I base a lot of my self worth on the opinions of others. And then some.
I base a lot of my self worth on the opinions of others and in long drawn-out comparisons that leave me feeling stale. And every time, it ends with “why not me”.
It’s something that’s been there for a lot of my life. My school was competitive, elitist – and whilst it taught me some incredibly important moral values, it didn’t see us all as equal. Some were just more equal than others. Ten year old me wanted to be good at sports but I couldn’t because I didn’t take extra classes outside of school, I wanted to wear the bulky Tiffany necklaces and own a Mini Cooper, things that divided the social standing, gave you a sense of “identity”, and initiated you in the unspoken secret society of kids who I believed to be undeniably happy, the only problems in their lives being whether or not they wanted to curl their hair in the morning.
It wasn’t jealousy so much as it was thinking, I wasn’t good enough or happy until I had these things.
I wasn’t popular in school – I was the Rory Gilmore. People liked me but I wasn’t going to the cool birthday parties. I had the friends who were as hot and cold as me as a dodgy shower tap. I had bullies that I used to bitch and cry to my mother about whilst she gave me witty comebacks that I wouldn’t be caught dead saying but now sound pretty good.
When I was 12, a girl jeered at me because my knees cracked when I bent down. My mother’s advice was to reply with “yeah they do, what do you want to hear cracked next?”
I worked hard to find another route to happiness that didn’t include tickets to the nightclub, trips to the villa in Portugal or driving lessons for my 16th birthday. I worked on myself, on trying to embody every good thing I admired about the people around me. It was tiring; the constant comparing, the push to be better instead of just being me. Sure, teachers liked me because I was quiet, parents liked me because I was polite, my peers liked me because I was nice. All that effort to be the epitome of a “happy girl”. So why couldn’t I like me?
I promised myself that when I got to sixth year, I’d be happy with myself. I’d be an adult and my life would magically change. And then sixth year came and while yes, the “popular” cliques had dissipated – just like my first year prefect prophesied, I was unhappy. I tried to do more, be more.
I promised myself ’till college’. And then college came and I still felt inferior and unhappy. And no matter how many times I thought to myself “I’ll start living when…”, I found myself up against problems, issues again and again until I felt like I wasn’t living at all. I was just waiting… for college, for summer, for Autumn, for my graduation, for my first job, and now, it’s “for when I’m skinny”.
It kind of sickens and embarrasses me to say it.
I’ll be so far gone comparing and pushing myself to be better that whilst I have everything and more that 16 year old me could have ever wanted, 23 year old me is far from satisfied. I constantly put myself in other people’s shoes and think only negative thoughts of myself and wondering how many mountains did I need to push for them to like me. Sadly, they were things I wanted to do, willing to do when in all honesty, the only person I needed to like me was me.
“I need to be more like X for people to want to be with me” or “I need to talk less about myself or stop having opinions altogether so that people will open up to me” or “maybe I should form more opinions on things and debate them” or, my personal favourite, “I need to be sexy for boys to like me” but “I’ll never be sexy because I’m ashamed of myself“. This internal chatter has been going on for years.
But I soon realised that one person’s standard is another person’s nightmare. What works for someone else may not work for me. And someone can never be universally liked, that’s just boring.
Instead, the people I have in my life are a reflection of who I am. I may not be the best at something or be the funniest or be the most soulful or confident but having people around me that are is just as good, if not better.
Filling your life with people who inspire you is better than trying to embody every good aspect about every single person. You never stop learning, so why push yourself to achieve that unattainable state of perfection when things are constantly changing. You are not just what you say or do, you are the company you keep, the way you react to things, the things you value.
And in the end, people will only remember how you made them feel, how your values complemented those of your partner’s and friends’, the impact you made on their lives. If you spend most of your life inside your head pushing yourself, and not outside finding the people you harmonise with, there won’t be a whole lot to reflect back on, will there?