticed I was critiquing myself, I stopped and told myself that I was beautiful. I found things I liked. Like damn most girls would kill for my eye brows, which essentially are pre-shaped and require little maintenance. Or my large light brown eyes that are secretly hazel? Gorgeous.
It took time to start the compliments. But I grit my teeth and got it done, and in the process I developed a personal mantra. Originally I lived by the stupid “YOLO” concept, which while silly is not a bad way to live. But it doesn’t really promote moral well-being which is very important to me. I’m not about to get all preachy or anything, but I do firmly believe in many things and I think a personal mantra should encompass the person you want to be not just what you do.
I aspire to be the person that childhood me would look up to.
The girl who hated herself and starved herself through half of her college freshman year? Not the girl I would want my eight-year-old self to see. The girl who used to rag on others’ appearances so she could feel better about herself? Not the girl I would want my twelve-year-old self to see. The woman who projected her own views of inadequacy onto how she felt others viewed her? Not the girl I would want my five-year-old self to see.
As a child, I didn’t even know what self-love was since I embodied it. I thought I was the coolest, smartest, greatest child that ever lived. In fact, most children think that way. Is that so wrong? Childhood me was a bossy little gem, and she’s the person I want to impress. She had big dreams for me (she/I didn’t even know there hadn’t been a black or female president my entire childhood, since she/I just assumed the world was as awesome as I thought it was), and while I may not have lived up to those dreams (yet), I’ve decided to try.
As I grew older, my independence (frankly, a bit of a survival mechanism) and desire to do my own thing rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. It still does.
I care what people think of me to a certain extent, but at the end of the day… I really don’t. If I’m happy with myself that’s all that matters, because if I’m not… that’s the real problem.
Recently I found myself comparing myself to a few other girls, of whom were desired/dated by men I liked. I had to stop myself with the thought: I am awesome in my own right. Why would I want a guy who wants me to be like someone else or why would I even want to change? I need someone who treasures me for me, which is cliche but so real. I think a lot of people, regardless of gender, fall into the trap of attempting to change to fit what they think it someone else’s ideal.
I tried it, a few times. It was awful. I felt like I was never good enough and limited me into being this fake version of someone else.
- One ex wanted me to be super submissive and tell him he was making good life choices when he wasn’t. Did he even know me? I’m blunt and honest, and while I’ll help as best I can, I do not let anyone walk over me. He also thought he could outsmart me, which was really embarrassing for him since I caught onto his crap real quick.
- Another ex wanted me to be fit and outdoorsy. Cool, I guess, I get the outdoorsy part, which I was OK with, but DAMN do not get on me for my fitness. I hate, and will always hate, working out. While I enjoyed boxing to an extent, it still sucked. Like do I get on your case for having a lack of life goals? No, so back off on my fitness level.
- A different ex essentially wanted me to be only available on his own time and low-key lusted over his ex girlfriend. Oh that did not sit well with me. Relationship did not last long at all.
Urgh, now that I’ve written this all out I feel gross for even liking them. A lot of these guys thought I was going to be easy to control/change, and I really don’t understand where they got that impression since I am super bossy and honest? So I can be quiet and awkward at first, but you really think I’ll sit aside and let you run my life?
Wow. I had a lot more to say about this subject than I initially thought. Good. It needed to be said. I’m hoping that maybe this convoluted rant can help someone else as well. Just be the person your childhood self would idolize, and if anyone tries to hamper your progress or doesn’t like this version of you?