I have recently come to the realization that I haven’t properly listened to myself since 2011. And I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to figure this out.
In the fall of 2011, I began running a mile after school everyday. I would then go into my high school’s gym, do 50 to 100 crunches and some other ab sequences, and call it a day. For a while, this felt great and healthy, until I began to learn about calories. And then everything changed.
I didn’t look at cereal or pasta or the chicken my mom made for dinners the same; everything was a number, it was never food or fuel. And running no longer became a release, it became a way to burn those numbers away (and honestly, to look good). Of course, I loved running with my whole heart, and it always served a higher purpose for me. But my motivation to run and to eat obsessively “healthy” was not one of self love or self care; my motivation came from this desire to control who I was and everything around me.
I kept up the running and strict diet for quite some time—so long, in fact, that it kind of became a part of me. And I think that’s where everything went very wrong. If I didn’t log my daily four miles and eat at least three servings of fruit or vegetables, I felt like an immense failure.
When college finally rolled around the corner, I found myself working out way less and eating very differently (chocolate-covered almonds were my main food group). This wasn’t so much out of choice as it was out of a void that I hadn’t yet identified as anxiety or depression (classic first year, oops). But still, the fact that I wasn’t exercising wildly and eating only “healthy” foods left me feeling rather worthless. After all, the past four years had been just that.
And now, I’d like to cut to the present. Currently, I am in the United Kingdom, and it’s truly a time to be alive. So that is what I’m doing: living. I am so over focusing on looking good and presenting a certain image to everyone; I am making a conscious effort to put my energy toward feeling good. Some days, I’ll go to the gym and get in a killer workout. Who knows, maybe I’ll go three or four days in a row. Sometimes, though, I decide to take a nap or read, ignoring my drawer of shorts and sports bras and choosing to go out with friends and dance until 4 a.m. Have I regretted it thus far? No way.
Ultimately, I am reevaluating what makes me happy. And I think that I’ve got somewhat of an answer: Moderation. I don’t want to make any one thing my entire life. Instead, I’m trying to incorporate a little bit of everything. I want to find and build a sense of balance, and I want to make sure that everything I do is with intention, love, and gratitude. No more doing stuff because I’ll feel inadequate if I don’t. Honestly, it’s about time I recognize my true self worth and love myself, even if I don’t manage to leave my flat all day or have ice cream for dinner. It’s time to do things because I really want to, because they make me feel good.
We all deserve to feel like we’re enough, as cliché as it sounds. And yeah, loving yourself unconditionally can feel impossible—but once you do so, you really do feel free.