Thursday, December 5, 2013

self-acceptance and finding yourself.

 All my life, I have been told to "just be myself". And all my life, I have been confused as what to that meant.
What is being myself?
What even is that?
What does "being yourself" even mean?

I act different when I'm alone.
I act different when I'm with friends I really like.
I act different when I'm at a party.
I act different when I'm with people that annoy me.

And among all of these, what is "being myself"? Are these all right? Is only one right and the rest are wrong? Should the way I act when put in all of these situations be the same? Is there a "right" way and a "wrong" way of acting?

Right now, I'm a junior in high school and I think it's the first time I think I can partially answer these questions.
In retrospect, "be yourself" was a good piece of advice poorly phrased.

I've grown so much these past few months.
It's mostly because junior year is academic and social hell.
I've been challenged more than I've ever been, I've had very high points (and very low points), I've been on the brink of quitting more times I would like to admit, and as a whole, I've taken one giant leap out of my comfort zone.
And I also finally started to accept myself.

Self-acceptance is hard.
I think that it is part of our nature to be insecure. We will always compare ourselves to other people who we perceive to be "better" than us. We'll always look at the track star, or the student who takes four APs, or the boy who stars in the school play, or that person who's well liked among everyone and think, "Wow, why can't I be like them?"

And it doesn't end there.
The track star can compare herself to the other track star who beat her at an event and think she's not good enough.
The student who takes four APs can look at the person who takes five and wonder why he can't be like her.
The boy who stars in the school play will blame himself for not being able to sing as well as the other boy who starred in the musical.
The girl who's well-liked among everyone might be jealous of the boy next to her who gets A's on math tests when she gets handed back C's.

I used to place confident people on a pedestal. I thought they were better than me because they seemed like they had their life together and they just succeeded at everything they attempted.
This made me feel inferior, like I was defective or something was wrong with me. Why couldn't I work harder, why couldn't I succeed as much, and why couldn't I succeed on the same scale as these people did?

This inferiority ate away at me like rot eats through wood. This nagging sense of inferiority would be with me wherever I went and wherever I looked.
Why can't I be as smart as him? Why can't I be as good at music as him? Why can she write better papers than me?  
And it didn't matter who it was. I compared myself to everyone, from my best friends to complete strangers.
Why can't I be as funny as him? Why can't I walk with as much confidence as him? Why can't I dress as nicely as her? Why isn't my skin as nice as hers? Why do I always have to work harder than everyone? Why does she have better teeth than me? Why am I not as easy to talk to as her? Why am I not as approachable as him? Why don't I do as much community service as him? Why don't I get invited to as many parties as they do?
I desperately sought validation from something, anything to confirm that I was good enough. I would try to put on an tough act to pretend that nothing was wrong, even though I was slowly and steadily falling apart on the inside. My friends and family were (and still are) always here for me, and they're the only reason why I was able to get out of this destructive downward spiral.

They helped me make the realization that we are all insecure.
Everyone. Even the person who seems the most self-assured and who radiates confidence has things to be insecure about. Everyone struggles with something.

And just like that, people were taken off pedestals and everyone became human again.

Self-acceptance is hard.
True self-acceptance is accepting yourself wholly and completely. Not just the parts that you put on Facebook or the things that you're proud of.
It includes the things you bury deep down. You also have to accept your insecurities, fears, resentment, hatred, regrets and jealousy. You have to accept that they're there.

But through this acceptance, you're able address them. You can now come to terms that you're insecure. You can come to terms that you're scared, you're resentful, you're malicious, you're regretful and you're jealous. But now that you see these and they're brought up to the surface through acceptance, you can actively try to reduce their potency instead of shoving it deeper and deeper down to try and ignore their presence.

And I think that after this self-acceptance, all the puzzle pieces will start to fit together and you can begin the process of finding yourself.
Although I haven't quite figured out what "finding" yourself entails, right now I think it has something to do with exercising your potential without being restricted by your own self-inflicted barriers such as inferiority.
I don't know yet, but I'll try get back to you in twenty years.


Friday, November 8, 2013

perspective.

I think one of the most important lessons I have learned so far from high school is how to have perspective.
Which is sort of weird because what made me learn this lesson is observing people who didn't have much of it.

I think it is so easy (especially as a teenager and a high schooler) to be completely wrapped up in our own lives. And our own problems that we've got going on and our own victories and our own mistakes and our own regrets and our own assignments and our own personal issues and our own this and our own that.
And what I realized is that we sort of have this expectation that everyone should care.

