2017 was the Year of Self-Love

2017 was probably the worst year of my life. It was also the year that I learned to start loving myself.

I say that 2017 was the worst year of my life because I lost so much. I tried to force a lot of friendships that weren’t meant to be (I only realized this in retrospect). I lost so many people who left my life, either willingly or forcibly. I’ve never grieved over a lost loved one, but god, I’ve dealt with more wavering and ended friendships than I could cope with. I get that people come and go, but this year it happened so often and so quickly. I felt like my life was an airport. People came to me because they were only staying for a bit before leaving for their destination. And it was all happening at the same time, so closely to each other. I pinned a lot of the guilt onto myself. I thought to myself, there must be something wrong with me if I’m losing so many friends. Those thoughts totally tanked my already low self-esteem as a person. All of this mixed with toxic, emotional abusive, and problematic people who somehow made their way into my life contributed to 2017 being utterly fucking terrible. I don’t want to go too much into detail in this, but these people have hurt me in ways that I cannot simply shake off.

I also struggled mentally. Very much. Waves of hopelessness and not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel frequented my mind. Small social encounters that wouldn’t bother me in the past would throw me into a downward spiral that was so hard to get out of. I’ve been going to therapy since August (not saying that there’s something wrong with me thus I need therapy, but rather, I felt like I would be stuck forever if I didn’t reach out for help). It was one of the best decisions I made this year. It hasn’t “cured me” or whatever, but it’s definitely helped. I still struggle, but I’m a lot better than I was before, and I am so grateful to my therapist and myself for that.

I say that 2017 was also the year that I learned to start loving myself because being almost friendless forced me to center my life around myself — and if my life was centered around someone I didn’t love, what was the point? Summer was the hardest. I think I talked about this in a previous post. My best friend was studying abroad in Asia for almost the entire summer and my partner at the time was working a 8–5 summer internship 3 hours away. Most of my Irvine friends went back home for the summer, found internships or summer programs, or attended summer classes. I didn’t do anything like that. My days were idle and I felt abandoned.

But I learned to stop being lonely and start being alone. Being lonely meant that I had nobody, no matter how much I tried. I genuinely felt this way for a few months. Being alone, however, meant that I could be by myself in a healthy way. I could do things according to my own agenda. I paid more attention to my feelings, my needs and desires, and my goals. I started to center my life around myself (which sounds like a “no duh,” but you’d be surprised how much of your life is NOT centered around YOU. That excludes involvements, work, school, and friends). After this year and especially after summer, I stopped thinking “I don’t deserve other people as friends,” but rather, “some people don’t deserve me as a friend.”

I realized that a lot of people I tried to hold onto in my life were not people I actually wanted to be around. During one particular session, my therapist asked me one way I make friends and wish other people would reciprocate. I said that I open up to people easily about my problems, because that’s generally how I am. But how I saw it in my mind was if I opened up first about my problems, then the person I’m trying to befriend will reciprocate and also open up. That’s part of the reason why I’m a very honest person. I did that a lot during spring and summer. I opened up more easily than usual to people in an attempt to become closer to them, but they never did the same for me. I felt like a burden to them because most of our friendship was based on me and my problems.

In retrospect, I realize that those people didn’t deserve to know about my problems and didn’t deserve to have me as a friend in general. I gave a lot of myself to others without realizing that I had to remain whole for myself. Saying “others don’t deserve me” sounds like a narcissistic, douchebag thing to say, but it’s really not. I’m not saying they’re terrible people who don’t deserve anything — just not me. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing what I deserve and don’t deserve.

I had to love myself enough to demand only what’s best for myself.

This year, I learned to truly be myself. I took weightlifting more seriously and I’ve never been prouder of my body/physique. I don’t talk about it often because people mock it without realizing how sensitive I am about it, but it is a sincerely significant contributor to my self-esteem, physical health, and mental health. I also started developing my fashion sense or “aesthetic” (I hate that word because it’s so overused but I’ll use it here and never again). It’s taken me a ridiculously long time to find clothes that I feel and look good in. After leaving my middle school which had strict dress code and entering high school, I immediately found joy and entertainment through picking out what to wear for the day. I literally remember specific outfits I wore in 9th grade (but would probably never wear again), down to the detail and accessories. Now, it’s more than just joy and entertainment — it’s self-expression, it’s me. I still get sarcastic comments about my outfits with the implication that I’m always “overdressed,” but I’m working on being more unapologetic about it and brushing off those comments. Beyond these two, I’ve started to embrace my photography, my opinions/values even in the face of opposition (or problematic people lol), my mannerisms, my troubles, and myself holistically. And it’s been serendipitously wonderful. There’s nothing more liberating than celebrating yourself and who you are.

So it might sound weird to hear that 2017 was the worst year of my life, but also the year that I learned to start loving myself. But in a year when I felt like I had nothing, I had to look again and realize I had all I needed — myself. And I am more than enough.