IMPETUS FOR GROWTH

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Self-love is a funny word.

It was not us alone who helped mold our sense of self. It took years of turmoil and tribulations to realize healing could not be done without acknowledging the hurt that existed. Chips on shoulders exist because something eroded their surface with something heavy. Attitudes are not always bad ones — until they are.

As young children, we are resilient. We fall in gravel, get stitches on our foreheads and lips, and wear our band-aids proudly like badges — until we don’t. We begin pointing fingers at those still with band-aids, or the scars that lie beneath. we expect a young child to develop into an emotionally-aware, mentally developed adult without discussing dates or developmental milestones. We never got to speak about what hurts, because maybe, at the time, it didn’t. Nothing did. Those bright bandaids looked badass on you. You just wanted to match with your friends.

Once you rip those bandages off, you sometimes find out your wounds are raw. The skin underneath is broken. This time, you need adult bandages, but are afraid of fingers being pointed at you. You allow your wounds to grow infected, and you allow the hurt to grow. The infection worsens, and you are faced with the option to completely sever the source.

These wounds are made silently, slowly, seductively. Hurt feels therapeutic when we are angry at the world we were born into. Hurt is hurt, after all — it is not supposed to feel like anything other than pain and discomfort. Anything that hurts at extremes can throw our bodies into shock, and we may never recover.

We must ask ourselves questions periodically, and frequently, about what we are doing to actively heal our wounds; check in on your scars, reflect on your battles. That is the hardest part — admitting to ourselves that we were bent, worn thin, hurting. We do not want to be perceived as weak, but resilient; but, who bounces back better than a woman who has shed fresh tears? Who redeems more than a man on his knees trying for a new chance?

Am I really hurting right now? Yes. I am still living yes. Are my thoughts still mine? Yes. Is this heart still mine? Yes. I assure you, you will be fine as long as you check in with yourself. Daily, weekly, monthly. Set up time to just reflect on what hurts, why, for how long, and what you are doing to make yourself “ not sad.” Of course, I wanted to stray away from that word choice, but ultimately we are all battling different enemies — External, internal, perpetual, temporary.

Self-love. Such a word which places so much emphasis on the “self” part, without realizing sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes talking to others to realize what you do not like or want to change. It takes help to establish healthy patterns and make changes to self-help techniques of coping. We are not alone on this earth, no matter how friendless we are. There is someone feeling what you are feeling (or pretty damn close) based on their tribulations and experiences. When you realize how human hurting is, you may be able to realize how human it is to experiences periods of self-hate and utter dissatisfaction with the self, and life.

Hurt is as human as growth, with physical growth coming naturally and easily. What do we do to accelerate the growth within ourselves? We find a catalyst for growth and we cling to it.

Here is a short poem to wrap it up:

how often we plant seeds

and expect them to grow with no nutrients.

it is not the sun that we need, we are not nearly plants —

we are vessels of this earth. we need light.

knowledge, insight, and epiphanies.

epiphanies based on new knowledge.

only then, can we grow?

RESTART

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“It was a Monday night when you told me it was over, babe, and by the Friday night, I knew that I would be okay.” You heard it from Sam Smith first, and you will not stop hearing it until you are truly okay. Of course, he was speaking about a relationship with a lover, but surely I can extrapolate the lyric to the relationship I have with myself.

I lay in bed. It is 4:10 in the morning and my mind is awake for the day. In actuality, my mind decided to skip slumber overall and focus on much more pressing issues – impending doom. My mind conjures up the most (seemingly) irrational thoughts and hurls them towards itself. If there wasn’t an image of myself at my worst already in my head – it I’d there now. Tears, tears, tears, and more tears come pouring down from tear ducts. To tell you the truth, I do not know where they come from. My mind whispers, “girl, you ain’t shit!” and somehow my eyes know what to do next. Cue the downpour. Cue the storms. Cut off the lights, because this is going to be an episode.

