I’ve sat here, in front of my laptop now for forty five minutes. If that’s not a testament to the very subject that I’m trying to write about, then I don’t know what is.
A few months ago, while sat at my dining table having breakfast with my mum, she asked me, in a rhetorical sense, why I didn’t love myself, or why I couldn’t see myself in the way that everyone else could.
My mum – such a bubbly and upbeat person, sounded so sad as she said it. She caught me so off guard and unawares that her words stopped me dead in my tracks, cutlery clattering onto the plate. To know that my mum’s – who has loved me since I was a tiny bean shaped thing – heart ached because of me and all the imperfect things I saw in myself, really shook me. As instantaneously, as someone turning on a kitchen tap, I just started crying, and I didn’t stop for half an hour.
I had never really thought about my relationship with myself, until then, but she was right. I really didn’t love myself very much at all, but I couldn’t begin to even explain why. I could list you the things I didn’t like about myself, but I’d struggle to name three things that I did like. I’d push myself to my limits at times, and punish myself when I failed to surpass my own astronomical expectations, labelling myself a failure.
It’s not that I don’t have a heart, because believe you me, I do, and it’s bursting with so much love – just not necessarily love for myself. But just can’t seem to articulate or express the feelings in my heart openly to others – partly for fear of it’s already battered and fragile state, getting trampled on some more. (The dating scene in Dubai really seen to that). Of course, I am not an exceptional human being; I am not the only person in the world to have had their heart broken or some hurtful words thrown at them, but it’s just that to be so openly exposed to those feelings again is a very scary thing, and be real, no-one likes rejection, no matter how confident they appear. However, I know that opening up and communication is a very necessary thing in order to progress.
It’s something that’s come up a few times in the past. During my break up with my ex boyfriend, he told me that I never told him how much I cared, and he really questioned if I ever loved him. My brain near exploded – how could he not have known how much I loved him? I’d draw him a picture every day, I’d buy him his favourite chocolate when I was in the supermarket, I’d make him cups of tea in bed, and hold his hand and… and… I’d phone him… and… He’d met all my family… and I’d met his…. and we saw each other every day and… and… I’d told him so…
In retrospect, was that all I really done to show him I cared? I thought of the things that he did for me. Oh…
No wonder he didn’t know.
It wasn’t til years later, I read something in a book that made some sense to me. (Don’t ask me what book because I’ve read so many that I wouldn’t even know where to start to begin to reference it). Basically it said that love is a taught and learned thing and, because we have all been brought up in a different way, each of us has been taught how to express love and our feelings differently. For example, someone might need verbal affirmations of love for them to know that they are loved, others may need physical affection or grand gestures. It’s the love equivalent of speaking different languages. So, if he speaks physical and you speak verbal – you’d better learn some happy medium Spanglish version of love in order for it to work.
On reflection, this is where my problem lies, and not just with guys. My inability to express myself is problematic in all relationships – friends and family included. Despite being able to write blogs, I can’t cohesively articulate my feelings in person. It’s almost like I have ball blocking my oesophagus that prevents me from saying the words I really want to say – good and bad. Instead, I find myself bottling my feelings up until I reach tipping point, getting angry or emotional over something seemingly tiny to an outsider, but monumental to me.
So why can’t I say the things I want to say? Is it ‘the British way’ of being polite and reserved – God forbid we rock the boat or risk a conflict!? Is it a Virgo trait? Because I google zodiac signs a lot and all things Virgo state that while Virgo’s are tender, emotional and loving, opening up their heart is an altogether different matter. Or is it just that I am scared of being left vulnerable? Personally I think it’s a combination with an added dose of fear of coming across as weak or needy. I like to come across as an self reliant vessel who doesn’t need anyone (despite knowing that this is merely a persona, and just like everyone else in the universe, craves love and acceptance).
For example, I was so upset with a friend a while back, that it took me weeks to address the situation and tell her about my feelings. Even then, when I finally found the courage to broach the subject, the way the conversation played out in my mind, was an altogether different story in reality. For starters, the words all came out wrong – tumbling out of my mouth like verbal vomit. Messy and offensive. I wasn’t calm; I wasn’t articulate; my face got red and I sounded petty…
That’s the thing about words. Once you say them, you can’t take them back.
