Coming to Terms With Who You Are Pt.1
For much of what I can remember, I have wished to be other people in some way in a lot of seasons of my life. I wished I had people’s fortunes, careers, friends, followings, looks, etc. I was so focused on telling other people that they just needed to be themselves when I thought that I, myself, was not enough much of the time.
I tried a lot of things to become this person I thought I wanted to be with all the little bits and pieces that I thought would fill whatever emptiness I was feeling, but it never works, as many people eventually find out. Over the last few months, there’s been this push inside my head. All these people that I look up to, and all the people that I think I need to follow sometimes in order to get to where I want to be, I can look at them as role models and examples, but I don’t need to be them. I think that’s what has been tough for me, many other of my friends and just people in general - we spend so much time trying to copy what people before us have done to get to this place we want to be. It may be a job you want to get, a college you want to get into, a relationship you want to obtain, or just an overall goal. We try to copy what we have seen work with "overnight successes", when in reality, many of these successes took months or years to make, but we only see the success and not the work that went into making that success.
I consistently have been told and tell other people to "just be yourself", but then again, at 19, it’s hard to know who you are exactly, all of the time. At any age really. We change and adapt over time and in different situations, but I want to believe that there is this core of a human being inside of us that stays the same consistently (so says psychology with 40-60% of our personality being predetermined by genes, but of course there’s room for error). Life is said to be this constant process of finding yourself, but what if instead of setting out on all these adventures to “find ourselves”, we made peace with who we are, what we want and what we’ve been through in order to create a healthy relationship with ourselves? We’re bound to change ever time, but having a healthy relationship with ourselves is a lifelong journey, and not as simple as taking a week or two to “find ourselves”. This is not to say that traveling, starting a new job, going to college or not going to college can’t help us learn things about ourselves, but it’s a process of learning about ourselves through experiences, and not creating ourselves into something that we’re not... and I think that is lost in translation with a lot of people.
Regardless, for years there have been many social media personalities that become household names and now it’s mainly Tik Tok stars. I have wanted to be a blogger and podcaster for many years, so it’s been hard, especially during quarantine, not to compare my life to the lives of these teenagers with large platforms that can go from Tik Tok, to a podcast, to interview, to YouTube, etc. and have people care and consume their content. Perhaps it is a bit of jealousy, but there have been many times recently where consuming so much content and spending so much time on the internet I have felt like a failure because I’m not where I want to be when all of these people seem to be doing exactly what they want to be doing and seem to be exactly where they want to be. Perhaps it’s jealousy, perhaps it’s looking at a more broad perspective of just how much influence these people have and perhaps it’s something else entirely, but sometimes I don’t know how to handle it.
What I have realized and came to terms with which I LOVE, is that while I may be sad and largely too hard on myself for not being at this arbitrary place I romanticize and reach for, for the first time in a long time, I don’t want to be any of these people. I want to be myself. Maybe it’s a part of growing up and realizing that no one has a perfect life despite what people put on social media and maybe it’s coming to terms with myself and the fact that I will never be anyone else besides me, but it’s special and important for everyone. Do I still wish that I didn’t have to deal with some of the problems that I have? Yes, but do I wish that I was a different person? No, and that’s wonderful. It’s easy to be jealous of other people and sad over the things that we don’t have. I think I personally just spent so much time wishing to be someone else when I could see other people happy and succeeding and I didn't feel like I was. I’m really happy with who I am and I’m committed to making my own path and being true and committed to my own journey instead of trying to copy someone else’s path. I know so many people struggle with that and accepting that your path can and will look different than other people’s and that it doesn’t mean that we’re failing in any way, but rather that we’re succeeding more than ever by trying things and reevaluating if they don’t work out the way that you wanted.
I know that the COVID-19 Pandemic has just exacerbated so many feelings and problems for so many people and I know for me and for many other people one feeling that has been exacerbated is the feeling of failure and stagnation with everything being on pause. While the only thing that has helped me with this is planning and looking forward to things and I don’t have any step-by-step tutorial on how to feel better with this, I truly believe that thinking about all of this as part of the journey in your life is monumental, but this goes for every tough time. The unique thing about the pandemic is that this is indeed a pandemic and not the productivity contest it has been made out to be on social media. So many people have been feeling so much pressure to come out of this pandemic a "new and improved" version of themselves, and while I'm not saying that you can't take care of yourself and work towards your goals still, I am saying that there is an unnecessary amount of pressure to "become" something during a public health crisis. As a reminder: work towards your goals and take care of what you can during this time. If something comes out of it, great! If not, you're not a failure. You don't need to base your self-worth off arbitrary levels of success that you cross off of a to-do list.
Like everything related to mental health, the process of getting to this place where you're happy and accepting with yourself looks different for everyone and is just that - a process. A journey. An ongoing experience. An everyday challenge for some. It Ebs and it flows. It changes and becomes something else entirely. Some days are better than others. But every good day, every positive thought, every proud moment, and every negative one too is a small step towards big change. Are we ever done building a positive relationship with ourselves? I'm not sure, but I'm going to go with probably not. It takes a hell of a lot of work each and every day, but especially growing up in a time now where your entire life is essentially lived on social media, or centered around it so it is incredibly easy to compare your life to others, it is so very important.
A quick check-in with yourself every day is a great place to start. How are you feeling? What can you do to make you feel a little better? How can you take care of yourself today? How can you help someone else today? How can you be happier and healthier? How can you give yourself a few minutes to breathe and relax? Are you talking to yourself the way you would speak to a friend? Are you being compassionate and patient with yourself?
You can also keep a gratitude journal, pick something about yourself that you like about yourself every day and make a list, get outside and go for a walk, call a friend and talk your thoughts and feelings through, etc. Whatever your form of self-care and self-love looks like, do it. DO it every day and never forget that you're worth feeling comfortable in your own skin and happy with the person you are and the person you're becoming.
I didn't even begin to list out what some barriers to this are for people because it truly is different and can stem largely back to mental health and illness, which is not as simple to solve as just saying "be happy". As a general overview, things are going to look different for everyone and there is no one correct way to be kind with yourself and others in order to build a healthy relationship with yourself (the only person that will be with you 100% of the time you're alive on earth), but try some things and find what works, and then stick to it.
I believe in you, always,