A few hours later, the episode ends. The credits play, and catchy gameshow tunes come on. You are okay. You survived yet another epic night (at the expense of your sleep), and now you are on edge. The sun shines and you just want to say “fuck you, sun.” Even though you know this is (also) irrational, your mind says “Nah sis, you’re straight. the sun is a bitch. fuck the sun, it ain’t ever shined when you needed it!”

For the rest of your day, your eyes remain squinted and your patience splinted. These invisible monsters are intruding on my life. Sitting on my shoulders during my political science courses. Whispering while I am attempting to hear how to construct lesson plans. In the midst of class, my textbook begins chanting,

“You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator!”

Inside I begin drowning. I feel tears welling up inside of me (again, I am not sure how or why I feel like balling my eyes out), and I begin to rhythmically tap my foot. Beats, melodies, crescendo, rifts, bass floods my head. I sway my body to the music playing in my head and tune back into the lesson for the day. For the moment being, I am not cloudy. I hear nothing but the instruments and the vibrations of artistic voice. Lyrics fall upon my lips, uplifting thoughts finally penetrate.

I smile.

My classmate leans over and asks, “are you okay? I’ve noticed you shaking your leg for the past thirty minutes.” I want to tell him, “no I am not okay, but I am okay for right now”, but instead I reply softly, “Yes, I am just fine.”

It was Monday night and Friday night every day, sometimes. But I would be okay, I assured myself. Just let me restart.

The Age of the Selfie: Confident or Narcissistic?

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We are living in the age of selfies and carrying mantras of “love yourself” in our everyday lives. In the American culture today, we see growing value placed on self-esteem and maintaining this sense of self. We are constantly working on ourselves to become better than we were before – socially, financially, mentally, and emotionally. This is a positive thing. The way we feel about ourselves helps foreshadow how we will feel about those around us. It will also reveal how we plan on treating others as we make our journey through life. Self-esteem, in essence, gives the life of the soul and the desire to make improvements on internal/external images. Having a sense of self and a sense of worth are arguably two of the most essential things needed when sustaining life. It is just as important as needing to eat, sleep, and breathe. Without a sense of self, one may grow to question why there is even a “self” to begin with. The door for existentialist thinking can spiral into nihilist thought, thus turning into low hope and low self-esteem. Of course, thinking about life’s existence/importance objectively does not lead to low self-esteem directly, but it is interesting to notice any possible connections between questioning life and ending it. 

We build confidence and self-esteem through validation. When we complete something (well), we are typically rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically as children. Our caregivers either gave us a feeling of security and validation through praise or left us on our own. Not everyone has a stable foundation that encourages self-reflection and growth, leaving some to spend time searching for self-esteem or some completely neglecting its importance.

This extensive stress on improving self-esteem has worried many about whether vanity will prevail over genuine confidence, or whether high self-esteem will be slumped with narcissism. This begs the question: are you upholding the importance of the self, or are you showing narcissistic tendencies?

https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/02/15/why-is-narcissism-so-hot-these-days/

Stripping someone of feedback based on performance and replacing it with empty praise breeds vanity. Showering someone with compliments about aspects of themselves without emphasizing healthy/imperative self-reflection may convince someone that they are flawless. To be narcissistic means to seek gratification for one’s own attributes through being vain. It is giving a dog a bone for peeing on the carpet repeatedly. It is praising oneself when nothing has been done to seek praise. It is seeking and expecting attention/response from those around. The distinction between a confident, esteemed person and a narcissist can be difficult to find. With social media, status, standard, and physical appearance being important within (pop) culture, it is easy to fall amongst the users who have ever scrolled and thought “wow, who really needs to take a picture of everything they do and post about what they have accomplished?”

