I graduated from college one year ago. In college I had a strong sense of identity. I had a large and life-giving community of friends, I was well liked and recognized, and I walked around feeling confident and happy.
One year later, I have lost that sense of identity.
It started with graduation. I have always been a competitive person, and it gets me in trouble. When everyone was going off and finding their new awesome adventures or excelling in their new jobs, I panicked. I wanted my Post Grad Life to measure up. I wanted to be doing things others admired. So I got an amazing internship, traveled to four countries, and moved back to my college town to begin a job that fits me perfectly.
On the outside, I had nothing to complain about. Inwardly, I still found myself comparing myself to others, especially the people closest to me. I struggled to find myself and find recognition outside of the community and context of college. And the more I compared myself, the more insecure I became.
In wanting to be a leader, I struggled to put others first. In wanting to be accomplished, I struggled to celebrate the accomplishments of others. In trying to become the best version of myself, I began picking apart every single thing I did or said, terrified someone would perceive me in a way I didn’t want them to. In wanting to be so loved, my ability to love others well was crushed.
And then the guilt and self-loathing came in. I hated how obsessed I was with how much others liked me. I hated how reluctant I was to lift others up because inside I was jealous and fearful I could never measure up. I hated how much the feeling of having to be the best at everything was consuming me. I began to, without even being conscious of it, really dislike myself. All I could see was an insecure woman scrambling to assert herself, to be on top.
My story is ongoing. There is no tidy resolution yet, no big eureka moment where I decided to love myself. What I have done, though, is given myself permission to love myself.
I’m really good at beating myself up. When I act or think in a way I shouldn’t, my first response is to inwardly chastise myself and tell myself how awful I’m being. Maybe I’m being awful, but that does not mean I am an awful person. THAT is what I have to remind myself of. I have to remind myself that I am my own worst critic, that the way others perceive me is ultimately out of my hands. All that is up to me is how I perceive myself and choose to act on that perception.
Last night I went for a drive, and I thought to myself, “What four characteristics would I want to describe myself as?” I chose joyful, beautiful, wise, courageous. And I said them over and over again as I drove, talking to myself out loud (I’m really good at this) about why I am all of those things. And I will keep saying them over and over again until I believe them more than I believe the other adjectives I so often assign myself: petty, jealous, insecure, small.
Brene Brown says, “I believe owning our story and loving others through the process is the bravest thing we’ll do.” This is my battle. I am joyful, beautiful, wise and courageous.
I am learning to love myself again so I can love others well.
Written and loved on by Julia Feeser