I don’t want to sound narcissistic, but that might be impossible when talking about how much I love myself. I haven’t always been this way – it’s the opposite. I’ve always held myself to a higher standard than my parents ever did. I always tried to be the perfect child and student.
Ideas like being true to yourself and knowing your worth are often preached but hardly practiced, especially among young women. Cliche reiterations on wall canvases that state “no one is you, and that is your power,” don’t account for the complexity of adult emotion or the internal battle that loving yourself requires. Empty quotes like these foster resentment, are seemingly useless and fail to dive into the complexity of truly loving yourself. These quotes promise instant happiness, but that’s rarely the case.
I recognized when I was young – probably in the third grade – that these impossible standards were caving in on me. As I grew into adulthood, my idea of perfection remained unsustainable and I didn’t relinquish these expectations until this past year. Many factors contributed to this – perhaps it was increased alone time, regular therapy sessions, or maybe it was just overcoming difficulties that life inevitably brings. But now, I can truly say I love myself. And it feels just as good as someone else saying it.
As a junior in high school, I had the shocking realization that I wasn’t supposed to be living for other people; rather, I was supposed to be living for me and me only. Like many self-conscious teenage girls, I didn’t know who I was or what I liked. I dreaded time alone because there was no escape from myself. In my own head, I felt like I was with a stranger. I wasn’t friends with myself and I didn’t even like myself.
Knowing this relationship was rocky, I decided my new idea of perfection was learning and loving every part of me. This didn’t come easily and I would test myself to find my true interests, even diving into the things perceived as “nerdy” or “uncool” for a woman of my age. From these self-administered tests, I found my interests were just as such: knitting, true crime, paper crafts, musical theatre and singing every other sentence I speak.
After I left my fear of rejection and insufficiency in the dust, I finally felt weightless. I knew myself in and out and I loved me for me: truly, deeply, differently and, most importantly, for the first time. I became aware of my capabilities and weaknesses and grew unafraid to vocalize them. I am a great daughter, student and friend. I am smart, funny, intuitive and tough. I can be emotional, competitive and snarky. And when I think of myself, I am filled with love.