Featured image is a work by artist Jenny Le.
Choosing yourself. What does that mean? Well… it took me only all of 2019 to learn, but I think I finally know. Let me start from the beginning.
In the past, I was very much a people-pleaser. I always did what others wanted for and from me, whether they be my friends, family, or lovers. It was even a habit for me to constantly anticipate and then do things I even thought someone might maybe want me to do. I treated my life as if it did not belong to me; it was like I thought I was created solely to serve others. I felt so selfish for even remotely thinking or doing something for myself. And many people took advantage of this display of my low-self worth too. I’ve been used, abused, and abandoned several times in my life because they saw a young lady as an opportunity or a means to an end, rather than a person.
However, I can’t place all of the blame on them. I have to take some responsibility for myself. I’ve ignored my intuition, ignored red flags, didn’t enforce my boundaries (at times, I might not even have had any boundaries at all), overextended myself for people who did not do the same for me, etc. And I did not always have the purest intentions for helping people. Looking back at my past self, “Maybe if I do _____ for them, they will love me,” was often the unconscious mindset from which I acted. I was seeking external validation from it all. I was chasing other people in the hopes of them giving me the love, attention, praise, and care that I was unable to give myself at the time. I chose other people because I resisted choosing myself, and I paid the price for it several times.
It wasn’t until a long-term friendship and subsequently, a short-term relationship both ended in the first quarter of this year that I finally decided that I had enough of this life. Reflecting back on these relationships, I gave, and gave, and gave without it ever seemly being enough. And I never received the validation I was seeking in return. In both relationships, I and the other party both engaged in unhealthy behaviors. They were codependent relationships that were just placeholders in my life, and I’m sure it was a similar experience for them as well. I wasted my time trying to fill a void that could never be filled with superficial and transactional relationships. I realized that the only way I could fill that void was by choosing myself.
So I did.
Around May, I finally made the decision to stop making myself less important than everyone else. I decided that it’s okay to be my top priority. I decided that I would be celibate for at least a year; not just by abstaining from sex, but also by choosing not to engage with men on more than a platonic level. I decided that my boundaries are important, and I will not betray myself by not enforcing them or allowing people to repeatedly cross them. I decided that I can make my own life choices without being selfish. I decided that though I may share myself with others, my life belongs to me, and only me. Most importantly, I finally decided to love myself, and that I am deserving of love unconditionally.
It’s gone quite well so far. I can see how choosing myself and working on loving myself has improved my life. I’ve seen some of my codependent thoughts and behaviors heal, and I feel that I am slowly but surely transforming into someone who can have healthy relationships. Fostering a healthier relationship with myself has had a ripple effect into my life. I’ve met some wonderful people, and I know that these relationships are based on a genuine connection with each other instead of just using the other to fill a void. And I’m not perfect. Sometimes my old codependent patterns pop up, but lately, I’ve been able to recognize when it’s happening, stop, and soothe myself.
I’ve also shown growth in other ways. I’m more confident in myself now. I trust my life choices more than ever before, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind nearly as much as I was in the past. I’m more willing to let go of people, things, and situations that are not meeting my needs. I see myself and others for who they are, not who I want them to be or who they could potentially be in the future. I am present with myself and my loved ones. I feel that I’m living more authentically now, and I’m very proud of the progress I’ve made in such a short time.
But with the progress I have made in these 6-7 months, I’m learning that choosing myself goes even deeper than all this. I’ve already taken big steps towards choosing myself by quitting people-pleasing behavior and working to improve my self-love. Now I have to put some focus on improving my life in other ways, too.
Like many other recent college graduates, I have been struggling with post-grad life. I intentionally took a break from May-July, but since then, I’ve been so wishy-washy in choosing my career path. One week, I wanted to pursue one path, and the next week, I changed my mind, and decided that I wanted to pursue something else because of what others have told me. Wash, rinse, and repeat from August until… this month. And I’m now realizing that all of this back-and-forth I put myself through was all because I was too afraid to pursue what I really wanted: writing.
I felt very lost during all these months. I’ve looked back at my choices, and I realized that the careers I tried convincing myself to pursue were actually choices that others wanted. I reverted back to people-pleasing again. It took a huge toll on me as well. Making choices based on others’ wants eventually put me into a depressive episode. I was ignoring how unhappy and restricted I felt while chasing things that I didn’t even want. I turned into a hermit; I didn’t leave the house very often compared to how much I enjoyed going out before. I started sleeping way more than I needed. I stopped meditating and exercising. I neglected my mental health. To cope with the difficult emotions I faced, I resorted to unhealthy habits such as emotional eating, excessive internet use, and impulse shopping.
As you can imagine, I didn’t end up in a pretty place after neglecting myself for several months. As embarrassed as I feel while typing this, I’ll be transparent. My mental and physical health are not the best right now. Neither are my finances due to months of confusion about my career path without at least working a part-time job while I sorted that out. I’m also feeling a bit despondent because I feel that I could’ve been in better place now if I had followed my intuition and made better choices from the beginning. I let fear and uncertainty lead me.
Now it’s December, and I’m finally remembering the promise I made to myself back in May: choose myself. Except now, it looks a little different. The choice to stop people-pleasing again was easier than the first time. I just stopped while keeping in mind that I must be more self-aware of the choices I make and why I have made them. But now I’m faced with another issue: how do I pick myself back up and start living again? I’m miles away from how I want my life to be right now. Where do I even begin?
I’ve been thinking back to a conversation I had with my big sister not too long ago. It was about the very same topic I’m discussing now, choosing yourself. I told her that though I had a setback, I felt like I had finally learned to choose myself by putting my self-worth back in my own hands. I learned to love myself more and stopped making myself smaller and less important than others. However, I still felt off because of how much I neglected myself. My sister responded, “You’ve done really well in one aspect, but choosing yourself also means self-care. It also means discipline. It also means being brave enough to create the life you want and deserve. You’ve stopped sacrificing yourself for others, but you still haven’t fully chosen yourself yet.”
Suddenly, everything made sense. She was completely right. Just look back at what happened. Even though I stopped focusing on others so much, I still wasn’t really focusing on myself either. Choosing yourself is much more than not allowing others to use you anymore. Choosing yourself also includes having the patience and discipline to maintain and improve yourself too. Unless you want to live like a fly on the wall, you have to be more proactive in your life.
So I did.
It’s been a couple of weeks since this realization. Since then, I’ve been slowly working to improve my life. I’m taking better care of my mental health by meditating and journaling more often. I recently even started seeing a therapist, and she is helping me throughout this process as well. I’m pushing myself to get out of bed earlier and get out of the house. I’m gradually spending less time on social media. I listen to podcasts and soft jazz music to help me stay calm and positive. It’s been a bit harder for me than other tasks, but I’m working on eating healthier and exercising more often. I’m also looking for part-time jobs and doing tarot readings on the side. It’s a start for me to at least have some kind of income while I muster up the courage to finally seek writing positions.
It’s going to take some time before I get where I want to be. Despite this, I’m just really glad that I’m back on the right track. I’ve learned some huge life lessons along the way. I may have spent half the year lost, but I’ve not only found myself. I’ve finally chosen myself too. I hope you learn to choose yourself too.
Thank you for reading!
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Thank you again,