I was very good at being myself when I was a child. Put me on any stage. I was happy to perform. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be heard. I was not shy. I had no fear. There was little I doubted—little that could shake my confidence. My security was ubiquitous. I knew I was a cute kid. (I still do.) What’s been harder is seeing myself as beautiful.
When I hit puberty, my desire for the spotlight faded. I preferred to blend into the crowd. I wanted to look like everyone else. I still wanted to be great, but I also wanted to go unnoticed. And so I spent a lot of my younger years starving—not malnourished in terms of food, but hungry for myself.
I tried to subsist on the still life version of me that I’d put out for polite company (or to impress a boy). But I craved the expression of my genuine self—the one I recognized deep inside—the real me. I knew I couldn’t survive as an illusion, caricature, or façade. I had to live authentically. I couldn’t hide or deny myself indefinitely.
I spent so much time trying to fit in and be accepted that I wasn’t pausing to consider if I really wanted to enter. Whose approval or pat on the back is really worth pursuing? Whose attention is genuinely worth getting?
All my conceptions of being cool or popular or pretty or feminine were shattered in college. As social rankings and superficialities fell away, so did my self-applied restraints. A modicum of my childhood confidence was regained.
I sought to be hungry for myself no longer. I sought to grow my own sustenance. I had to prune away insecurities and fertilize the soils of self-assurance.
In becoming more of myself, I discovered that relationships matter. The older I got, the better I learned what sustains a fruitful friendship. I don’t need friends who are rich, famous, or powerful (though I have nothing against those who are). I have different criteria.
I need friends who authentically accept and lovingly receive me and who can give me a gentle nudge when I’m stuck or the space to come apart when I’m broken. I need friends I don’t have to dress up for or stretch to impress. I need friends that see who I already am as well as who I can be at my best.
After years of being hungry for myself, I finally rediscovered how to exist authentically and unapologetically (and I’m still learning). I spent years of my adulthood trying to reclaim the confidence I’d had in such copious amounts during my childhood.
I didn’t do it on my own. I did it with the love, encouragement, inspiration, and support of friends and family. I found my voice. I stopped apologizing to myself for my appearance. I paid attention to my thoughts and feelings and made sure I didn’t smother them. I stopped being hungry for myself and felt full instead.
In this new year, and ever moving forward, it is my goal to keep finding my voice and to use it courageously when I write. I want to be brave enough to speak up and remain confident enough to be heard. I desire wisdom and conviction, but also humility. I want to say what I mean, and truly mean what I say, but I also want to make sure I’ve carefully thought about things, listened to others, and considered as many perspectives as I can fit in my brain.
I hope I’m never hungry for myself again. And to that end, I intend to feast on those relationships I find most nourishing—including the one I have with myself.