After that emotional outburst at the dinner table with my mum, I realised that I really had to change some things in my life – and fast. Since then, there has probably been two other definitive moments in the months following my mum’s chat, which affected me. The first was reading a book about The Dark Web – a subject that fascinated me after lengthy discussions with colleagues. I felt like I was the only one naive enough to not know of it’s existence and the goings on behind it. As I read the words on the pages, I had an epiphany. “WHY THE FUCK am I over here feeling like a bad person (because I was mean to a work colleague when I was tired and moody/got pissed off at so and so/ thought something mean about blah blah blah, fought with my family, hated so and so etc etc).” For the longest time, I believed that I wasn’t a good person, when truth be told, I am actually just bog standard normal. Everyone gets grumpy. Everyone gets annoyed. Everyone thinks or says mean things from time to time. That’s just human nature. The dark web hosts a whole group of evil that is so far removed from anything I’ve ever known, that it’s opened my eyes to what makes a person good, and what makes a person bad. For some inexplicable reason, I had come to believe that I wasn’t a good person when really, actually, in actual fact, I am pretty not bad, after all.
The second thing that happened, was a death. More specifically, a suicide. Upon the news, my mum video called me and through her tears, she said that she wondered why ‘our babies couldn’t see how amazing and so well loved they were’ and why did they feel so alone that there was no other option but to take their own life. I felt so frustrated, that people like my mum worried about me and my mental health so much that the very thought of me choosing the same path entered their mind. Didn’t they know that they didn’t have to worry? Sometimes I just get sad. Why can’t I just be sad from time to time without having to explain it, because I don’t know how, or why? If I can’t work it out in my own head, how can I ever explain it to someone else?
That said, I began to realise that for me to open up to people, I really should tell them how much they mean to me in the here and now despite fear of rejection. Because one day, they won’t be around to hear us tell them the things that we really loved about them, and so, they’ll never know. We should tell them now. Be soppy, wear our hearts on our sleeves. Kiss them even when we are mad at them! And this, is what I am really trying to do, despite it coming out kind of stilted instead of flowing naturally the way I hope it one day will. I’m trying to be kinder in general, verbally telling people when I appreciate something that they’ve done instead of just thinking it in my head where no-one else can hear it. I’m trying to text when I want to, instead of telling myself, “I text first the last three times, I’ll wait for them to text first, now.” feeling deflated and rejected when the text didn’t come. Instigating social meet ups – instead of waiting for an invitation convincing myself that someone didn’t like me if they didn’t invite me first. Putting kisses at the end of the messages and writing nice things in cards.
Last week I found myself in an art store – a place I haven’t been in a long time. I bought a tiny a5 brown paper sketchbook and a fine liner. I swore to draw something every day until it’s full. If I can’t express myself verbally, I am going to have to express myself somehow, and until I allowed the opinions of one or two people dent my confidence, art had always been an outlet for me. I’ve not drawn properly in so long, that I’d told myself that all of my drawings would be shit. But then I reminded myself that no-one will see them (unless I show them, and I won’t be showing anyone) so, who cares if they look like they were done by a three year old? Arguably, some of the greatest modern artist’s works look like they’ve been done by a child! It’s day two of me using my sketchbook, and I’m on an adventure in San Francisco, hoping that I’ll be inspired.
It’s baby steps, and it’s taken me a seven month (continuous) journey to start loving myself flaws and all, and I’m hoping that by loving myself first, I’ll start to let other people in too.
Just like Dita Von Teese said,
“You can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches!”
It’s okay if you can’t be the juiciest peach in the world to someone; you can still be a good apple, and you can still be a good apple, even if from time to time you’re like an onion and make someone cry.
Either way, from now on, I am going to try and be like a (s)mushy pea and let it all out. HAHAHA. So please be prepared for any seemingly uncharacteristic messages coming your way. It’s still me, just a slightly edited version.