It’s exactly halfway through 2017, and I’m at an age at which I am in total denial about the passage of time. I’m 18, but I somehow feel both 12 and 35 at the same time. 2017 has not only been an incredibly tumultuous time for America and the world, but also for me personally. I’ve achieved more than I thought I could; I’ve failed enough that I’ve learned not to go so hard on myself; I’ve proven my own strength to myself and those around me.
As I get older, I’ve struggled a lot with self-love. But it’s not the act of loving myself that I find challenging (throughout my whole life, I’ve been an extrovert who’s been blessed with confidence to spare) – no, I struggle with the different ways in which self-love can manifest itself, and how I often need to support myself in different ways, depending on the day, the situation, or how I’m feeling.
As narcissistic/nihilistic as it may sound, I literally do not care about my body – at least in conventional ways. One of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done for myself is learn how to care about my body in the right ways. I care about the foods that fuel me and enable my body to do great things, like run and jump and lift weights. I care about the foods that fuel me and enable my body to do not-so-great things, like sit on the couch and hang out with friends and laugh. I’ve started looking in the mirror less and looking within myself more. This is not to say that there aren’t days when I feel fat or skinny or ugly or pretty or lazy or motivated, because I do. I, like anyone else, appreciate when the scale drops a few pounds or when I feel attractive in my own skin. But, again, to take a position of necessary nihilism, my body is just the place in which Nathalie, who is merely a collection of thoughts and opinions and memories, exists.
I don’t struggle with loving my body. It crosses my mind from time to time, but I’m not constantly worrying about the way I look compared to others, and I know I’m lucky that I have this sense of security.
I’ve always known about myself that I struggle with loving my personality the most. Especially in recent years, I’ve found myself almost constantly anxious that I am either being standoffish or annoying; that I am either trying too hard or being too cold; that I am either too reserved or I wear my heart on my sleeve. I overanalyze the way I feel, the way I act on my feelings, and the smallest social cues from everyone I meet.
I really often compare myself to others in terms of my personality traits – an entirely different, but equally as harmful beast. Why can’t I be as cool as her? Why can’t my sense of humor be as effortless as his? How do I become as uninhibited as them? Why am I not getting as much attention as I need to feel validated? When will this person get sick of having me in their life?
A helpful mechanism I picked up a while back is to have five adjectives on hand at all times to describe myself – it’s an exercise in mindfulness and feeling secure in my own brain. These adjectives all have their respective positive and negative connotations.
On the days when I feel Annoying, I remind myself that there are just as many days when I am Funny.
On the days when I feel like a Know-It-All, I remind myself that there are just as many days when I am Clever
On the days when I feel I am Bossy, I remind myself that there are just as many days when I am Ambitious
On the days when I feel Needy, I remind myself that there are just as many days when I am Attentive
On the days when I feel Cynical, I remind myself that there are just as many days when I am Realistic.
I love Nathalie the way you would love an annoying younger sister – you can be critical of her, you can have good days and bad days, but ultimately, she’s all I have at the end of the day.