Be this, don’t do that, think this, don’t say that!
Lately, I have felt an astronomical amount of pressure on my shoulders—placed there by the people in my life, by society, and even by my own mind. Although I have made great strides in improving my self-esteem, confidence, and happiness with who I am and where I am in life, it is inevitable that, sometimes, life will send us a cruel reminder of our deepest insecurities and fears. The solution? We must address, with kindness and grace, what we are not, in order to better appreciate who we are. In other words, let’s put everything out there. Let’s be vulnerable. Let’s attack the issues head-on. A few things have been at the forefront of my mind lately: my body, my job, my gender, and my disorders. Read on to find out why they do not make or break me.
I am not my body.
This has always been true, yet it has been the hardest for me to accept. Many people struggle to separate their self-worth from their body image; if we’re dissatisfied with our physical shape, we consider ourselves a failure. This is poppycock. I know that I am so much more than the appearance of my soul’s vessel. I do not want to care how attractive people find me, what they think of my physique, or how I stack up to other women. I don’t want to pick apart photos of myself, worrying about the arm fat peeking out through my dress or the roundness of my face. It should not matter how many times I go to the gym each week, how defined my abdominals are, or how much I can squat. The number on the scale does not change my character. My dress size does not affect the amount of love in my heart. No amount of weight gain could make me a lesser being. I would rather be kind than sexy; I would rather be funny than skinny. What matters is that I can enjoy food, exercise, and live my life as I see fit, and I am in good health because of it. I am physically and mentally strong, and I’m getting stronger every day. No matter how physically big or small I may become, I am far, far bigger than my body. My spirit takes up space, and I’m proud of that. The most important takeaway: anyone who disagrees is not worth having in my life at all.
I am not my job.
Why is it that the question “What do you do for work?” is so often the default ice-breaker or conversation starter? It’s one thing when you first meet, but even worse when it’s a friend or family member. Someone asking me “How’s work going?” tells that they know so little about me that they must resort to the one thing we all have in common: work. However, my work has never and will never encompass who I am, what I care about, or what I have to offer to the world. I work because I have to. Do I have ambitions for the work I want to do? Of course! As for right now, though, I am doing what I can to “make ends meet.” At this time, money is nothing more than a necessity in my life. Money does not come to mind when my mind is awash with thoughts of my hopes, dreams, and goals. I will not pollute my sense of self to make a quick buck. I will not jeopardize my happiness to fall in line. I feel no shame regarding my choice of work (or my “lack of ambition and/or realism,”) yet I know that others think I ought to. Unfortunately for them, I will not be changing my stance on the matter anytime soon.
I am not my gender.
I am a biological woman that identifies as a female; in other words, I’m cisgender. In layman’s terms, I’m “normal.” Do not mistake this for me accepting gender roles and expectations as fact. I am not just a bubbly little girl, bouncing around and batting my eyelashes, providing entertainment for others. I am a feminist, but I’m more than that, too. I am a human being with needs, feelings, desires, and a blatant disregard for the standards and expectations set for me. I do not need to wear makeup, fake nails, or hair extensions to feel adequate. If I want to lift heavy weights and grow my thighs as thick as tree trunks, I can go right ahead. I do not need to “make an effort” to “look presentable” any more than a man does. My behavior does not revolve around my cycle, and my emotional state stems from my humanness, not my femininity. I am not a plaything or object. I am not destined to be dependent on my partner. I do not have to have children to be complete. Read that last sentence again if you didn’t process it the first time; this is an issue that I fear will never stop following me. Repeat after me: women do not HAVE to be mothers. Being childless does NOT make you less of a woman.
I am not my disorders.
My depression and anxiety do not shape my life, they’re simply extras in the production. Sometimes, they hide. I love it when they hide! When they’re not hiding, I may try to hide them. It’s not easy, but I’m getting better at it, though I’m also getting better at accepting them. I’ve known for a long time that I wasn’t normal; even at a young age, I knew that being sad for no reason made no sense. However, I never thought of myself as shy or anxious until college, when my fear of being disliked came out of nowhere and made me act like another person altogether. Now, I don’t let my sadness or fears control me. I always try to break through my shell, and I’m learning to forgive myself for the “stupid” things I said when I was anxious, the irrational crying bouts and lack of motivation when I was depressed, and the everyday struggles that are just part of the package that is me.
So, what am I?
I am a spirited, intense, loving human being. I am a product of both nature & nurture, peppered with the takeaways from my own experiences and adventures. I am stubborn, sassy, and sarcastic. I do not keep my opinions to myself. I am kind hearted and I am empathetic. I am easily upset by the hardships of others. I am easily annoyed by many things. I dislike having plans, (they make me feel trapped), but I get anxious not knowing what’s coming next. I have irrational road rage; despite this, I love to drive. I misplace things constantly, probably because I live in a constant state of clutter. I hate being late, but I can’t wake up early. I am constantly starting things (blogs, DIY projects, classes…) and only finish about 30% of them. I am a phenomenal singer (in the car). I am incredibly afraid of losing my loved ones. I dance like an idiot. I want to see every inch of the world. I do not have a taste for expensive things; I would rather do things than have things. I sometimes take for granted the things I do have, and then I feel guilty for doing so. Animals were my first love, and I will always want to work with them. I talk a lot, sometimes too much, sometimes too loud, and sometimes about myself more than anything else. Yet, I have people who love me, just the way I am. None of these traits are “flaws;” they are just pieces of who I am. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts; I am a whole person, deserving of love and happiness, respect, and even admiration…and guess what? So are you.
I encourage you to share your biggest insecurities with the world, explaining why they don’t define you or make you who you are, and throw away the notions that the world has provided for you, on which you previously based your self-worth. Tell us what you think makes you who you are, what traits you admire in yourself, and what is important to you. Because being kind to ourselves and others is truly the only way to restore humanity, find happiness, and live fulfilling lives. Please feel free to comment your thoughts and feelings below, or on my Instagram (@foodsmyfrenemy)!