I used to be a pessimistic person. I only focused on the negative aspects of my life and what I didn’t have to the point that I did not think about how fortunate I was. I had poor self-image and would constantly compare myself to others. I thought I was not beautiful and assumed others thought the same. I thought I was not intelligent, and assumed others thought I was stupid. I projected my own negative opinions about myself onto other people and felt like everyone thought the worst of me.
I was afraid to be myself. I did not want my peers to think I was weird or make fun of me and kept some of my interests and opinions to myself. Instead of speaking up for myself when people teased me, I would laugh and pretend my feelings had not been hurt because I did not want them to think I couldn’t take a joke. I did not want to stick out and wanted to blend in with everyone else. I was hiding parts of myself to fit the mold others had set out for me. My desire to fulfill their exceptions was stronger than my desire to fulfill my own. However, my expectations for myself were inaccurate because I based them on comparisons to other people. I thought if one person in class could get a perfect score on an incredibly difficult test, that I could, too. I would push myself to be better until I was completely exhausted. These expectations were not realistic because I was not taking my own individual abilities into account. I had imagined an identity for myself and was struggling to fit.
Like a shoe that is too small, no amount of pushing or squeezing will make it fit. I had to wear the identity that was meant for me, but I had to find it first. My outlook on life was changed naturally with age. I’m no longer a 15-16 year-old girl, but a 21 year-old woman. After having to worry about more serious matters, I don’t have the time, energy, or patience to think about other’s opinions as much and try to make the best of each day. A change in surroundings also positively impacted my outlook. I moved to a warmer climate and met new people. I was able to have a fresh start.
When I first moved here, I did not know anyone other than my family and spent a lot of time alone. This didn’t bother me at first because I actually like to have time to myself. I had the chance to reflect and spend time exploring my own interests. While we were moving into our house, I unpacked a box of books and notebooks and found my old diaries. I sat down and read over the entries going as far back as the first grade when my mom gave me my first diary. I noticed the common entries where I expressed my difficulties repressing my desires and interests to fit in. After flipping through the pages, I realized that I had to make a conscious effort to step out of my shell and embrace myself.
People ask me how I can always look on the bright side in tough situations and I just shrug my shoulders. After spending years of my life trying to be perfect, I finally let go. I learned to laugh at my mistakes and speak up for myself when necessary. There is no doubt in my mind that my experiences up until this point have deeply impacted my outlook on life, but I have a difficulty finding the words to express this journey. With a smile, I say, “This is just who I am.”