The Day I Decided I Was Simply Too Old Not To Love Myself
My title is a bit misleading because I can’t pinpoint an exact day when I hung up all of my childhood and adolescent insecurities. I also know you can’t overcome years of feelings of inadequacy in a day. But I do remember the moment in time where I simply thought about the fact that I was about to turn 30 and decided in quite simplistic terms I was too old to be insecure anymore.
Now on one hand there was a certain nativity to my thought process at the time. Insecurities never totally leave us and often rear their ugly heads at the most inconvenient of times. Last year I even started an entire site built around the idea that we always question whether we’re enough when we want to start a new venture, relationship, or have a particular experience. But a part of me also knew at the time there was a difference in being unsure about a particular path and having ever-present feelings of not being good enough. And as I prepared to enter my third decade of life, I decided the latter could no longer exist.
It’s funny how it wasn’t until I was a woman that I got all of those messages I needed as a girl: people telling me I’m pretty, intelligent, and could do and be anything I want. When you’re grown, needing to hear those things is labeled as seeking external affirmation, but in your formative years you need someone to affirm your beauty, your brain, your abilities. Instead, as a kid I always felt the spotlight was on my shortcomings. No one particularly noticed I was a good writer, but the fact that I was getting Cs in math was a serious problem. And I was a cute girl, but, you know, I just needed to get some of that weight off of me.
Interestingly, it was in the mist of doing that in a serious way at 29 that my self-esteem began to move in the right direction. But it wasn’t necessarily because I was getting smaller, as I found a new set of insecurities came along with those physical changes as well. There was more so a sense of pride and confidence that developed because I discovered I could do it. I could conquer this demon that had haunted me for so long and that meant I could conquer others too.
That’s the thing about shifting the narrative of your life, you’re the one who has to do it. I realized years ago that I could either dwell on the fact that I hadn’t been affirmed in the ways I was needed when I was young, or I could listen to all the people around me presently who saw my positive traits and take a chance on believing they just might be right. The bottom line was I couldn’t continue to be a victim. X,Y, and Z didn’t happen, what are you going to do about it?
That, to me, was the key piece of being so-called grown, which everyone told me I would officially be at 30. Confident and self-assured is what being grown looked like to me and grown women love themselves — or at least they should. So instead of focusing on the things I wasn’t, I focused on what I was. I also focused on what I had and constantly reminded myself my life was abundant in too many areas to let the absence of one or two things make me feel inadequate. Eventually, I cared less and less about what people thought about me — a stark contrast to being told every day when I was a kid that “people are always watching.” The implication at the time was people were watching to judge, but I realized as I got older that judgement wasn’t everyone’s primal instinct. Some were watching to admire and I didn’t need to be afraid of that attention. It’s crazy how after that transition I didn’t even hear negative messages as much. Suddenly, everywhere I turned people were telling me I was smart and beautiful and the world is my oyster. I don’t know if that was a reverberation of the confidence I was projecting or I simply couldn’t hear these things over my own negative inner dialogue before. Either way, I was listening now.
People who’ve known me since my teen and college years often tell me I’ve had a #GlowUp (because they think Instagram is life), but really I’ve just grown up. And what came with that is greater comfortability with being who I am and letting other people see who I am and draw whatever conclusions they may. Sometimes I’m dancing around my apartment or singing and I think about how much I enjoy my own company. I’ll look at myself in the mirror sometimes and just smile for no reason. And sometimes I actually have the thought, I really love who I am. Of course, there are people and things and circumstances that threaten that love on a continual basis. But what I know for sure is I’m done hating myself and that’s one of the best choices I’ve made.