Ya girl turned 23 today! I wanted to share some truths I’ve learned in life thus far to celebrate March 6, 2018. Enjoy…
1. You don’t have to be talented at or gifted in anything to enjoy it.
I’m not a professional fashion blogger. I have nice clothes and I try to take nice photos of myself wearing them, but at the end of the day, I’m just a woman with a timer on her camera who takes photos for fun so I can accompany semi-decent photos (because people tend to engage more with high quality media online) with thought-provoking captions on social media. I also enjoy expressing myself through self-photography. I feel more comfortable and confident in myself as I learn to embrace what I look like.
I’m not a professional makeup artist. I have nice palettes and makeup that suits my face well. However, I am not professionally trained. I can’t do winged eyeliner no matter how hard I try!! But after all, I wear makeup to express myself and because I do enjoy trying to learn how to do different looks.
I’m not a professional artist, but one doesn’t have to be talented at creating elaborate or precise pieces to label themselves as an “artist”. I create art to cope with and express my emotions. I learned about art therapy and fell in love with it in the first residential treatment center I went to — The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia. Some people have a gift of creating magnificent works of art; I have a gift of expressing myself through art that may be mediocre, but was in all actuality, a great means of healing for myself.
2. You can be nice to people for no reason.
Random acts of kindness are my favorite. It’s nice to be nice.
My wish for my 23rd birthday is that if you read this, put in more effort to be kind to people today — for no reason at all.
I know those quotes where it has a format along the lines of, “That boy you just tripped — he is abused enough at home…That pregnant teenager that you just called a slut — she got raped” mean well. While those are powerful words, I want to challenge it.
Yes, you don’t know what someone is going through ever. And yes, you should be kind and respectful to every person you meet. But don’t choose to only be kind to someone just because you know what they’re going through. You shouldn’t pick and choose who you are nice to, dependent on if they are going through a hard time or not. Eff that. Be nice to everyone you meet. Even if they are carrying a struggle that is lesser than yours or someone else’s, still choose kindness.
As human beings, we all face struggles in life. We all have struggles of varying degrees, and some people cope better with said struggles than others, but every single one of us still deserves your kindness.
Smile at a stranger even if you think they may not acknowledge you. Hold the door for someone who may not say, “thank you”. Ask someone how they are even if they don’t return the question.
Do kind things for others that don’t ensure you’ll get anything back in return — that is my wish for my birthday. I’m choosing this as my wish because I know this world is capable of being kinder.
You don’t have to do much to be kind to someone. Just put aside your own stuff for a moment, be genuine, and carry out an act of selflessness. Kindness doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; a simple smile at a stranger would do so much good for this world compared to many people’s usual behavior of keeping to ourselves by looking at our phones and/or never going out of our way (even if it took 10 seconds to do) to be kind to a fellow human being. So get out there and throw kindness around like confetti. ✨ Via Instagram
3. It’s ok to make mistakes.
We all make mistakes because perfection is unattainable. We are perfectly imperfect as we are. We are enough as we are.
I used to hold myself to a high standard where if my friends made mistakes in life, I’d tell them it was ok, but if I made mistakes in life, I’d punish myself. Now, I can recognize that I am allowed to make mistakes, too; it is part of the human experience.
4. You can grow and learn from your biggest regrets.
I used to think I’d live with regrets from mistakes I made when I was younger for the rest of my life. Now, they serve as reminders — some bittersweet, and others still painful, but I have also learned to forgive myself and let go.
5. Most problems you dealt with in high school will fade away as you grow up.
I have so many ridiculous stories from high school! Man, I dealt with far too many people who stigmatized me based on my mental health struggles — peers and staff. As much unfairness occurred and assumptions were made about who I was at heart, I’ve let go of a lot. Time heals all wounds.
It was definitely a plus to grow up and graduate years ago, as I never have to deal with that lack of humanity as a child again. High school is so damn hard as it is. Adding in irresponsible and dramatic people to the mix, on top of struggles I faced at home and school complicated things for sure. It’s also hard because you are still a child — still growing and learning and trying to figure out life. Your brain doesn’t even fully develop until you are well beyond those high school years. The rational part of your brain doesn’t fully develop until you are 25 years old.
If you’re in high school right now and having a hard time, please know that you are never alone. I thought I’d be dead due to my depression and suicidal thoughts before I made it to 12th grade. While my story is different from what you’re living and feeling right now, know that other people have gotten through it — you can too. Your struggles and hurt are valid and I’m so sorry you are hurting. Reach out for help if you can and keep fighting. You are so valuable and so worth saving.
