I know I’m not defined by a number, but does the world agree?
My worth is not reduced to the number on my scales. My value is not confined to a 1-9 grade. I am too complex to be fully understood based on how many followers or likes I have.
While I believe all of this to be true, I question whether the culture I live in also agrees with these statements. I know bad grades do not make me a failure, but does this potential employer interviewing me also feel this way? I know my red and spotty face is natural and does not make me less beautiful, but do the strangers on this bus also feel this way?
Living in a society that makes me feel like I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, not popular enough, it’s increasingly difficult to feel anything more than inadequate. I do my best to convince myself that I am enough, but if I’m honest, I often feel like I am up against an avalanche of opposition. How do I beat the system? I wish I had the answers, but so far in my twenty-five years, this is what I have found helps me on my journey:
I unsubscribed from that social media life.
I’m glad you’re having a blast on your holiday in Italy. I’m glad you got the job you’ve been dreaming of since you were three. I’m glad your morning latte is so picturesque. Honestly, I’m so happy for you. But I met you once ten years ago in high school. Actually, I didn’t even meet you; I just know you were a year older than me, we have hundreds of mutual friends, and I’m certain I stood behind you in the lunch queue at least twice. So now, a decade later, the picture-perfect life of someone I don’t even know is dictating how I feel about myself on a second-by-second basis: remarkably unexceptional.
So now I find myself browsing flights to some foreign country, and I’m thinking, I don’t even like travelling. But so-and-so looked like she was having a great time, so….
I’m stuck choosing between spending hundreds of pounds/months of researching/a week of precious annual leave/a risk of food poisoning/a mountain of anxiety OR staying exactly where I am, stress-free.
Naturally I book a holiday because this girl from high school I never met made me.
This relationship I had with social media taught me that my mind is impressionable, and I am affected by other people. So I’ve made a choice to let go of people I never see and who don’t care what I’m feeling. Maybe I’ll meet them someday and we’ll be good friends. But for now, I’ve unsubscribed from social media, and I choose to be present with the people in front of me, who do know me and who are relieved that my life isn’t perfect.
I treat myself. But actually.
It’s been two years since I took a bath. I used to take a bath every day, not because I like baths, but because in every blog, every book, every podcast, the image of self-care is taking a bath.
I do not find baths relaxing. I find them disappointing if they’re slightly too cold or slightly too hot. I feel guilty for using so much water. I feel stressed that I spent so much money on the lavender oil which is now making my hair greasy (so now I need to use more water with the shower I now need to take to wash out the oil). I feel bored after two minutes, but to prevent further guilt, I force myself to spend another twenty minutes getting prune-y, maximising the misery.
I’m too embarrassed to say how long I stayed in the bath club, but I’m so relieved that I eventually realised that self-care for others does not equal self-care for me.
So nowadays, instead of baths, I nap. Instead of meditation, I pray. Instead of yoga, I walk. I’m not doing self-care wrong – I’m doing Caroline-care right.
I like to surprise people.
I’ve lived in London for about six years now, and I am still astounded by people’s fear of other people. One experience that I feel perfectly sums up the London life was when I was commuting to work one morning, and a gentleman on my train sneezed. The stranger sat opposite him quietly said, “Bless you” with a timid smile.
I remember the tangible fear in the carriage as everyone else looked at each other, afraid an actual conversation between these two strangers might start.
Much to their relief, one didn’t.
This experience still amazes me, especially because the encounters I have with strangers usually brighten my day.
Every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly brave, I like to surprise people. If someone drops something, I pick it up. If someone falls, I ask if they’re okay. If someone looks lost, I ask where they’re trying to get to. I think there’s this assumption that people will ignore each other, and it’s amazing how rewarding it feels to discredit this assumption and surprise people. I like to think that strangers measure these surprises in how we make each other feel, not what our grades are or what we look like.
All in all, this is what helps me get by in a world that often makes me feel less than whole. I hope something that I have written resonates with you, and maybe helps you on your journey to wholeness, too.