I have learned a few things in my 19 short years. By observing the people, I have surrounded myself with, I have learned more about who I am and who I want to be than I ever thought was possible. When I was younger, it’s obvious that I had less of a choice when it came to the people who influenced me, but never the less, they taught me just as much as the people that surround me now. I would like to share with you a few lessons that have had the biggest impact on the way I live my life now.
#1 No matter what, stand up for what you believe in.
Background: on my dad’s side of the family, I was the third oldest of a set of 14 close knit cousins. All of the aunts and uncles were persistent on us growing up together. This was a beautiful thing in the sense that my cousins are the best people in my life, but the aunts and uncles surrounding us had somewhat of a different impact. Their mindsets were rigid, patriarchal, and very I’m-older-than-you-so-you’re-always-wrong oriented. When it came down to it, and the family was finally falling apart due to the overwhelming amount of alcoholism, I was always blamed for problems I didn’t cause, and shunned because I took on the role of protecting my cousins. True story: I was once locked in a basement for 12 hours by my uncle, because when he called his 12-year-old daughter an ugly piece of shit, I didn’t quite keep my mouth shut. It was a few years before I talked to any of the adults on that side of my family again. Lesson: even if you are told something your entire life, how to act, what to think is right, etc, if you know something is wrong, stand up for it. And don’t stop until it is made right. Do not be afraid because you feel less than the person you are standing up to. Ever.
#2 True character comes from resilience.
Background: my mom has had quite the history of obstacles. She is the youngest of eight children, five of whom were adopted. In high school, her best friend and boyfriend at the time shot himself, and she held his hand as the ambulance took him away, unfortunately he still passed away. Both of her parents died of cancer when she was 18/19. She came home from school to take care of them by herself until they both passed. She paid her own way through college, and ended up getting two Master's in a field where she does nothing but help others (social work) and she survived an abusive marriage with my father and is now happily married to her new husband. My observations: my mother is obviously a resilient one. The thing that I still think about every day, is the fact that even though she was struggling, she never once showed her pain or her stress to my sister and I as we were growing up. I never looked at her as someone I had to take care of. She has always been our rock, even when she had no one to lean on herself. Lesson: true character comes from true resilience. You don’t know how strong you are until you go to what seems like rock bottom, and climb right back up. My mom had taught me to never give up. No matter how hard things get, nothing lasts forever. Pain cannot last forever.
#3 You can be strong and still ask for help.
Background: one of my best friends in high school struggled with a lot of internal pain. She herself had things happen to her and her family that are just unimaginable to some. She never talked about the things that bothered her, and covered it with a huge, outgoing personality. Only her closest friends knew she was struggling. She recently hasn’t been herself. She finally gave in and went to therapy. This was a huge step for her, and it was super hard, but she is hopeful. True Story: I always understood the idea that we tend to be guilty when it came to asking for help. We tend to think, other people have it worse, I’m fine. I can deal with it alone. Because of this guilt, I struggled for six years with bulimia by myself. The day I asked for help was the most liberating, and rewarding thing I have ever done. My life has now been forever changed because of that decision. Lesson: it IS possible to be strong and still ask for help. It is admirable to put your own best interest in front of this illusion of being bullet proof. No one will ever think you are less than. I promise.
#4 Even the most physically beautiful can be unaware of their worth.
My first friend in college taught me a lot about discovering your worth and the journey to master self-love. She is physically beautiful. She is a stereotypically hot girl; you know what I mean. You would think she has the most confidence in the world. In our tiny world of college, all the frat guys want her, people are subconsciously nicer to her, etc. One night, we were at a bar, and she liked this one ugly (on the inside as well) frat guy, and he decided that he had the right to tell her that she was too fat to go home with him, and that he just “had higher standards.” She was crushed. She continued to let boys talk to her this way, and it completely shocked me. Everyone goes through their own journey of self-love and confidence, it takes time. My friend obviously has some ways to go in this area, but her situation is a perfect example of the fact that everyone struggles with this. Lesson: you will never be everyone’s cup of tea. You will never be able to please everyone. Once you understand this, and accept it, you begin to work to please yourself. Work on yourself so that one day, you can be a person you are proud to be. Your worth is not determined by the amount of men that want to fuck you. Don’t let a douche with a receding hairline in his 20s ruin your night. You are beautiful, and your exterior appearance should be at the bottom of the list of things that you want to show off to the world.
#5 Invest in yourself.
The last piece of advice I have for anyone who continued to read this long ass article is simple when written, but a lot more complex when executed. Invest in yourself. Invest in YOURSELF. You have one life, one body, one opportunity to be the person you want to be. You have so much potential for things you might not even know that you’re interested in. Build yourself up! When you are heartbroken, get some sleep, go on a long walk, talk to someone important to you. Do the same when you are stressed, sad, homesick, etc. Do not use the words self-care as an excuse to make your mental health even worse than the stressor already is making it. Don’t binge, on food OR alcohol. Don’t lose sleep. Fill your body with nutrients. love yourself as much as you possibly can!! It takes time, but in the end, you are the only person who should be able to control your quality of life. Invest in yourself.