6. Your wounds will heal.
Not everything will heal perfectly or quickly, but time, patience and self-care heals all wounds.
7. Therapy isn’t for ‘crazy’, ‘broken’, or ‘damaged’ people.
It was such a simple thought my former therapist had said in group therapy one day, but it stuck with me and is something I still believe in to this day. She said something along the lines of, “I think therapy could help anyone and I wish it was more accessible to everyone and less stigmatized. It is an effective toolbox to navigate life”.
I participated in out-patient DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) for a couple of years, in individual therapy and group therapy. DBT was adapted for those primarily diagnosed with personality disorders. Nowadays, DBT is used to treat many things, such as depression, PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety (my diagnoses) and so much more. Just how DBT is used to treat nearly any type of mental health issue today, I believe therapy can be used to help anyone.
Contrary to popular belief, therapy isn’t “bitching to someone about your problems“, nor is it “paying someone to care“. Choosing to go to therapy is a huge commitment and a sign of progress and strength.
No matter who you are, as a human being, you will experience loss, heartbreak and struggles in life. The struggle and hurt can vary person to person, but why wouldn’t you take advantage of something (if you have the time, money and willingness) to learn how you can be a better human being — for yourself and your loved ones?
8. ‘Fat’ isn’t a bad word.
I loved watching YouTube when I discovered daily vloggers in 2009. I remember I heard one of my favorite vloggers — Charles Trippy — say something to the effect of, “We’re not fat, we’re fluffy!” in response to another person saying they felt fat.
When talking to friends as a kid and the word ‘fat’ was mentioned, I would say that line. I thought it was a fun, lighthearted thing to say. I also don’t blame that YouTuber for making that remark as I know it wasn’t his intention; what he said is more-so a product of the fat-phobic, diet culture society we live in.
In my activism today, I realize denying the word ‘fat’ and replacing it with ‘fluffy’ is invalidating and reinforces this idea that ‘fat’ is a bad word. These days, I have reclaimed the word ‘fat’. My body is fat. I have fat. I am fat. I see it as this “my appearance isn’t all that I am, so let’s move on from it” kinda thing, because it shouldn’t matter. Some people are fat. The validity of what someone says, does or feels shouldn’t be challenged just because of what they look like.
9. You can only control your own words and actions.
A blessing and a curse. People can say and do awful things that can hurt you, themselves and others, yes. The silver lining is that you can choose to use your words for good.
10. There is no such thing as “bad” food.
All food is “good” food in moderation. Period.
11. You don’t have to prove your intentions to others.
You know who you are. You know your heart. If someone questions your intentions, let it go and refocus on yourself. Chances are that they questioned your intentions in the first place because they are defensive or want a reaction out of you; let it go and know that you can never please everyone.
12. Trust your gut instinct.
It is usually right.
I second guess and overthink a lot, but if you know something in you heart (or gut), chances are you will end up deciding something based off it anyway. My overthinking tends to prolong the thought process and induce anxiety, but my gut instinct usually renders the same answer that I began with.
13. It is ok to be “straight edge”.
I don’t drink alcohol. Yes, I am 23 years old and have never had a sip of it. I’ve also never done drugs or smoked. I choose not to because alcoholism runs in my bloodline. I have been tempted to have a drink before, but I have seen addiction firsthand, and it destroyed my family and nearly destroyed my life and my future. It’s scary and I don’t know if I’ll ever want to take that risk.
Whether you are straight edge for good reason or not, you never have to owe someone an explanation as to why you aren’t drinking. It is a personal choice and you only have to share with people what you are comfortable sharing. If people are pressuring you to drink, my best suggestion is to excuse yourself by saying you have a medical condition that prevents you from consuming alcohol, or that you take a medication that can’t be mixed with it. If you can’t up and leave a situation like that, that is my best advice. You never have to do something you do not feel comfortable doing.
14. Wear clothes and makeup that you want to wear, not what you think others want you to wear.
Trends come and go, and sometimes fitting in or being popular is everything. While it is fine to want to be a part of the crowd, what matters is that you don’t conform if you don’t want to. Be unapologetically you.
15. Short term happiness isn’t worth long-term consequences.
Two words: eating disorder.
My eating disorder promised me happiness when I got thin. As the pounds dropped and my clothes became baggy, I felt happy-ish. However, the happiness was short-lived. I lost weight and felt better about what my body looked like, but I was still left with the same problems at the end of the day — problems at home, stress, drama with friends, feeling like I had no control or say in any part of my life, etc.
