From this post and the last, it is pretty clear that I had some identity issues. Maybe like a mid-life crisis, but since I am planning on living to 100, more like a quarter life crisis.
I was/am a person who likes and needs the approval from others around me. This is not one of my favorite qualities about myself, but none the less, very true. In high school especially, I lived off the compliments and attention from both strangers and friends. About half way through high school, I stated to get a lot of attention from strangers about my hair, which in and of itself, is not at all bad. People would kindly comment often about my hair and how beautiful and unique it was. I have actually met people by them coming up and playing with my hair, and then me feeling the need to then introduce myself. Luckily my personal bubble is virtually non-existent so it did not creep me out as much as it probably should have.
My self-confidence about my self-image began to depend on how many people complimented me. I worked hard to make myself look a certain way, and on days or weeks when the kindness of strangers wasn't as vocal, I fretted all the more. I think at one point I calculated that I was spending 10 and a half hours a week on my hair. There is without a doubt a hole in the ozone layer above my parents house from all the hairspray (sorry "green" people, I tried to recycle the best I could to make up for it!)
College made it even worse, because now I was surrounded by thousands of people my age which gave me a large number of people to be comparing myself to who all also had social media and a seemingly wonderful life.
The time I spent on my hair went down significantly because showering is way too much effort (Don't even get me started on shaving my legs, my legs may or may not currently look like a middle schools boy's....) My new concern was my size and shape. I pretty quickly developed a false view of my own body, that I still have not fully recovered from. While I knew in my head that the truth was that I was small, I still did not believe it. I made poor choices in regard to food, and fell into bad and unhealthy eating habits in hope of feeling better about myself.
And then social media blew up. Do not get me wrong, I am a huge fan. I have seen more of the world than many before me have through the eyes and pictures of people who have had the opportunity to go on different adventures than I. But social media is a chosen snap shot of the life someone wants to portray, and that is what I began measuring my life to.
When I was in college, I would often say and hear other say, "well you're perfect!" That phrase seemed to be used a lot. It was used with a good heart, but it slowly destroyed my self image. I now had perfection to try to continue to live up to. I had to act perfect, look perfect, have perfect friendships and the perfect relationship. When Matt and I started dating, I was a mess. I had no idea how to be in a healthy relationship but I sure as heck was going to fake it to the world around me. The pictures and posts I made were all sweet. The interactions I talked about where all kind and funny. I needed to maintain the perfection that people often told me we were. But there is no way live up to perfect, so I failed constantly.
I didn't even notice the detrimental effects this one word had on my own life until I heard what it did to one of my friends. She had an eating disorder and body dysmorphia and hated herself, but the smaller she got, the more she was called perfect which fed her disease. I watched as her life was turned upside down and swore that would never be me. But it already was. I did not feel like I could be honest with others about my issues and about my life because I worried that what I said would not match the perfection I was obsessed with achieving.
I have since found how freeing speaking truth, even about pain is. I have found others with stories of grace very similar to mine. My heart in writing this is not that people would stop complimenting each other, I would be hated pretty quickly for that and this would be a really sad world. But being aware of how even your compliments influence people is important. Perfection is actually a set up for failure, so I am trying to destroy the idea of perfection in regards to the life I live. So here is a less than attractive picture of me looking as awkward as ever, not because my sweet sister in not talented, but because, "I don't know what to do with my hands." Enjoy.