Author: Valery B.
Life is a beautiful thing. It is physically beautiful, as the mountainous steeps of the Bavarian countryside or the saturated sun of a Budapest-morning euphoria will show. It is emotionally beautiful, as the multitude of connections human beings have the power of making – the connections that range from complete, stranger-to-stranger interactions to the most predictable, familiarities of longstanding friendships – will portray. It is mentally beautiful, as an eternal cycle of learning, of growing, of changing will determine. Despite this beauty, however, there is a lack of appreciation for this rare and natural phenomenon, a lack that grows from the pits of despair and turmoil and challenge, where people delve into a seemingly-endless abyss of hopelessness, pessimism and negativity. Although moments of suffering are indeed painful and difficult to go through, they are manageable, and they are things that we, as humans, are 100% capable of overcoming. What we usually forget, however, – and what holds the key to a life of fulfillment and appreciation – is that each of us solely lives for them self. He or she is in charge of crafting the life they envision for them self – a life that has all the happiness and contentment and success that can be imagined. He or she is the maker of their universe – a universe that does not need approval from anyone but them self. With the awareness of the simple truth that we all live solely for ourselves, it is enough to see the beauty in any situation, especially as it relates to life as a whole and the challenges that it brings.
I would like to give you an example from my life. As a recovering victim of anorexia and bulimia, I strive to impress people with my food intake and spontaneous ventures to the kitchen. Although this may sound innocent and perhaps even beneficial, it is nothing of the sort. As I go out to a café to order a slice of pizza, I make sure I inform as many people as possible that I am doing such a thing. I make it seem like my intent is pure by asking my parents, for example, if they would like anything from the café or by beseeching my grandfather to give me a lift; however, these inquiries are coy ploys of getting attention to the fact that I am going out to eat and that I am eating the food that I love.
Now, “How could this possibly be bad”? A young, 18-year-old girl, recovering from anorexia and bulimia, showing her family that she is doing alright, that she can be trusted rather than barraged by critiques of the mental health field, cannot possibly be a scenario that threatens happiness and life-fulfillment. But, I assure you that it is. What I am doing is I am relying on their approval and on their happiness in order to reach my own elation. I spend so much time planning how I could get their attention, how I could impress them so that they see me as a “better” person, that I jeopardize the utter simplicity of this whole concoction: eating food. I am neither happy nor at ease when I have nobody to impress – be it with food or with my hobbies or with my manners or simply with my life. I rely on others to give me a thumbs-up as I make one decision after another. Nothing is ever spontaneous or easy. Everything is always stringent and uncomfortable.
I am living for others, and by doing so, I am losing my life. Behind closed doors, I plan every major and minor action – everything from when I will smile and laugh to when I will decide to go out with my friends – like it is a calculated endeavor. These millions of thoughts, both inchoate and longstanding, emerge from the type of self-consciousness, lack of confidence and fear that clouds the judgement of every individual that does not realize that he or she is living solely for him or her self. In retrospect, these people, of which I am an avid member, do not have lives. They are corpses that, although walk, talk and breathe, die within a broken reality of an insignificant life. A life of nothing.
My entire family has been berating me with the words, “Val, you are living for nobody but yourself,” for years, especially as I went through myriad programs of mental health treatment and recovery; however, it took a special individual, a complete stranger at that, to say these same words to me to make me realize that they are in fact true, that I must in fact live solely for myself.
Here is my epiphany:
1. I have to work hard and put effort into all of my endeavors because nobody is going to build my life for me.
2. I have to use both the positive, supportive people and the negative, judgmental people who have come across my life to my advantage, as both have the power to build me up, give me strength and teach me resilience.
3. I have to feel the lowest of lows to appreciate the highest of highs and realize that I can find optimism and positivity in both.
4. I have to eat when I want to eat, what I want to eat and how I want to eat without giving a second thought of who knows what my diet looks like, as I do not need to impress anybody but myself with the food I choose to love.
5. I have to live each day to the maximum, deriving as much knowledge, opportunity, diligence and positivity possible, as living even one day in sadness, defeat and stagnation is a day wasted.
6. Most importantly, I have to believe in myself, that I am capable of greatness, of recovery and good health, of happiness and of success. I am capable of achieving whatever I set my mind to, as my life is in my hands and only I can determine how it pans out. Those people who come my way are only spectators in the grand production of my life. The main heroine is me. And, it is about time that I start embracing this truth.
How I live and what I do with my life are for me, and only me, to love and find happiness in. I must be grateful for everything and everyone that has come my way but, simultaneously, know that these things and these ones are not powerful enough to hold a immense influence over my life. The only influence over my life is the one I make.
From this day forward, I will live to my maximum potential, happiness and self-belief with disregard to the critics and admonishers, to the ones who I feel like I need to impress and get approval from. Will this work immediately? Probably not; however, with consistency and a continual effort to live simple and to live for myself, I know that I will reach a state of euphoria that will transcend the beauty from this shared, global and beautiful life directly to my individual life. Simply having an awareness of this transcendence is enough to empower me to embrace myself and my life.