It didn’t take too many visits to my therapist to learn that my biggest psychological hurdles were my narrow-minded perspectives on who I was supposed to be, where I was supposed to be in life, and what the people in my life thought or expected of me. I was carrying the weight of a million “what-ifs” with me everyday, everywhere I went, and into every relationship. I constantly wondered if my friends secretly hated me, if I was visible at all, if I would ever find success or love or “happiness.” With every experience that felt I had proved a seeming deficit to be true, I gave my subconscious more ammo.
When I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself to be an unrealistic version of myself, I started taking stock of all the moments I judged myself for something that didn’t need judgement. I saw where I needed the most self-love and self-care. Here are 7 of the more damaging behaviors I’ve judged myself for and how that interfered with my healing process.
One Night Stands
Although I believed in sex-positivity and dismantling the double-standard about who was allowed to engage in casual sex and be heralded for it and who be called a slut, I was still victim to internalized misogyny. I still felt like I was supposed to want more or better for myself, “more” and “better” meaning monogamy, love and commitment.
When I judged myself for having one-night stands, what I was really telling myself was that I wasn’t supposed to seek pleasure, much less find someone to engage in that with.
This shame fueled my insecurities: I must not be worthy of love or, I was not lovable because, if I were, someone would have loved me by now; I am only good for having a body that pleasures other bodies.
There is nothing inherently wrong with one-night stands, or having multiple partners, or sex for pleasure rather than sex as a means of communicating romantic love. Casual sex does not mean anything about who I am as a person beyond the fact that I like sex.
Sex doesn’t make me a lesser person because it’s okay to like sex.
Living in New York has made this particular issue a tough one for me to tackle daily. Everywhere, there are women dressed to the 9’s. Whether their aesthetic be professional, hipster, androgynous — everyone always seems to look extremely put-together. Most efforts for me to look “put-together” felt dishonest. Was I really the kind of girl who wore makeup? Was makeup even meant for me — I’ve never felt classically pretty enough for the red lipstick and floral dress, but also not edgy enough for the black lipstick and blue box-braids. Dressing up felt like a shameful act of egoism, or, of not knowing my place.
What does it mean to make myself visible? Afraid of what absolute strangers might think of me, knowing I would never learn what they thought of me anyway. So, what happens if I dress for the day I want to have, for the mood I’m in, for my desired level of comfort instead of what I think the world expects me to look like?
Someone once told me that it’s none of my business what other people think about me. When I remember that, I feel less anxious about my ever-changing aesthetic. My body is no one’s business but my own.
Content Warning: Engaging in Self-Harm
I’ve lived life undiagnosed, then diagnosed but unmedicated, then diagnosed and medicated, and some variations therein. Before the medication, I engaged in self-harm. Often, my own fingernails would do or a fist to the gut or a slap to the face. Beyond it being a dangerous catharsis, it was the only pain I felt I had control over. After getting prescribed anti-depressants, for the most part, I stopped feeling that need. So, I’d promise myself never to do it again. Promises like these can be both helpful/affirming and painful/self-sabotaging.
But one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced is after I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do it again, then, months later, fall back on the promise. It felt like I shouldn’t have made that promise in the first place because, of course, I would never stay healthy enough to not engage in that type of destructive behavior. I would always be destructive. That kind of shame kept me in a downward spiral.
You do what you can with what you have, what you know, where you are. This is not to say that I encourage self-harm at all. But, there’s no space for shame in coping with depression. Sometimes we relapse, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find our way back to ourselves.
More Radical Reads: When It’s Not All Good: Learning How To Be Okay In The In Between
This is something I still find myself at odds with myself about. At 25, I have yet to be in a relationship. For a long time, that felt like such a huge failure. I’ve watched my friends hop from one relationship to another, be heartbroken, break hearts and felt a destructive envy. I didn’t care if I was with someone who would eventually break my heart as long as I could say I was with anyone at all.
I got to the point where I wanted to be in a relationship just so I could say I was in one, so I could have stories to share, so I would know what kind of partner I’d be. I got to the point where it didn’t matter who my partner was as long as they said “yes” to me. People would ask me why I’m single, and I didn’t have an answer for them, at least, not one that seemed to satisfy their curiosity.
Relationships shouldn’t just be an item on my to-do list, something to check off, so I can move on to the next “phase” of my life. Over the course of spending 25 years on my own, I have become an expert on myself. I know the ways in which I’ve changed, the perspectives I have learned to shift, what my triggers are, what I can and can’t stand for. That means more to me now than what I might have learned if I had forced myself to be in a relationship I wasn’t meant to be in.
Content Warning: Disordered Eating
I have been actively recovering from an eating disorder for the past 3 years. Still, I catch myself thinking things like, “how weak you are, to need food. Wouldn’t you rather be thin than full?” More often, now though, it’s become less about my body and more about my wallet; the questions become “you’re really going to spend money on food? You know you’re broke, right? It’s this or rent. Aren’t you strong enough to fight through hunger?”
The thing is…I’m a human being. And human beings require food in order to live. So, if eating means I have to swallow my pride and ask my friends and family for help to pay my phone bill, that’s what I’m going to have to do. If eating means I still don’t fit the pair of jeans I should’ve thrown out last year, then I’m throwing out the pair of jeans that don’t fit. Eating should not be a game of mind over matter.
More Radical Reads: Let’s Stop Comparing Ourselves: 6 Ways Jealousy is Stealing Your Self Love & How to Stop It
All of my closest friends had their own apartments and ways of paying their bills years before I was finally capable of moving out of my parents’ house. Though, most of them were getting help from their parents or other family members, I still felt like I had fallen behind. I felt like the child of the bunch. And though my parents live in the same city as me, I virtually lived on my friends’ couches for about a year, rotating apartments every few weeks. It gave me a semblance of independence.
I have now lived on my own for almost 2 years, and it doesn’t make me feel like the adult I thought it would. The same way people often say, “I’ll be happy once I get X,” then, when they get X the goal becomes to get Y, is the same way I had begun to think about adulthood. There was always a “next step” to adulthood that constantly kept me feeling like I’d never be worthy of claiming that title.
What I keep learning though, is to honor where I am in my life. Being an “adult” is not limited to being financially stable. I am an adult in how I help people, in how I love, in how I write and educate, in how I communicate with others, in how I make sure to take my Lexapro everyday and take my Xanax when I need it, in how I show up for others and myself.
Being a Hermit
I spend a lot of time alone. In my room. Watching anime and writing and daydreaming. For the most part, this is a genuine pleasure, though, sometimes, it is a consequence of debilitating depression. Either way, my static lifestyle has often made me feel like I’m failing at being human — unsociable, lazy, isolated. I feel guilt when I tell my friends I can’t go out because I’m (emotionally/physically) tired. I feel shame when I haven’t left my house in days, more so that I’d choose being at home over being anywhere else. Shouldn’t I want to be out and about? Around my friends and family? Going to concerts and lectures and bookstores? That shame cements me to my bed. So, even when I’m home because I want to be, I find that I can’t enjoy my usual leisures.
That shame disregards the fact that I need to be alone. It’s how I recharge. Though I don’t claim introversion, I do truly enjoy my own company. I love being alone with my thoughts and imaginings. There’s nothing wrong with that. When I do leave my home, then, it is for something I feel worthy of my energy and time. We all find joy in different and wondrous places.
[Feature Image: A photo of a person with their head cocked to the right. They have an afro hair style and is wearing a grey shirt with sleeves to the elbows. Their arms are crossed over their chest. They are standing against a grey wall. Source: kris krüg]