It also took me many years to recover. You may have seen that I lost weight in my illness. I also lost myself. I lost friends. I lost my mental stability.
Though I did not choose to develop mental illness, I choose recovery because that short-term “happiness” was not worth the long-term consequences.
16. Even if you love someone, don’t try to push for a relationship that is toxic at its roots.
Sometimes even when two people seemingly align perfectly, it doesn’t work out.
I’ve had my share of toxic friendships. Every friend I’ve ever had, I have loved dearly; however, maybe they’re going through something and are triggering to you. Maybe they don’t know how to support you in your own struggles. Maybe you are always there for them, but they are rarely there for you. Maybe you have common interests, but your personalities clash. Maybe there is poor communication.
Whatever the problem may be, if you are unable to sort out and be open about a problem between the two of you calmly and respectfully, the relationship may be toxic. Sometimes it’s better to let go rather than hold on and try to fight for something that the other person wouldn’t fight for as hard as you are.
17. Stay true to yourself.
Especially with people we love, like family or friends, it can be challenging to stay true to our values if theirs conflict with ours. It is always healthy to hear other people’s opinions and viewpoints on a controversial topic, but I’ve learned that I shouldn’t flip-flop on an issue just because someone I care about sees it differently. Our beliefs and values can certainly evolve and change as we grow up, and that’s healthy, but we should never change what we believe in to please others.
18. You should never take someone else’s love or admiration for you for granted.
Love and support people who love and support you — enough said. I’ve taken support I’ve received from friends for granted in the past. It was unintentional — sometimes I’d forget to call or text back. The thing is, what is here today may not be here tomorrow, so I try to make more of an effort these days to keep up with friends I truly care about.
19. Trust yourself.
Coming out of a 6 year tumultuous relationship with ED (eating disorder), I find it hard to trust myself sometimes. My struggles in back-and-forth relapse/semi-recovery with my eating disorder led me to believe I needed constant support. I was in and out of treatment centers for most of my teenage years.
It’s been tough in the past to differentiate when I absolutely need support and when maybe I can handle a problem on my own. I’ve been finding though that I am getting a better grasp on this. Now, I do trust when I know the difference, but I still work on the hesitation and second guessing myself which follows.
Asking for and accepting support has been just as important as being more independent in using coping skills and soothing myself in times of distress.
20. Don’t judge or make assumptions about other people.
Judging what we don’t know or understand will never end well — for either party. I’ve judged people and assumed before, as we all have. I try to keep a more open mind today because you never fully know one’s intentions or emotions or struggles unless you were in their head. It is best to keep judgments to ourselves and focus on ourselves, because we aren’t perfect either.
21. You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship if you’re not ready.
I’m 23 years old and happily single! I have intentionally chosen to stay single as I recovered from my mental health struggles. It was a personal decision. I fully support relationships where one or both of them may be struggling with mental illness. I don’t condone abusive or unsafe relationships. However, even if someone’s relationship is unhealthy or borderline unhealthy, it’s not always our place to comment. Two consenting adults can decide on staying together.
I’m not one of those people who preaches, “You must love yourself before you love someone else!!“. While that would be ideal — to obtain self love before committing to a relationship, life is messy and imperfect and that’s ok. Getting into a relationship as I continue to recover and heal isn’t for me, but it may be for someone else; there is no rule or time limit on how much you have to love yourself until you commit to loving another human being. Love just happens and it’s not always our place to tell people to not get into or continue a relationship.
22. Believe in the good of other people, but always protect yourself in case their words and actions do not align with what you hoped they would be.
Some people think I’m naive for seeing the good in othes. While I keep my mind and heart open, I always walk into situations hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. The truth is, you can’t expect all good as much as you can’t expect all bad; balance is key.
23. Allow yourself to feel.
It is ok to be happy just as much as it is ok to not be ok.
I used to numb out my negative emotions because I felt like a burden much of the time. What I learned though is that by numbing out the bad, I numbed out the good. And in time, the bad caught up to me and I’d experience an outburst of overwhelming distress I didn’t think I could survive.
Celebrate the good and allow yourself to “feel all the feelings” so you can get back to feeling stable and better. All emotions are healthy and normal, so express them as they happen in real-time. It is ok to feel. It is human.
Hope you enjoyed! This was very fun and cathartic for me to write.