I know for me, if there's something going wrong in my life, the first thing I want to do is go up to someone and start complaining. 
And that's all fine and dandy and everything, but I think I don't realize enough that everyone else has problems too.

It's really not all about me all the time. (Unfortunately)

People have their own things going on, and I'm working on becoming more aware of that. I'm trying to ask more questions about people's lives and getting to know them more.
This strategy has been working very well, because I found that people really like it when someone genuinely listens.

Because you know those people that you try and talk to, and somehow every conversation ends up being about themselves?
Don't be that person.
Ask questions and actually care about the answer. People will like you more and you'll get to know people better and you'll be a better human because of it. Promise.

Also, I've realized that things that seem like earth-shattering, hysteria-inducing, tear-triggering problems to me really aren't that important.
In the grand scheme of things, in the bigger picture, small little mundane issues don't matter. Drama is a prime example of this.

Because when you think about it, I am one of seven billion (Seven billion!!) people on this Earth.
And Earth is one of eight planets revolving around the Sun.
And the Sun is one of the 300 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone.
And there is a massive undetermined amount of galaxies in the Universe.

I am literally, less than a speck in this Universe.
I'm basically this small little organism made of carbon existing for an incredibly small amount of time. And I don't get another shot.

However, thinking about the pointlessness of it all and how small we really are can take you down a very dark path of existential crises and sitting and agonizing over the meaning of life.
Here's what I think about it.

I was reading Sirens of Titan by Vonnegut, and this is a quote I really really liked:

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” 

And I agree with that.

For me personally, I have accepted that in the grand scheme of things, I am not any more significant than any other human being.
But what I want to do is to take the one life I've got and make the most out of it.
I want to learn as much as I can about the world around me. I want to understand how things work and why things work and why the world is the way it is.
I want to absorb as much knowledge as I can.
And I want to affect as many lives as I possibly and maybe even leave behind my name in a history book or a science textbook or even be immortalized in a Wikipedia page.
I want to make use of my capacity and potential for change and for making the world a little (almost insignificantly) better than I found it. 


(Just some things on my mind lately, sorry if it doesn't make any sense)

Friday, March 22, 2013

it's march and it's still cold.

We had a snowstorm a few days ago, and there's still massive snowbanks on the ground. On the bright side, this weekend it's going to be above-freezing for the first time in about a decade. Which is very exciting.
I just really want to wear bright colors and summer dresses and sandals.
Anyway.
Moving on.

I wanted to talk about English class for a bit here.
I've never known that I was a math/science person until I hit high school. (I'm a sophomore right now)
Since I was a kid, parents have always been amazing about being willing to drive me to the library or the local bookstore to check out books and maybe buy a few. So I've always enjoyed reading.
My particular favorites were Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Eragon and everything by Roald Dahl if anyone cares.

But this year in English, the course load has become daunting, and also the teacher intimidates the beejesus out of me.
He sort of just opens his mouth and I have no idea what he's saying.
He's talking in English of course, but his ideas and analysis about the text doesn't make sense to me. I've been struggling, but I can't wrap my head around anything. Ever.
It hurts because I feel incompetent and dull and just all-around unintelligent.

However, on the other hand, I'm doing very well in my other classes. Chemistry comes pretty naturally to me, and math makes sense if I work at it.

The one thing I worry about is that this will take away the joy of reading for me, and make it become something I struggle to find deeper meaning in without first enjoying the story.
I like reading for fun.
It's easy to identify with characters and struggle with them and triumph with them and be happy with them when something finally goes their way and cry from sadness when the book ends only to pick it up and do it all over again a few weeks later.
Now the books we read in class is a stressful experience because it's become a frantic dash for meaning and analysis.
To make a bad analogy, it's like taking a sandwich and blending it to oblivion in an attempt to figure it out more, squeezing out every last bit of useful information instead of enjoying the book/sandwich as as a whole.
I personally apologize for that sandwich smoothie image. I haven't had dinner yet.

Right now, I'm just trying to make it out of this course alive and with my self-esteem and appreciation for literature to last.
If anyone has any tips whatsoever, I will welcome and appreciate and love any advice you can offer. 

(I know I haven't posted for a while and when I finally come back from hibernation I launch into a rant about English. And for that I'm very sorry, but I feel like this blog is really the only place I can talk about it. So thank you for continuing to support me, it really does mean a lot.)