I recently came across this Paulo Coelho quote, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” It sparked visions of myself when I was younger, and I remembered a strong and confident girl… a girl that’s been lost these past few years.
We are so much braver when we are younger because the world hasn’t yet had the chance to ruin our naive ideals of optimism. I was raised to always be myself, not to care what others thought, and that it was on the inside not the outside that mattered most. Naive, yes, but also a wonderfully unblemished ideal.
Growing up, my family did not have money to buy fancy clothes or fancy electronics, but it never mattered to me. I could have cared less that I wore thrift shop clothes or that I didn’t have the latest toys. My parents made sure that my happiness and sense of worth was not wrapped around my appearance or senseless objects. I was constantly told that I was beautiful, smart, and talented, and for the longest time I believed it.
It was a slow transition from confident me to the current self-doubter and self-loather. A negative seed was planted in me as a teenager when someone told me that I should think about losing weight. Mind you, I have never been overweight, and I was always very active and athletic. The truth was I didn’t need to lose weight, and I later found out that the person who said that to me had body and self-image issues. But the truth didn’t matter, the seed was planted.
After college I moved to New York, and I had to walk over 20 minutes back and forth from my apartment, to the subway, and to my work every day. Couple that with not having a ton of money for food, I lost around 20 lbs. I am tall, and I have one of those builds where my weight can fluctuate between 20 lbs and I’d be healthy at either weight. However, I now fit in sizes that I never could have in high school. I use to always be a medium, now I have to wear a small. I fit in pants four sizes smaller from what I wore in high school, and I’m not going to lie, I like being a smaller, thinner girl. But now I’m obsessed with my size and weight. I weigh myself almost everyday, and if I gain a pound I loathe myself for deciding to eat dessert that day. I use to not care about my size or weight, as long as I was in shape and health. Now I’m the smallest I’ve ever been, and I still don’t like what I see in the mirror.
My hand-me-down, thrift shop clothes never bothered me and designer brands were not even in my fashion vocabulary when I was younger, but in my transition from teen to early 20s another seed was planted. As I was trying my skills out in the TV reporting business, I was told that I should try to dress better. Up until then I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way I dressed and looking back with rose-colored glasses, there wasn’t anything wrong with the way I dressed. I dressed both professionally and appropriately, but apparently my Target brand clothes weren’t good enough. Now I waste money on buying top brand shoes and clothes and designer purses. I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’ll be more respected and well liked if I have and wear these things.
At age 25, my self-image and self-confidence is at it’s very lowest. Because I don’t love who I physically see in the mirror, I now no longer believe that the girl staring back at me is smart, talented, or worthy of love. Some days I even hate myself. Most days, ironically enough, the self-loathing comes from the self-hate. I hate myself for hating myself.
What happened to that little girl? Why did I allow people to steal aware her security and confidence? Why does anyone give that power to other people? We are born complete, but the reason we are constantly finding and growing to figure out who we truly are is because the world makes us question our knowledge of self, the knowledge that we all use to possess. I want it back.
Paulo Coelho was right, it’s all about unbecoming everything that the world has forced you to be. I have to be willing to strip away my current insecurities and corrupted ideals in order to go back to being that once confident little girl. It is so important to be careful what you say and how you treat others. Without even knowing what you are doing, you could be chipping away at their wonderfully beautiful true self.
The world, images, and projected ideals around you, in print, on social media are insignificant to what’s inside of you. The ideal of beauty that matters is the one you have for yourself. Sometimes you forget, and sometimes is gets buried and cluttered down, but it’s still there. I’ve made a promise to myself that I will start focusing on unbecoming everything that has been unwittingly handed to me over the past few years.
My old childlike naiveté and innocence is still inside of me, and I will declutter and unpack until I get her back. Nothing is more important.