Confidence, Comparison and Community

Mental Health

Three seemingly unrelated concepts yet unrecognizably intertwined. First let’s talk confidence. As a 22 year old girl I would be lying if I said It’s not something I have struggled with, continue to struggle with and will likely have to battle the remainder of my time here on earth. In high school (wow, that was another lifetime) I would say confidence was the largest mental battle I fought on a daily basis. I had this weird feeling that everyone was always watching me, judging my every move and just waiting for me to do something….wrong. I mean, this is pretty normal for high school girls right? Trying so hard to fit in, walk the walk, talk the talk, all the while make it appear as effortless as possible. Every time I stood up in class, answered a question, or walked across the room I was careful. All of this stemmed from insecurity of course. My self talk at the time was so negative, I would look in the mirror and pick at every little thing. I would leave a conversation and think of all the things I said wrong. I worried about my hair, makeup, clothes (way too much), voice, the way I walked, I mean just everything. I worried about my face getting too red and THEN I worried about worrying. Needless to say, the list goes on.

Flashforward four years and I’m a freshman in college. This was an interesting time and a little tricky to dissect. I came to this big state school, got involved in greek life, and boy did the comparison game consume my thoughts with a vengeance. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone was gorgeous, skinny, personable, smart just the whole package (or at least I thought). And as a result I held myself to these standards (because I guess I didn’t think I possessed these qualities…mistake #1). This is a story for another time, but I started changing little things about myself try to meet the standards I felt I had to live up to. I stopped eating carbs, sugar, and anything “bad.” I studied for 9+ hours a day, worked out for AT LEAST two hours every morning and partied on the weekends. That’s what college is about, right? Ehhhh, not so much. This image-seeking lifestyle left as quickly as it came. I soon realized the amazing opportunities standing right in front of me. I’m on my own (relatively speaking), living away from home with all the freedom I could ask for, at a major institution with knowledge and new information pouring out of every classroom, and in a town with 30,000 other people my age. This is the last place I should be worried about my ~image~ because I can LITERALLY be anything I want.

So….that’s what I’ve done. I started a blog, created a lifestyle/fitness/food instagram, dove into studying with enthusiasm, started saying yes to things I want to do and no to things I don’t, and for the first time in my life started speaking my mind. I think it takes a “click.” A switch in your head that goes off and says “you are wonderfully and beautifully made, you ARE enough, and you can be whoever or whatever you want.” I’m entitled to my beliefs, my values and my own personal interests. That might not look the same as the majority of people my age, and that’s okay with me.

I don’t enjoy going out all weekend every weekend, I don’t have an interest in partying in Vegas, or drinking on the beach. I enjoy learning, spending my mornings at the gym, and my evenings cooking with a glass of wine, feeling accomplished after a long day. I’m not saying my way is “right,” I’m just saying it’s ME. The second you say yes to something because everyone’s doing it or miss out on an opportunity because it’s not “cool” you’re compromising your self-value and YOUR identity. That might not make some people happy, and you know what? That’s fine, I’ve genuinely accepted the fact that not everyone has to like me. I rather be MYSELF than conform and tirelessly try to go with “the flow.” It’s not about being loved by everyone, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being YOU.

So where do I stand now? Well, that’s where comparison and community come in. I think I’ve about conquered the battle on confidence (a never ending process I will admit, but I have made monumental steps) however I still find myself playing the comparison game a little too often. I’m in an extremely competitive major in which your worst enemy is your neighbor, I’m on a social media platform in which it feels as though everyone is trying to one-up each other and be the next biggest influencer, and I spend an hour in a gym every morning filled with 100 fit 20-25 year old girls. Bottom line: there’s a devil on my shoulder everyday screaming “COMPARE YOURSELF!” It’s not easy, and as I’ve said it’s something I struggle with but am taking steps to eliminate (or at least control). A lack of comparison comes with confidence, in a sense but sometimes it’s subtle and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. We take in a plethora of sensory stimuli everyday and as humans we mirror the images of others. If we see someone or something we admire we (consciously or not) change our actions to fit theirs. Sometimes this can be good, for instance maybe in the case of studying, but other times it can be draining and damaging to who YOU are. An attitude of acceptance and self-love comes into play here. As I find myself comparing I try to change my thoughts, focus on what I do have and remind myself of the acceptance and love I have for myself. Two things I’ve found to help in my quest for self-love- dancing and looking at myself in the mirror and physically saying “I love you.” Weird, I know but try it and eventually you actually start to internalize it.

Community is vital to…well life. Who do you surround yourself with? Do they lift you up, tell you how much you’re worth, and put your insecurities to rest? Do they challenge you to be better and reassure you when you feel down? Filling your life with meaningful relationships is one of the best things you can do for your mental health (and confidence). If you don’t feel supported, uplifted and worthy in your relationships it’s time to make a change. Building this community for myself has been vital in navigating this chapter of my life. Freshman year, I tried to fill voids. I hung out with people I thought were “cool” and “attractive.” I didn’t look for friends who supported me or even really cared about me, it was about the image. This is so wrong, and so unfulfilling. I have majorly shrunk my circle but I am 100000x happier. Quality not quantity. My relationships are intimate, and deep. They are built on trust, compassion and TRUE care (unfortunately that’s not always easy to find these days). The way people treat you, show you affection, and communicate with you has a major bearing on your self-worth whether you recognize it or not. Choose wisely.