From first glance, this might look like a question that pokes fun at those who are “flexing for the gram,” but once you begin asking larger questions about why we post, the question turns into an inquiry about self-esteem and image. It begs the question of why we feel the need to share information about ourselves, how often, and who. Also, How many of us want to share ourselves constantly because we feel a need to be relevant? How many shares photoshopped selfies to get a follower count? How many of us grow insecure or upset when someone we have shared isn’t getting the attention and adoration we expected? How many of us feel we have to be the best and are the best, just cause? How many promote our self-image dishonestly and condemn those who do? How many of us are unconcerned with the success/happiness/well-being of others but are quick to cry out when nobody is there? The questions are endless, but the answers can seem impossible to pinpoint. Sometimes we feel that we are posting because we are content with who we are/what we do, regardless of the attention and/or gratification we receive. Sometimes were are proud of our work, progress, or improvement. Sometimes we post because we want someone else to notice who we are/what we do, regardless of what is being shown or vocalized. The latter can lead to developing narcissistic tendencies. 

Narcissism is detrimental because it blinds us from being able to see our flawed selves. It hinders us from being able to actively heightened our self-esteem and boost imagine in a way that is conducive to the esteem-building of others. Although being narcissistic comes with hyping yourself up (always), it does not always mean you lack the ability to empathize. Narcissists believe they can truly understand and “feel for others” because to do those things is to possess nobleness, this feeding into the ego once more. For example, a narcissistic person would say they would save you in a forest fire, but if that meant they had to lose all of their in order to save their life – you might just be out of luck.

Now, do not get me wrong – always practice building esteem, praising yourself for self-improvement, academic achievement, job promotions, weight loss, makeup tutorial, etc. Tell yourself you messed up when you flat out, messed up. Make changes when need be. I do not know you, but I assure you that you are not perfection, you are perfectly human. You deserve to care about yourself wholeheartedly and you deserve to be cared about by others; I can also assure you that you are, too.

If you can accept that humans have always been, and always will be, works in progress we can make some progress on becoming less narcissistic and more confident in who we are. As Mila Kunis put it, 

“Confidence, not cockiness. Knowing who you are is confidence. Cockiness is knowing who you are and pushing it down everyone’s throat.”

LIFE WILL LOOK BEAUTIFUL, AGAIN

A very short message on dwelling in negativity and remembering beauty:

Sit down on your couch, beanbag, lawn chair, mattress, tile, floor, street and think about your life. Think about all that your life entails: the chaos, the wonder, the tribulation, the climbs, the leaps. Especially the leaps.

Wait – now, I was told to do this very same thing by a peer of mine at school. He said just think about your life and reflect in order to restore the aspects of your life you deemed beautiful. He urged me to dig deep in order to discover the hidden mystery of why my life looking a little estranged, distant, different, and frankly — hideous. Diving into some areas of life just isn’t possible when your mind does not allow you to enter those parts. Your mind will funnel destructive thoughts in as it packs bags for the compliments waiting to be rested upon you. Some nights I lay away wondering when the faint memories will rush from the back of my head into the front of my eyes so that I am able to confront that ugliness that has made its home here. On the nights that I am able to take a piece back with me to contemplate on, I am left in ruins wondering what ruined me. I wondered what had gone so wrong in my privileged life in order for me to ever witness such ugliness, so near and full of youth. Telling me to timely think about the past influenced me to fall into a victim mindset.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion:

“Reflection is good, but I need more than reflection. I need reform.”

So, for now embracing a different routine that allows me to think about my life in a positive, reflective way without getting lost in old photo albums and childhood nightmares. Looking back on past scars and being able to say, “yeah, that was pretty fucking tough. I thought I was going to die. I know I will not feel that way in that situation again” became a goal of mine. It is best that we look back at things for what they were and do not do too much contemplation and explication. Somethings cannot be thoroughly explained, and some things are not meant to be. In a way, seeing lapses of my childhood in fragment makes for a cinematic finish. Maybe one day I will sit and be able to write about the times I sat on my couch and reached some of those memories in a journal while drinking wine and rubbing my beautiful new Akita. Until then, I am left to remember this.

Do not worry yourself too much. Your life will be beautiful again, just in different ways.