When I put out a survey a while back, asking people to vote on what they were interested in reading about, one reader wrote, “liking yourself, being comfortable with who you are, finding a sense of self”. I have slowly been mulling that over in my brain, trying to piece together some words that make sense. This is what I’ve come up with.
I didn’t always love myself. I felt awkward and out-of-place for a lot of my childhood years. So I did what I could to try to feel normal. This included: reading teen gossip magazines, even though I didn’t like them, so I could be up on the latest celebrity news; watching TRL on Fridays, even though I couldn’t care less about music videos, so I could discuss them with peers; buying a shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch, even though I didn’t really like it that much, because that’s what everyone did. As I got older, it became: staying out late and going to a lot of parties; buying Uggs and other “trendy” clothing; pretending I liked watching football and other sports; the list goes on.
During my sophomore year in college, I hit a turning point. For various reasons, my life shifted a bit, and when that happened, some pieces fell into place. It’s funny how once a certain filter is removed, you see things differently. Once the shift happened, I realized: I didn’t like football. I didn’t like staying out late every night. I didn’t like bars. I craved my routine. I liked studying and spending my weekends studying with a friend and a coffee, and my evenings curled up on the couch, watching Grey’s Anatomy with my roommate.
So it was progress. I was realizing what made me feel good, and what made me, well, ME, but I still didn’t always do anything about it. Because honestly, I was terrified. If I showed the world who I was, what if they rejected me? Wasn’t it better to play it safe and at least know I sort of fit in? For a while my answer was yes. I knew some of what made me happy and what made me feel good, but I didn’t always act on it. I kept my mask on. I wanted to belong. And sure, I often felt happy and content. But it didn’t fill me up. It wasn’t as authentic as it could me.
When I started grad school, I started over. For the first time in years, I had a fresh start. I was feeling good, positive, and full of life. I no longer had illnesses or disorders standing in my way between me and happiness. I only had ME. I was my roadblock. So, I began grad school as my true, authentic self. I didn’t always wear makeup to class. I didn’t hide my perfectionism or anxiety. I talked to all sorts of people. I geeked out over things we were learning. I embraced awkward moments. And the result? I made friends. True, wonderful, forever friends. People liked me. They liked me for me. And the funny thing is – making friends and being liked was the easiest it had been, up until that point.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was when I fell in love – and even more so, when a man fell in love with me. When I met Jeremy, and as we began dating, nearly four years ago, I was determined to be me. Enough was enough, I had told myself. There was no point in faking it, in hiding who I was. If he didn’t like me for me, then that was okay, it just meant he wasn’t the one for me. I raised the bar, and told myself that I would not settle. I embraced myself and so somewhere out there, was someone else who would embrace me, too.
And that someone was Jeremy.
He loves me for my quirks. He loves me for my weirdness. He loves me for my personality. He loves me for who I am. He fell in love with ME. Not a shadow version of me, not a fake version of me, but just the real, true, authentic, unique, me. I am a person who was worth falling in love with. I am a person who is worth marrying. I am the happiest, truest, most real I have been in my entire life. He has not only accepted who I am, but embraced it, hugged it, nurtured it, and encouraged it. I blossom with him. I am the luckiest.
And so – I do love myself. I have embraced myself. I know that I love wine, but I don’t like beer. I know that I am a hardcore introvert. I know that despite being an introvert, I have wonderful friends. I know that I still wear mismatched socks. I know that four stuffed animals sit on our bed. I know that I make up words and songs as I go about my day. I know that I’d prefer reading to watching sports. I know that I prefer a few, true, forever friends, over a bunch of casual friends. I know that I love a handful of t.v. shows, but I don’t like reality t.v. I know that I love deep, intense novels, but dislike chick lit. I know that I am sensitive and often tear up. I know that I squeal when I’m outside in nature. I know that I kneel down to take pictures of snails, frogs, and worms. I know that I look up to take pictures of skies, trees, light. I know that I don’t really care about fashion, and often just reach for whatever colors feel right. I know that all of these things make me who I am. And I know that I am okay. That I am enough.
Embracing myself does not mean always being happy. Those things couldn’t possibly be synonymous. But embracing myself does mean accepting all parts of me. Working towards acceptance of where I’m at, in each moment. Having compassion for myself, in a variety of situations. Knowing that despite the external circumstances, I am at peace in my core.