Living in this age of instant gratification, constant connection, and an abundance of technology is not easy to say the least. We can sit here and dream of simpler times, and wish it wasn’t this complicated or we can make changes. We can change our thoughts, change the way we react to unrealistic image expectations, and take this life as an opportunity to grow into our best selves, with the best people by our sides.

Take the High Road

Mental Health, Stress

Take the high road. My stomach is churning, my hands are shaking, I want to shout at the top of my lungs in a raging fit. But I will take the high road. You’ve angered me, displeased me, infuriated me. You’ve hurt me, but I will take the high road. I will not succumb to this, this destructive, heinous, conniving way of thinking and living. I feel the rage, the fury, I feel it in full force as if fire-filled blood is rushing through my veins. It’s not fair, it’s not gratifying, it’s not positive or happy and at the moment it doesn’t even feel bearable. But it’s life. This is what we must go through, this is what God has in store for us as we tread through this wearisome life on earth. This is a test, a test of our faith, a test of our character, values and righteousness. Will we succumb to these feelings, these injustices lashed upon us? We say all the right things; “think positive thoughts,” “let the feelings pass,” “spread love, positivity, and cheer,” “be the bigger person.” But in the moment it is SO hard. It feels as though no ounce of my emotion is in my favor. It’s easy. It’s easy to fight back, to yell at the top of my lungs, to dig deeper until I feel that I have conquered. But while easy it is not right. It’s not right to fight back, it’s not right to get the last word, or any combative word for that matter. This is the time, this is when I must use what God has taught me, what I have been practicing, and what I preach to others. This is the time to face the fire head on and fight it with the light, my light, God’s light. So no, I will not fight back. I will not let the burning heat of rage and fury expose itself, and one day I will not let allow this grotesque anger a space in my heart in the first place. But for now, I will learn to cope, I will learn to lead with love, and compassion. I will be the bigger person, not for the gratification of being the bigger person but for the gratification of God, for it is he who is the real judge. I will love until there is nothing left to love, and I will give until I have nothing left to give. I will look you in the eyes and smile, showering you in my thoughtful compassion. Because you deserve it. You deserve to be loved, you deserve to feel important, you deserve my empathy. We all do, no matter how wrong, how nefarious, or atrabilious you are, you deserve respect. So it is respect I will give, and love I will show. I wish the world would be a better place, I wish there were no anger, no combative thoughts, no jealousy. But who am I to wish these discrepancies away? I do not have the power to do so, however, I do have power. I have the power to make my corner of the world a better place, to surround those who wrong me with my utmost respect and patience. To change the tone, change the vibe, and cultivate a space of kindness. I give you my love, I give you my blessing and I hope that one day you can feel the burden lifted off your shoulders, and peace that I have felt in coming to terms with letting go of this anger.

Social Media, For Better or For Worse

Mental Health, Stress

Sometimes I get stressed, I lash out at people I love, I talk down on myself, I compare. Sometimes I’m on top of the world, everything is going right, I’m positive and happy 24/7. Sometimes I don’t say what I really think because I’m afraid of what people might think. A lot of times I do things I don’t want to just to please other people. Contrary to many people on this platform, I’m NOT a liberal, NOT a feminist. I believe in working hard, I know I can achieve what I want and I don’t need to protest for that and that’s just what I believe, if you don’t agree that’s fine. That doesn’t mean we don’t have similar interests, hobbies, and viewpoints. And who’s to say that won’t change? I’m a college student, I haven’t lived through enough responsibility to have formulated a real political opinion. I love yoga. I meditate when I can. I need to workout everyday to feel sane. Sometimes I workout too long and study too much. I believe in God. This is who I am, I won’t apologize for that and I don’t believe it’s something I should hide.  Recently I’ve taken a break from social media. I haven’t felt myself, the seasonal depression is kicking in, the anxiety is high. I’ve been thinking a lot about who I want to be and who I want around me. I don’t want this platform to be somewhere I just “show off” my life. I want it to be somewhere I am unapologetically myself. If you don’t agree with my opinions, that’s fine. But we can still be friends. We can agree to disagree and learn from each other. I don’t want to use social media  for followers or to please anyone else. And in all honesty, I don’t want to put off an image of being someone I’m not. Social media is not my job, it’s not where I get my confidence. Sometimes I post everyday, sometimes I go months without it because it’s too much and I have to step away. I can’t promise I’ll only post pictures of food, or yoga, or fitness. Sometimes I go into overly-analyzed deep and thoughtful rants. It’s a work in progress, I’m a work in progress. I’m learning to use social media as a space, a place where I can share my journey, connect with like-minded people, learn and grow from others and share my ideas. I am learning to navigate this form of interaction and find that perfect balance between productivity and enjoyment. Finding community is one of the most important things in life, community lifts us up, gives us a safe place and contributes a great deal to overall wellness. I believe social media can be an amazing means of connecting and finding this community if used in the right way. I’m not saying I have all the answers, and I’m not sure if posting all of this and sharing my journey will even pay off one day. But I believe we can learn something from everything  and if I can help even five people, or connect to a small group of like-minded individuals that make me feel part of a community, that’s enough for me.