I have been known to be a perfectionist, mostly with words, but often with myself. I’m my own worst critic and biggest doubter. It’s taken it’s toll on how I view myself. I’d be the first to put myself down, to prioritise others over myself and my health; and I no longer see the boundary in learning to laugh at myself or beating myself up for my shortcomings. I tend to find humour as a way to list my faults so no one can beat me to the punch, and it’s often a way to encourage others to treat me differently. If that’s how I see myself, why shouldn’t others? It was always okay because it was a joke, or perhaps I was, but then one day I stopped laughing.
When I put others over myself, often without really considering it, it’s meant that my needs have become secondary. It’s meant at times, I’ve avoid voicing my concerns and thoughts, because I didn’t want to upset someone, start a fight or cause drama. What I’d actually done was upset myself in that process, and rather than be honest and deal with it then and there – I let it fester, meaning it built into a bigger problem further down the line.
In a way, it’s created an imbalance between myself and friends, family or partners. I’ve not seen myself as worthy enough to have them, that I would accept anything because I was grateful I had something. I would accept negative comments about my life, or for them to act as the driving influence in my life over my own voice. It made me an extra in my own life, as I put the desires and needs of others before my own.
It, also, created a negative image for myself. I tended to believe that other people’s perception of me, or their opinions, were the only ones that mattered. That was my fault, not theirs, as I should have learnt how to practice self-care or learnt to trust my own view of myself. I needed to learn that I wasn’t a villain.
Last year, I tried to break away from this pattern of negativity by making positive improvements towards my health and by taking the plunge, making memories and going to events or places I’d put off. It was my start towards being more positive. I’ll admit it did allow me to become more firm on what I wanted from my relationships and what I would not tolerate.
I lost a few people in my life because I had stepped away from them in that time, to take care of myself; and I do genuinely wish them the best. That said, I needed to have that balance where I could focus on others, but alongside looking after me. I wasn’t abandoning them if I needed to take a break to rest. There had to be more give and take, where I wasn’t putting one over another.
By doing this, I’d started taking better care of myself (physically and mentally) as well as pursued my interests; and given those I care about space to do the same. Living in each other’s pockets isn’t always sustainable, how can I be attentive to others if I can’t afford that to myself? I’ve found learning and reflecting inwardly has helped me outwardly, I’ve become a happier person to be around.
There will always be days when I slip up or have a bad day, but on the whole, I think I’ve felt the happiest I’ve been in a while. I’ve been able to really get involved with conversations or events more without standing so much in the sidelines. By focusing on building up my self-esteem, I’ve noticed my mental health has improved as has my communication, leaving me less stressed as I’ve accepted that it’s okay to ask for help. I no longer see myself as a burden.
I didn’t, however, immediately start being positive about every aspect of my life. With anything, it comes slowly over the time. It’s taken me a year to get to this stage, and I’m still learning. I started off small. At the back of my diary, I sat down and wrote a whole page of positive qualities that I liked about myself. That didn’t come easy. I acknowledged them, rather than downplayed them. It was okay for me to admit that I am kind, passionate and often funny.
Then I used them every time I felt anxious about how I looked in the mirror or had a bad day. An example would be that I didn’t get a promotion and someone else did. I was happy for them because they did well and deserved it, but it didn’t mean I was any less hard-working or determined. They just decided to go in a different direction. I still tried and that was better than never trying or putting myself out there.
A friend had put it simply as, ‘what’s meant for you, won’t go through you’. I’d like to think that by keeping putting myself forward for opportunities means that I’ll find the right one eventually. It won’t pass me by, and maybe the ones that do aren’t really destined for me.
Instead, by reaffirming my good qualities and becoming more confidence, it would continue to benefit me. Not just with opportunities, but continue to improve my health. It will mean that I don’t apply too much pressure or stress, improving both my mental and physical health; and it will allow me to say no more often, so I can cultivate healthier, happier and supportive relationships.
It will not, however, be an excuse for me to become vain, spiteful or a way to treat others cruelly, Everyone’s journey is different and I, as well as others, must respect that if I want my own to be supported. I’m thankful, and I know I say this a lot but it’s worth repeating, my family and friends are happy to see me grow and change; but I trust them enough to tell me when something isn’t right or isn’t working. For now, this path, seems to be the way to go, and is one I feel better for choosing.