This last year has been a blur, filled with color, shape, emotion, success and struggle. My anxiety has been at times overwhelming. I’ve struggled with self-esteem and optimism. I’ve struggled to love and to feel loved. I’ve struggled with change, with letting go. My mind jumps between how I feel and how I “should feel.” This is usually based on fear of other people. Fear of their thoughts, their words. Fear of how my needs negatively affect them and therefore affect the relationship. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about others is important, but overthinking is debilitating and gains no traction in any direction. I end up pushing people away or isolating myself—and both aren’t who I really am.
Boundaries are a good thing. Finding the strength to set them despite the consequences is fucking hard. This is where I come to the internal deliberation of whether or not my boundaries are more important than another person’s desires. You see, in most ways I’m a people pleaser. I think some of it is almost genetic, while most of it has been forced onto me by a reward system. I give people what they want, they love me, they care about me, they work harder for me, etc.
I turned thirty-two years old a couple of weeks ago. I’m tired of overthinking how someone else perceives me. I’m tired of justifying who I am or why I need what I need, even if it’s only in my own mind. I’ve been called many soul-crushing adjectives, some by people that I love, who say they love me. Looking back, it was many times because I wasn’t fulfilling their ideal in some way. So the cycle continues. I’m not getting what I need, and they aren’t getting what they need. This causes conflict. I loathe conflict. Right about this time is when I start to mentally shrink myself so the other person gets more of what they want, alleviating as much conflict as possible.
I’ve worked on the above over the years and in some extreme cases, it’s changed the course of the relationship in a way that makes me wish I had just shut the fuck up and given in. But that can’t be self love. Not when you start to tell yourself that you are those things that person or those people told you you are, in order to soothe them. That becomes the trap. I wonder often who I would be, what I would be doing differently had I never listened to what people told me I was—which I did only to gain some sort of affinity from them. The fear of not being liked can stop you in your tracks. But I wonder why I would want approval from someone who looks at me in that way. I suppose it feels safer. Until you don’t even know who you are anymore. I don’t think there’s a scarier place to be, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.
With all of this said, there are many things that I will continue to work on, but with my 33rd rotation around the sun only two weeks underway, I’ve highlighted this vitally important one: I want to love myself—as deeply as possible. Love myself the way I want the universe to love me. I believe that the more I can do that, the more I can love others. They won’t be a threat to me the deeper I love myself. Even if I need to draw a boundary, I know I can still have love for them, because I respect my choice. The more love I have for myself, the more I will trust myself. If I make a decision that negatively affects my integrity, I know I’ve done something wrong, because I will respect myself less. It’s in those instances that I will gladly take responsibility for my actions.
This is all tricky, but it’s who I want to be in these next chapters of my life. This is the example I want to set for the people around me, for my future children. We are all born knowing who we are. We are then deconstructed and almost involuntarily put back together based on outside sources. We lose our truth and our instincts. So I’m really going to work on loving myself, trusting myself, empowering myself. From there I will be able to live more truthfully and have the self-esteem to respect my voice and use it, because I’ll feel safe inside. Therefore I will be able to love others fearlessly and unconditionally. At this point in time, I can’t think of something this planet needs more of. Love.
Photos: Claire Leahy