For the longest time, I’ve struggled to love myself.
I struggled with being good enough for the longest time. The worst thing that someone’s ever said to me was something along the lines of, “No one will ever want to marry someone like you, no one will want to hire you, and no one will ever think you’re up to their standards.” And even when nobody else was that direct, I could feel inferior with the ways I would get rejected from job applications, passed over for promotions (which I swear to this day was due to my extreme introversion), and compared to other women who met social standards that I struggled to meet, especially those with charisma that I clearly lacked.
These words and feelings would always bring out the worst in me, because I’d always be jealous of the women who lead lives that I didn’t even want, but somehow, I still suffered from feelings of inferiority and the fear that nobody would like me for who I was—I thought I was too boring, too plain, too quiet, too childish, and too unintelligent for anyone to love.
But in my most ideal and authentic state, I don’t give a fuck about looking like a femme fatale in kitten heels and red lipstick. I don’t give a fuck about smiling all the time. I don’t give a fuck about throwing the perfect Instagrammable bachelorette parties, treating friends to brunch, or traveling around the world, looking all happy and carefree. I don’t give a fuck about having a wardrobe full of professional brand-name outfits for every day of the year. I don’t give a fuck if people don’t like the bare-faced selfies I take. I don’t give a fuck about not having an expensive lingerie set because I feel most comfortable in cotton undergarments. I don’t give a fuck if I don’t have a toned belly. I don’t give a fuck if my face isn’t appealing enough to be on a beauty campaign. I don’t give a fuck about pleasing men with my body, and I hate it when anyone insinuates that I’m a slut-shamer just because I feel most comfortable in my own skin when I dress modestly and only want to be loyal to one man who sees me as a best friend first and a lover second. I’ve always been the odd one out, and deep down, I love it… but somewhere along the way, I lost touch with who I truly was and tried too hard to prove that I could be significant, powerful, physically appealing, and social too. I’ve been labeled as the quiet and boring girl, and when I’m alone, I’m fine with that, but one comparison and offhand remark can lead me down a rabbit hole of self-loathing, anguish, and guilt for not being worthy enough.
During my early twenties, I had crushes on guys who made me feel inferior because they’d always compliment other women and celebrities who were the epitome of power, seduction, and glamour. I wasn’t even close to that—I was just a little nobody who put on eyeliner the way a two-year-old scribbled with a crayon. In college, I felt extremely inferior to women who had it easier than me when it came to college majors and landed highly coveted marketing jobs with hefty salaries, while I struggled to make it in a male-dominated field and failed miserably at it because I wasn’t a scientist or a techie (I was an artist through and through). And the worst thought I’ve had that held me back for the longest time was, “If I can’t prove that I can soldier through what I don’t like to do, what makes me deserving of going after what I love?” I thought I didn’t deserve anything good in life because I hadn’t proven myself worthy yet.
But I’ve gotten to the point where I’m so fed up with ruminating over everything that has hurt me in the past and made me feel inferior to literally everyone I know. Because in my ideal life, I shouldn’t even care to meet standards that aren’t even my own. I don’t want to have a scarcity mindset and pursue things for the purpose of proving that I can be enough, as if I’m still not enough, and I have to win this unspoken competition of becoming better than others in every way possible, according to society’s cutthroat standards. During my darkest times, I’ve had to disappear for a while and lie in the dark alone to ask what it is that I really and truly want for myself.
I want to live an authentic life, even if it looks super boring and unglamorous to others, because that is what would make me most happy. I want to be free from the kind of consumerism that causes me to overcompensate for my inadequacies. I want to be free from the fear that I can’t speak my mind on things that actually matter to me.
I’m a minimalist, not because I’m a cheapskate, but rather, it’s the only lifestyle that feels genuine to me and lifts a burdensome weight off my shoulders. I can cook the same meals every day and be satisfied. I can wear the same outfit that other people find boring, but dressing to look good for others was never a top priority anyway. I don’t need to have a picture-perfect living space or host dinner parties for friends (because I don’t even have many friends). I don’t need to impress people with anything I do, and I don’t have to do it all, especially when I don’t care about doing most things that others are doing. It took many years to get to that point, and sometimes FOMO affects me, but I always come back to the center of my soul, which is filled with inner peace, simple joys, and radical self-acceptance. I’m an extreme introvert. I lead a slow, quiet life. I don’t travel at all and don’t even have plans for doing so. I’ve given up on so many dreams and narrowed down my list of goals just so I can have time to sit through prolonged periods of stillness and take care of my mental health. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have a marketable or magazine-worthy life, but it never was something I wanted to attain, because I truly am happier with fewer but more substantial things that are kinder to my soul and gentler on my heart.
Recently, a fellow writer sent me such a kind message and complimented me for being thoughtful and that I should be proud that I’m introverted. That really lifted a weight off my shoulders, because even when I’m not bubbly or charming, I can still affect people’s lives positively with my words and talk about things I care about.
Right now, I’m still in the process of mastering the art of loving who I am without any conditions. And even after I’ve written the book of my dreams and poured my soul into it, I don’t need it to validate my talent, work ethic, or uniqueness, because even without big accomplishments, I am enough as I am. No longer do I feel pressured to go after what I don’t want. No longer do I want to achieve things that aren’t really right for me. No longer do I want to be praised by everyone if that means I haven’t first loved myself.
And right now, all that truly matters to me is showing up in life the way I am and never accepting anything that makes me feel like I can’t.