I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME THIS WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE
Trigger Warning: Self-harm, suicidal thoughts
To one and all,
I do not wish to impose my linear conception of few things in life on you, but I would like to argue its efficacy. This is my story and perhaps it will help you understand why self-love is so important.
I was not born normal, and by that, I mean I never felt like I was ever part of something, even if it was something bigger than me. I have a mixed ethnic background. My eyes are slanted, my complexion is dark, I talk funny and I do not look too good. Growing up I was a target, in the school bus, in family meetings - everything was about looking the right way, wearing the right clothes, and knowing how to utter a word. Every day was a test with a thousand ways to fail every time. A thousand ways to betray myself and to conform to the thoughts of few that were acceptable and considered normal by all. Every time I failed these tests, I paid a price. Emotional. Psychological. Physical. At times, I even betrayed my own principles to feel like I could be someone more acceptable to others.
I know there are a million mini-me's around the world who feel the same way, who want to be heard, they have something to say, they just want to be understood and loved.
Each of them and I lived through our formative years in survival mode; where every day was an opportunity to fail and fail tremendously, sometimes for the benefit of others.
And for each of us that felt this way, for each of us who could not stand up or raise their voice, love was a foreign concept, self-love meant abandonment. When at the age of 10 or 15 you live in survival mode, there is not a lot of space for words like – family, community, friendship and most importantly, ‘we’. Because if there did exist a ‘we’, if there were people from afar who watched, listened, and cared – then I would have been rescued a long time back along with millions of kids (and even adults) around the world.
The first time I physically hurt myself to get used to the pain, I was 13. I whipped myself simply to make my body stronger so when I when bullied, my body and mind would remain able and strong. The first time I tried killing myself was at the age of 15, when I tried drowning myself in the bath. By then so many had already tried to kill me, just for fun, that it seemed almost okay to hand it to them. But something, an inner voice, always kept me from seeing it through. I always found myself back in the school bus, feeling as alien as the days before, until someone I confessed to asked if I ever tried crying for help. And I always asked myself if there was any point in crying for help when there was nobody ready to respond. So, like many, I wanted out and I wanted to leave. Hoping either for all this to end or for the end of me. That was at 15.
This feeling of loneliness, self-doubt and self-hatred carried over into my early 20s. To the ones that I call my lifeline – those few brave souls that accepted me for what I am – I was always privately opened-up to about my past and feelings. But never publicly. Going into college, and then work, I had several instances to speak my truth, the lonely abandonment that I had made my life, but I never did. Because I never thought anyone could understand. So, I chose to lie. To dissemble. Even as I pushed myself to speak about my problems, I felt fear and anger and a stubborn resistance.
It was not until I had a lost few people; it was not until the days after I tried killing myself again (two years ago) that I finally stopped blaming others and searched for deeper meaning. For the self-love that I had suppressed so far down. It was not until I forgave those who had persecuted me, that I apologized for my behaviour to those who should have apologized to me, that I realised my self-worth and found self-love. And therefore, I write to you today. Not because I think I share with you a common list of problems. But because the few problems that we do have in common, are the problems worth fighting for. I thought, “let me be to someone else what nobody could ever be for me”. Let me send a message to these people that somebody is watching, listening, and caring.
We all want others to love us. But in the process, we learn to not love ourselves. We learn to push away instead of embracing our true self. We want to live by others’ happiness, to see ourselves the way they perceive us to be. The most human way of life is free and beautiful, but we have lost our way. The most human way of life begins when we start loving ourselves. The way we look, the way we talk, to be judged and still stand strong. Technologies that give us abundance foster hate, breed fear, and leave us in want. Our doubts about our nature have left us cynical about ourselves. We think too much and feel too little. We love others too much and care too little about ourselves. More than technology, we need humanity. More than cynical glances to our reflection in the mirror, we need kindness, gratefulness, and love for ourselves. Without all of this life would be meaningless and all will be lost.
Social media has brought us closer together. But to what end, I ask. The very nature of these technologies allows us to unabashedly speak up for ourselves, to truly be ourselves. Yet we hide behind the shroud of shame – as if our battle scars are anything to be ashamed of! Why do we use it to speak a language that resonates with others but suppresses our own voice? Do not give yourself to people who despise you, who threaten you, who enslave and regiment you; tell you what to do, what to think, what to say and how to feel about yourself; do not let your self-image be dictated by cold hearts and minds.
All you should want to do is expect people to see you for who you are, who you truly are. I wish you (and all the others) would see yourself the way I see you; and not allow yourself to be dictated by others’ perceptions of what looks beautiful, what should be spoken about and what should be hidden. We are defined by our choices, but if you surround yourself with people who look at you as something other than your own beautiful self, you will become that fake self.
Finally, I am not writing this to preach to you. I am writing this because I have lived that life and continue to do from time to time. And all this leads to nothing but broken hearts, broken relationships, broken dreams, and death. For what? So, we can live up to the expectations of others?
Every time you look at yourself in the mirror, love what you see, embrace it with all your heart. Say to yourself I am unique. I am beautiful. I am. Otherwise, you will remain alone and lose out on a beautiful thing.
Learn what is truly important – this thing precious the gift of self-love is. It is not your looks, not the shape of your body, your height that matters – it is what is inside your heart. Love. For yourself.
Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning. And that someone is YOU.
Finally, and again, learn to love yourself.
About the author: Aditya Singh is a former digital marketing professional with experience in optimising Digital Content, SEO, Strategy Planning, Brand Management and Digital Acceleration. He has previously worked with PepsiCo, Taco Bell, Jindal Water Infrastructure Limited, Bose, Polaroid, AMEX and he looks forward to learning the use of AI in National Strategies.