Author: Valery B.
For the past four years of my life, I lived each and every day with a negative outlook on my environment and the people within it. Whether that negativity showed up as demeaning self-talk or as anxiety that everyone around me was judging my every word and action, I would live life in a sad, closed-off, pitiful little bubble, putting myself through unnecessary torment.
This type of negativity has been ingrained in me since childhood. At a time as delicate as those prepubescent years, I was bullied for my weight and appearance – both by my peers and family -, laughed at when I could not remember a word in English (Russian was my first language) and constantly made feel less than those around me. In regards to the latter of the list, I vividly remember, in elementary school, trying to fit in with a group of girls, who made me feel extremely outcasted and unwanted. History seemed to repeat itself because the same thing happened to me 8 years later in high school.
Without having anybody to talk with and express my feelings to, I let this negativity sit with me, unaware that it was growing in my subconscious. With each passing year, it grew bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger. Eventually, there came a point where it boiled over into my conscious mind. At that point, I was in the depths of the anorexia and bulimia I had developed early on in high school and in the depression that came not long after. My negative outlook on life not only fed my mental illnesses, but also prevented me from reaching out for help when I needed it most. To this day, it still stops me from acknowledging my struggles and asking for help.
But, my awareness of this negativity, which had developed only recently, is the first step in my battle against it. Now that I acknowledge its debilitating, unnecessary presence, I can finally work on destroying it as well as the mental illnesses that have been growing more and more intense with its help.
I don’t deserve to live with a negative mentality of myself and of those around me. Why should I think less of myself based on my appearance, my knowledge, my skills and talents? Why should I sit on social media and compare myself to others, who, through a camera lens, seem to have better lives than I do? Why should I put myself down, deny myself of something that would make me happy, try to pick myself apart and find something wrong with myself?
HELLO. WAKE-UP CALL. NEITHER I NOR ANYBODY ELSE DESERVES TO LIVE LIKE THIS.
Here is why:
1. Every, single individual is unique and beautiful in his or her own way. Just because I don’t look like so-and-so or have a genius’s IQ, does not mean I am any less than those who do. I have talents, abilities and strengths that other people do not. I have goals and aspirations that I know I will achieve – once the negativity stops. I also have weaknesses, but that is OK because they allow me to learn and grow. I am unique and beautiful, and so are you.
2. I came into this world with an array of good traits and qualities, and nothing – not my appearance, not my body, not my life’s circumstances – can change those qualities. If I was born kind, I will remain kind. If I was born funny, I will remain funny. If I was born adventurous, I will remain adventurous. Everything in life changes: where you live, what you look like physically, who you acquaint yourself with, etc. But, your qualities never change, and it is important to use them to empower yourself and remind yourself that you are amazing, wonderful and beautiful human being.
3. What you see on social media is false reality and, thus, should never be used as a comparison point to your own life. I remember a couple years ago, when I was very ill with anorexia and bulimia, I would sit on Instagram every, single night before I fell asleep and peruse through my classmates’ lives, comparing myself to the girls’ bodies and appearances, friend groups, happy auras, etc. I would process what I saw and let it defeat me, as my life – both then and now – was nowhere near as seemingly perfect. At the time, I could not understand the dangers of social media, and I could not fathom that what people put on the web was untruthful or somehow skewed. Now, I have a better awareness of how harmful our social outlets are, and I am able to distance myself from them when I see them infiltrating my brain and whispering lies into my ears. I recognize that the happy faces I see on the web are not always happy in reality, that the red solo cups of weekend parties and the make-up-plastered faces of teenage girls are not always representative of a blissful life. I cannot compare myself to others, if not for the truths listed above, then definitely for the truth that I am not any less than or more than them.
4. I deserve to be happy. Simple. I deserve to freely run around and swing endlessly on a playground swing-set. I deserve to go out to a party and spend time with my friends without fearing that everyone is internally judging or criticizing me. I deserve to eat ice cream every day (yes, I have been doing this all week!) and not have any shame or guilt. I deserve to be with the person(s) who makes me smile, who makes me feel good about myself, who brings me endless joy. And, if that person is not in my life, then I deserve to be that person for myself because the most rudimentary, breathtaking, beautiful and interminable happiness comes from within one’s self.
Negativity, especially in regards to oneself, is life’s murderer. Why, then, should I live with it? Why should I tell myself I don’t deserve something or someone because I am not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or whatever grandiose lie that pops into my head? Why should I pick at my flaws when I can just as easily rejoice in my strengths?
I used to sit around for hours and rip myself apart; I would find something wrong with myself, whether mental or physical, and spend days looking it up on the web, self-diagnosing; I would use my every failing as a sign that I was never and would never be good enough for whomever I am with or with whatever I do. But, the truth is that these things are all humanistically degrading, unhealthy to do, and killers of my joy.
I am a compassionate, goal-driven, inquisitive person. I am sympathetic, ebullient and enthusiastic. I am beautiful. I am unique. I am worthy of life.
I am not a bad person. I do not have anything wrong with me, and that includes my mental illnesses. I may have moments of anger or sadness or guilt. I may lash out when I cannot control my emotions or completely isolate myself when I am going through a hard time. But, these things do not define me. They are not the characteristics I was born with but rather are just temporary and passing phases of life.
The negativity that is born and bred from the words I use when I talk of myself, the opinions I think that people have of me, the difficulties I cannot seem to overcome right now, needs to stop. It does not belong anywhere in my life, and if you can relate to what I mean – chances are that you do -, then do yourself a favor and get that negativity out of your life as well.