BY RACHEL WONG
I am scared of a lot of things. Most of these fears are rational (insert spiders, death, horror films) but a lot of them are also irrational (insert sunny-side up eggs). What I am most scared of is how I present myself how others perceive me.
Basically, I give a damn about what you think of me. It may not look like it, but I do. And I think about it every day and every night.
I remember coming across a blog post a few years ago that made me question my entire existence. To paraphrase, the post went something like this:
You’ve never actually seen yourself. You have only seen mirror reflections or pictures. But you have never truly seen your “self”.
The post may have been a little over the top but it got me thinking a lot about how I present myself and what people think when they see me, hear me talk, or interact with me. Do I make a good impression on them? Do they think I’m pretty? Do they notice the zit I sometimes feel forming on my forehead? Most of all, do they even like me?
I would be lying if I said that these thoughts don’t still take up space in my brain. But in my adult years, I have learned to better cope with my insecurities and self-doubts. Looking back now, I realize that I might have cared about these things a little too much in the past.
As a teenager, I followed fashion magazines religiously – desperately trying to pull together enough money to buy ‘fashionable’ clothing and keep up with the trends. I always told myself that if I looked a certain way, more people would like me.
So I did. I eventually landed a decent job that could help me pay off my burning desire to have the clothes that I lusted after on Instagram. I would spend excessive amounts of time watching make-up tutorials in order to learn how to achieve the perfect highlight or lip shape. I tried to exercise more and skipped lunches because I didn’t like people watching me eat.
At one point, I was 5’2″ and 110 pounds. I had the clothes I wanted and the make-up to go with it. I was supposed to be happy, but for some reason or another, even the best lipstick couldn’t produce a smile.
I guess I should also say that during this same time, I had difficulties managing my expectations and my money. I was tired, frustrated, and hungry all the time. And despite all of my efforts, my popularity never really increased, it just stayed the same.
I thought that I had chased down ultimate happiness when I finally got the right foundation or made it down to a size 2. I thought I was finally living up to the standards of Instagram models and celebrities on magazine covers. But all of these societal pressures eventually became too much for me, and I was stuck with an unhappy reflection of myself.
Fast forward to nearly 5 years later and I am the same height, not exactly the same weight, and still working on my eyebrow arch. However, I now realize that my preoccupation with what others thought of me during my teenage years had drained me so much that I forgot to care about myself. I put a lot of time and effort into my outward appearance so that I could please other people, but I forgot about my own needs in the process.
I still feel self-conscious from time to time about my appearance. Once in a while, I still indulge in taking some extra time to perfect my eyeliner and I try to push myself to get out and exercise as much as I can. But I have made it my task everyday to be grateful for what I do have.
I may not be a size 2 anymore, but I am definitely a lot more content than I once was. So with a new year just beginning, remember to take care of yourself. Though you may not have ever seen yourself, you’ll always know yourself best.
Rachel Wong is a Communications student at Simon Fraser University. She is a slam poem enthusiast, foodie, self-proclaimed music nerd and wannabe photographer. A regular contributor for Student Life Network, Rachel’s favourite thing to do in her spare time is write – anything from haikus to 6 minute long poems, posts on food or changing the world. Her goal in life is to make an impact and help to eliminate the social stigma around Depression and other mental health concerns, one word at a time. You can find more of Rachel’s work athttp://rchlcwng.blogspot.com.