Selfies and Self Esteem

It feels like just as a bunch of things start working out in my life, one thing has to start falling apart to make up for it. Gotta have something to challenge me in life, I guess!

Lately, I’ve been in a complete funk when it comes to my self-image. On a logical level, I know I’m a perfectly competent, intelligent human being who does her best and is not so horrendously ugly as to repulse people. But on an emotional level, where logic has little to no bearing, I… do not know any of the things that Logical Me knows. Emotional Me has been feeling terribly inadequate lately, and it’s hard to know whether to coddle her and give her the crutches she wants until she’s healthy again or to tell her to suck it up and then deal with the lovely variety of ways that she lashes out at me.

To be honest, I don’t particularly want to do either. My throat has been sore for weeks now (a doctor’s visit is forthcoming, since I know it’s not strep, but at this point I’m guessing. Is it tonsilitis? Tonsil stones? Mono? Some random, annoying viral infection?) with varying degrees of pain, limiting both my ability and desire to do most things. It’s cold outside and gets dark early. Work has gotten busier and I have needed to bring it home more often. So a lot of the things Emotional Me requires for coddling are just… not in the cards right now. I dearly wish they were, but there’s just no room at the moment. And telling Emotional Me to suck it up only results in a deteriorated mental state that I absolutely can’t afford right now. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, this girl decided to take selfies. At least one every day.

A few years ago, I used to take lots of selfies. I would take ones that were just for me, to celebrate good hair days. (I am lucky in that I have many good hair days.) I would take ones to show my friends and family my makeup before I went to an interview. I would take selfies before dates to show my mom what outfit I’d chosen. I’d take selfies where I looked absolutely gorgeous (yay, awesome natural lighting in my apartment!) or absolutely hideous and send them to my boyfriend to brighten his day. I wasn’t taking them every day, but I was taking them when I felt good about myself. Which, happily, was often.

But at some point, I just kind of… stopped. I now go months without taking selfies. Which is not all that astonishing considering the fact that I don’t take many pictures to begin with and never have. But it’s quite strange to look at a history of my photos and see that at some point, I apparently got really uncomfortable taking photos of myself. This is extra hard to face now because I had to work really hard on my insecurities to get to the point where I didn’t balk at every photo of myself and ask for it to be deleted. This is not to say that I don’t still feel like I take bad photos. I am deeply unphotogenic, as numerous pictures of me at work functions and family events will attest to. But at a certain point, I decided it didn’t matter. Who cared if the photo didn’t look good? I wanted a record that I was there. I wanted my family and friends to have pictures of me if they wanted them. I wanted to feel comfortable taking a picture of my face, dammit.

And I got there!

And then fell off the wagon again into the pit of self-loathing that always seems to be waiting for me, even though I’m always so sure that I’ve left it miles behind me.

So I’m trying to get back on the wagon again. I’m doing it by promising to take a picture of myself every day. I even did it today, even though I spent my day working in bed because a raging sore throat seems to be my constant companion now. They’re not good photos. But they help me see myself again, and help me realize that it doesn’t matter whether I look good in them or not. They’re a gift to my future self, when at some inevitable point I wonder how I was doing when I was 22. What did I look like? What was I wearing? How was I feeling? Now, I’ll have photographic proof. Emotional Me is dissatisfied with this solution, as it does not assuage any of her fears that I am actually some kind of horrid troll being. Logical Me is rolling her eyes because it seems ridiculous. But I’m forcing myself to get comfy with looking at me again. Because that’s important. It matters.

It’s silly and self-indulgent, but if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a bit self-indulgent sometimes. And if taking a selfie every day gets me even a little bit back toward equilibrium, it’s worth it.

Still Overwhelmed

College is hard.

I just wanted to validate that. If college feels difficult and overwhelming to you, you’re not alone. Anyone who brushes you off when you say you’re feeling burnt out by saying something like “You’re young, you can live without sleep!” or “Just wait until you get into the real world!” (as if universities are part of some mysterious “fake world”) is not a person you need to worry about.

I just graduated earlier this year. I was lucky enough to land a full-time position in my field almost immediately, which felt like a miracle. I really enjoy my job and generally feel really lucky.

I am also still recovering the aftershocks of burnout from school.

It’s weird to say that five months after graduation. I feel like I should be at the point where I can relax and enjoy my free time more. I thought by now I’d have more energy to tackle stuff like housecleaning and general life improvement stuff. I thought I’d get to feel like a normal human who wasn’t working 55 hours a week and going to school full-time.

