At 14-years-old, there was one thing on my mind: boys.
Boys didn’t pay attention to me. They didn’t give me a second glance. I barely felt comfortable even calling them my friends because before this, any relationship with a boy was considered romantic and I didn’t understand that maybe boys and girls could be friends without romance.
Every waking moment of mine was spent devising a plan on how to get a boy to like me back. I understand now that this was just the result of a deeply flawed sense of self-esteem and an innate lens of harsh criticism.
I joined a gym. I began dying my hair. I exclusively shopped at Nike to fit in with the cool crowd. I internalized my first boyfriend’s text message telling me we had to break up because “his friends thought I was fat and ugly.” I swallowed my emotions. I shoved myself into pink camo spandex shorts and tossed on a sweat scented penny jersey just to stand around at mixers hoping, praying that one of the boys there would notice me. See me with eyes of appreciation.
I yearned for attention. For validation. For undying affection and reassurance that I was “worth it” as a person despite the narrative of self-loathing I clung desperately to in a last-ditch effort to feel any sort of emotion. I searched for qualities in another person that would never satisfy me until I satisfied myself.
This obsession never ceased, only dimmed. Only hid in the corner. As I moved through the motions of high school, I repressed the absence of self-love and feigned confidence to feel better on the surface. I ignored the calls from within me to dive deep and to explore what it meant to truly love and appreciate myself wholly.
I finally quenched my thirst my senior year of high school with what I believed was a gloriously divine relationship with the man of my dreams. I fell hopelessly in love with the idea that someone loved me.
I lost my sense of self in the warm caress of attention and wrapped myself in the folds of another person’s troubles. I took their burden of self-hatred onto myself and worked tirelessly to fix what was broken within them, and I dedicated myself to becoming the hero of another person’s story, while all along what I really needed to become was the savior of my own story. I created a fantasy world filled with hatred, bitterness and ignorance masked by sweet nothings and fleeting glimpses of “maybe he isn’t a bad boyfriend.” I made futile attempts at dismissing the calling I felt to become reunited with my own perception of self.
When the snow globe of the relationship shattered and all I could feel was broken glass raining down on my psyche, I finally felt what it meant to be utterly alone. The fear could have consumed me but by grace alone I learned to sit in the sadness, befriend the despair and to grasp the light at the end of the tunnel and expand it into more than just a glimmer of hope.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Observant, but not judgmental. I poured over the cheeks which I saw tear stained so often and ran a fingertip down the curvature of my hips, seeing myself with a new perspective. With compassionate eyes, unattached to the perception of the flaws. With eyes that no longer looked to critique but with eyes that wanted to see everything, the failures and the successes and to understand what it meant to be fully human.
The obsession still lingers, like a creature in the night, hungry for blood and waiting to pounce the moment it smells defeat or fear. I wrestle with the monster weekly, if not daily. There are times when I remember what it felt like to drift, afloat in the promise of ignorance being bliss. Not every day do I look at myself with eyes like the most thoughtful lover or with eyes like my parents. Some days, the clear green eyes staring back at me represent envy and greed, existential dread and defeat.
Lurking beneath the surface though there is a fantasy world I have cultivated all on my own. Not one filled with bitterness and deceit, but one filled with a fiery sense of passion, drive, and commitment to showing up every day as I am. No masks. No pink camo spandex.
Just raw. Just real.
An obsession with myself.