January 9, 2015 (original post here)
A difficult lesson to learn is how to be okay with who you are. I had a difficult tie being okay with my weird, awkward, non-skinny, self. It was difficult because all my life I had tried to fit in. I had tried to do anything and everything to hide who I really was. I would pretend to not like or like certain things. I would do anything I could to fit in. Everyday it’s a struggle but here’s how I coped with it.
I didn’t wake up one morning and suddenly think, “I love who I am!” Boy, I wish I did, because I would’ve saved myself from a lot of pain and problems while I was growing up. I’ve honestly struggled, ever since I was in third grade, with being self-confident. I know now that everyone struggles with it, but back then, I felt so alone. I didn’t think anybody could relate to me about my struggles, and I felt like there was something wrong with me. I thought of myself as the ugly duckling. The one that never really had a place where I belonged; I still have flashbacks to my pre-school days of some of the kids not wanting to play with me. I guess I was always socially awkward, and I never really learned how to handle those situations.
Throughout elementary school, middle school, and my first two years of high school, I was always concerned with the amount of friends I had. I felt that the quantity reflected my worth. I did whatever it took for people to “like” me. I also suffered from some eating disorders, although honestly you couldn’t tell. See, when I entered the third grade, I had changed elementary schools. I guess the stress of changing schools and not really having friends led to me overeating and I gained a significant amount of weight. Before that, I was your normal sized girl. During middle school I developed an eating disorder. I went from overeating (in elementary school), to rarely eating. I had always envied the “popular” girls and I had always wanted the lifestyle they had. I thought that the only way I could get to that point was to be skinny. So I decided to starve myself. For breakfast I would have a slice of toast or a 1/4 cup of rice with some soy sauce on it. During lunch I would have 1 dinner roll (if my friends were feeling generous) or I would not eat anything and just chew gum. If I went to the mall after school, I would have a soda or a small jamba juice. For dinner, I would either have a 1/4 cup of rice with soy sauce or a little bit of whatever protein was being served. I continued this for 2 years. I remember being so frustrated that I wasn’t getting any smaller and I cried a lot during those years. I hated who I was and I hated who my friends were.
When I went into high school, my eating habits changed, yet again. I would have a semi-normal breakfast, I wouldn’t eat lunch, but I would eat a small portion of dinner (more than what I would eat in middle school, but far from a normal portion). I did notice that I was losing some weight, but it wasn’t fast enough. In high school, I felt even more pressure to be “perfect” and be one of those “popular” girls. I wanted the boys to talk to me, I wanted the girls to envy me, and I wanted people to like me. Well, in my search to feel accepted and wanted, I joined the bowling team. Why? Mainly because one of the friends that I had since elementary school said she would sign up.
On the day of the bowling team “tryouts,” I had never been so nervous in my life. It had been about 5 years since I had touched a bowling ball and I was basically starting from scratch. I was afraid of being judged, laughed at, embarrassed, falling down, throwing a gutter ball, people talking behind my back, etc. Everything that I was afraid of in the real world was everything I was feeling at that exact moment. However, before I could quit and just walk away. The coach came up to me. He asked me if I had bowled before, and I explained to him that my dad bowls a league on Saturday nights, so we used to come early so he could teach me how to bowl. But, it came to a point where he started pushing me a bit too hard, and I ended up stopping. After hearing that, the coach said something to me that has kept me going since. He said, “I see that you have the potential to be great! I want to help you fulfill that potential.” It was the first time I had someone say anything reassuring to me. It was one of the first times where I felt like I had found a place where I belonged.
It’s weird to say, but bowling has honestly helped me learn to be okay with who I am. It has helped me shape my personality and identity. When it comes to bowling, it’s a small little community where everybody knows everybody, especially in Hawaii. It provided me with the confidence I wanted, a group of friends, and it also provided me the opportunity to travel. Now that I’m not bowling as much as before, I had to learn how to cope without it. I was so used to having bowling there in order to make friends and gain some self-confidence, I wasn’t sure how I could do any of those things without it.
Right now, I have to say that I’m in a decent place. The struggle of being okay with myself is an everyday occurrence. I wake up everyday and learn to like at least one thing about myself. It could be that I’m having a good hair day, or I really like my outfit, but it has to be one thing. I also learned that I need to stop complaining about everything and focus on the positive things that are occurring in my life. Focusing on the negative will only bring me to a negative place. I also needed to focus on quality friendships. That meant investing time to make those connections and stay connected, even after I moved.
If you’re trying to learn to be okay with yourself, then I suggest you find something you’re interested in and invest yourself into it. Eventually you’ll be able to find a group of people with the same interests as you. It’s also great that we have the internet, because now, it’s even easier to find people with the same interests as you. I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic and I do plan on going a lot more in depth, but I’m going to need some time to really plan out an in-depth post. Remember, that everybody struggles with self-confidence issues, at every age. It’s not easy to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin, but when you do learn how to do it, it makes life more enjoyable.
Let me know how you learned to be okay with yourself in the comments, and also connect with me on Twitter: @ciaociaoreview