But I’m just not there yet. Which is not to say that I’m not glad to be done or would rather still be in school. I’m grateful to finally be reading for fun and on my own time again. Knowing that I can come home and not have to worry about schoolwork on top of chores is nice. But I still can’t seem to get to the point where my energy levels feel anything like “normal.” Instead I feel like there’s a hundred things that need to get done every day, and if I’m lucky I might have the energy to get one or two done.

I’m not saying this to freak anyone out. I feel like if I’d read a post like this in the months leading up to graduation I wouldn’t have taken this very well. Mostly I just wanted to share my experience because I don’t really have anyone to talk about this kind of stuff with, and I’m sure there’s more than a few recent and soon-to-be grads who are experiencing or about to experience something similar. Most of my friends are still waiting to graduate, and I’m not entirely sure that family members who have gotten their degrees would understand. How do you explain that the thing you’re most passionate about drained you in ways you can’t entirely put into words?

For those of you who are still struggling while you’re in school of just after leaving: it’s not just you. I’m right there with you. We’re gonna get through this.

It’s been a week since I graduated now. I’m only just now starting to feel like I’m coming up for air. I’m still trying to catch up on sleep, still trying to work out a routine for myself. It doesn’t quite feel like freedom yet, but I know it will soon.

I’m trying to figure out my work situation and finances right now and try to put myself in a position where Future Me is comfortable. I’m also trying to give Present Me a break, because Present Me seems permanently exhausted and always just on the verge of a cold. (Dear God, please don’t let it really be a cold.)

On the positive side, I’ve had a lot more time to do things I feel like doing. I’m already halfway through the latest season of House of Cards (it’s killing me, y’all) and I finally got to do some of the main quests in Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I have been playing for 2+ years now! It feels really good to get home and actually relax. No worries about assignment deadlines or applications or papers or projects. My Me Time feels like real Me Time and not time stolen away from me doing productive things. It’s incredible. I spent my Saturday playing Don’t Starve Together and getting my teeth cleaned, which is an ideal Saturday.

Oh, I also started reading Farm City by Novella Carpenter. It’s my latest public transit read and I’m really enjoying it. Definitely an light, easy read that’s right up my alley. Urban gardening? Squat gardening on land that wouldn’t be used otherwise? Creating community with gardening?? Wonderful. I have some issues with some of the implications in the novel re: gentrification, but there’s a lot of stuff that makes it a worthwhile read for me. Definitely check it out.

Also, speaking of reading: I haven’t finished it yet, but I read most of The Abyss Surrounds Us for work and absolutely loved it. It’s a combination of a future and futuristic world that isn’t necessarily any more dystopic than the present world, but still extremely different, kaiju, futuristic pirates, and lesbians. I wish it had come out when I was younger, but I was really glad I got the pleasure of reading it now.

All of this to say: things are not perfect, but they are good, and they feel like they are going to get better.

My Body Is A Good Body

Working out has never been my favorite thing. I have a whole lot of baggage surrounding exercise and dieting and have dealt with a lot of emotional pain as a result of being a fat person in a family obsessed with discussing their latest diets and workouts.

But I feel like I’m over a kind of self-loathing hump. 

I’ve been fat for a long time, and felt fat and been worried about becoming fat for even longer. I’ve had a lot of days where I’ve absolutely loathed my body. I remember doing some clothes shopping (online, because trendy stores like to try and keep us fat girls out) just last year and sobbing because I felt so ugly and worthless and was so hyperaware of how much the fashion industry and the world hated my body.

The last few months, though, I’ve come to a greater place of self-acceptance. I can look at myself and not freak out over my chubby cheeks or my double chin or fat belly. I’m starting to see myself as I am in the mirror again. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and I… don’t really have feelings about it. I just am. And it feels really freeing.

I’ve been following the body positive and fat positive communities for a few years. This is the first time where I’ve really felt like the rhetoric of those spaces applies to me. I feel like my body is a good body worth putting time and effort into. Seeing photos on instagram of the folks lifting at Lacy J. Davis and her partner’s gym, Liberation Barbell, has been a huge source of inspiration. Seeing photos of fat women doing yoga, dancing, running, swimming, and hiking over the years has made me capable of being curious about what my body might be able to accomplish without added negative junk. 

So for the past several weeks, I’ve been making an effort to work out. I’ve only pulled off two workouts so far – I set myself back with an unrelated sprained ankle – but I’m excited to keep going. I love my body and have thought for a long time about how cool it would be to be stronger, so I’m trying to act on that. It feels really amazing and freeing and positive to not have my exercise routine tainted with thoughts of “toning” my chunky arms or “burning fat away.” I have literally never engaged in a fitness activity purely for internal benefits or for something like strength rather than with an expectation (even if I won’t admit it out loud) of weight loss, and of my life becoming better because I take up less space.

I deserve to take up space, even in a gym where people think my fat ass doesn’t belong.