The older I get, the more I see the importance of really valuing myself. I used to think it was spoiling myself: eating too much double chocolate chip ice-cream; buying pretty necklaces with money that I didn’t have; hanging around with mean boys because when they kissed me, I felt like I mattered. But in reality, that’s not spoiling yourself at all. That’s practically bullying yourself. Bad behaviour leads to bad feelings and bad thoughts, which in turn lead to more bad behaviour.
I find it hard to commit to going to counselling every week but if there’s one thing that I will take with me from my sessions in UL, it’s the fact that your feelings and your thoughts and your behaviour are all intertwined. When I feel bad, I act bad. I set myself to self-destruct mode. I neglect myself completely. I’m learning – slowly – that if I really valued myself in the first place, I wouldn’t feel as bad as I sometimes do. I’m learning that valuing yourself doesn’t just mean treating yourself to some ice-cream after a bad day at college. It’s more than that. It’s valuing your body as well as your mind. It’s realising that you deserve to be happy, and acknowledging that you have the power to make yourself happy. Because you do. You really do. It’s not easy, but it’s very possible.
So I’ve been taking my make-up off every night before bed. I’ve been brushing my teeth every night. I’ve been remembering to wear my elastics on my braces. I’ve been exercising. I’ve been spending time with my mother and her whimsy. I’ve also been thinking about the future. I’ve been learning to accept myself. I’m learning to accept my unruly hair and my chubby tummy and my scarred legs.
I think you have to be your own best friend. And I don’t mean that in a ‘Don’t Trust Anyone’ kind of way. I mean that in a ‘Treat Yourself the Same Way You’d Treat Your Best Friend’ kind of way. Look at the way you conduct yourself, the way you talk to yourself. Would you want your best friend to do the same? Would you talk to your best friend the same way you talk to yourself throughout the day?
I caught myself berating myself on the bus home a couple of weeks ago: ‘You’re stupid, Emma. You’re a fucking spa. No, you’re a fucking spastic.’ I wouldn’t say that to an arch nemesis, so why was I saying it to myself? If I think about it rationally, I’m not ‘a fucking spastic’ – whatever that means – but those negative thoughts tend to slip past the rational part of your brain. They go unnoticed by logic and reason, and you believe them, rarely questioning their veracity.
I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m stupid. No one likes me. I’ll never get a boyfriend. I’ll never get a job.
I tell myself these things all too frequently but the logical part of my brain knows that they aren’t true. If you catch these thoughts while you’re thinking them and you interrogate them, you’ll find that they start to crumble. They’re not used to being questioned. And it’s funny how even questioning them will make you feel better. Imagine how you’ll feel when you outright tell those thoughts that they’re false. I still sometimes notice myself calling myself ugly but then I think, ‘I’m not ugly though. I’m actually kind of pretty.’ I might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but surely I’m someone’s? If nothing else, I’m my own cup of tea. Or I’m learning to be.
Speaking of being someone’s cup of tea though, or wishing you were – don’t. Don’t wish for a certain boy to like you. More importantly, if you like someone and he treats you like poo, ditch him. That’s valuing yourself. When has staying with a boy who makes you sad 90% of the time ever benefitted anyone’s self-esteem?
I am still trying to grasp what I should have learned years ago: you don’t need people who make you feel like shit. The worst part is, you think you do need them. Bad boyfriends are the worst. They’re so ironic. You think you need them, and, in reality, they’re the last thing you need. You need to surround yourself with people who make you happy and make you feel like you’re worth your weight in gold.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
– Mark Twain.
You can be great. You know that, right? I want to inspire people. Inspire myself. I’m always banging on about challenging gender roles and challenging how people define ‘beauty’. So I’m doing that. I’m learning that everyone is beautiful, including me.
I’m starting to value myself as a person. I’ve realised that my thoughts and my feelings and my opinions are all valid. They’re mine. My body is okay too. (See, that’s always a difficult thing to say. For some reason, we find it so hard to admit that we’re attractive. But I’m working on it.) I’m taking care of my body because, whether I like it or not, this is the only one I’ll ever get. I’m taking care of my emotions because they’re pretty fragile. They’re important though. More important than silly boys with something a little less dignified than romance on their minds.
This is a beautiful adventure!
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