I can list 13 things I like about myself. They sit listed out in the lined pages of my notebook, surrounded by stickers as if to distract from how few there actually are.
Four are physical traits (two of them are my eyes, with and without makeup). Two are arbitrary – the way I write my “a’s” (with the umbrella reaching over the rest of the letter) and my last name (which I do not want to change for a man, even one I’m in love with). Two are about how I affect other people. So what’s left?
I’m curious. I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I’m passionate about the things I love and the people I love. My writing conveys honesty. And I’m smart (although I add a disclaimer – I know I don’t feel smart but I am).
For every thing I like about myself, I list in my mind everything that negates them. You wear too much makeup. You have those dark spots under your right eye and a red dot on the left side of your nose. You don’t speak Spanish and you act like a white girl so do you really get to claim your last name, and are you really Latina? You let people down. You are only passionate about things you can get excited about. You don’t write enough… Your grades don’t make you look very smart….
Liking yourself is very, very hard when you’re depressed.
I wish I could list more things I like about myself. I wish I could fill a full page in my little journal about things I like about myself, instead of trying my hardest and only being able to come up with 13.
I wish I could be proud of myself for staying in school. Or taking steps to get better. Or even just continuing to take care of myself without entering a severe crisis for over a year. But every time I try, I tell myself that I don’t deserve it.
Every time I let someone down, or get frustrated, I think about that failure or that miscommunication when I start getting upset again. And it freezes me.
I don’t know when I started telling myself that I’m not good at anything. I feel like it’s been since before college. I remember writing down lists on my whiteboard in my room in middle school: Ways to be popular. Ways to get boys to like me. Ways to be pretty.
It feels like the sentiment has stayed the same but some of the language has been swapped out. I worry that I don’t have any friends. Or that I don’t deserve my friends. Or that boys only like me because they think I’m pretty, which is weird because I don’t even think I’m pretty. Or they don’t actually like me, they just like this idea of the pretty happy girl that I was or I pretended to be the first two years of college. And when they get to know me, they’ll see that they were wrong.
And my one saving grace growing up, that I was actually smart and could maybe make something of myself, got squashed after professors told me I wasn’t applying myself or that I wasn’t really writing anything worthwhile.
There is no grand solution to make you like yourself more, I don’t think. At least, I haven’t been able to find one in my Google searches. It seems like the only thing you can do is start talking back. Telling yourself in the mirror that hey, maybe you can do this. Maybe you aren’t doomed to live a miserable existence. Maybe you can change something, anything, for someone, but you have to feel like you’re actually capable. You’ve got to at least try to pretend you’re okay.
After a semester of me constantly telling myself I’m not even trying my best, and days where I sat in bed and cried and listened paralyzing fear that I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish anything that semester or that year or that decade or that lifetime, I needed a break. I’m getting one now, sitting at home, trying to enjoy the holiday season, writing out plans I’m worried I won’t follow.
I’m trying to take a little bit more time for myself next year. To prioritize the things I love – which, surprisingly (?) are writing for myself, writing for school, and learning. I want to prioritize spending time with my friends, but not neglecting the fact that I want to learn to become a better writer and a better person in my last semester at UNC. Maybe it’ll start with some silly things I write in my notebook about how to make my mornings better. Maybe it’ll start through talks with my therapist. Either way, I guess it’s got to start through me, right?
I hope that next year, I can write down more things I like about myself.