by Malavika Eby
I used to dread being alone. I thought it reeked with the stench of being unlikable, unlovable because the only reason to be alone is if no one else chooses to be with you but yourself.
Growing up, I wasn’t the best at keeping friends. Sometimes it’s by chance, sometimes for reason, but I’ve found that the people I’ve grown most fond of tend to be the people that don’t last long inside my world. It’s been difficult not to blame myself, but I’ve spent nights and nights thinking about what it could be about myself that drives people out.
It’s taken years and years of growing comfortable in my own skin and getting to know myself for who I am free of the judgments imposed upon my identity by others to recognize that I love myself. I love myself for my artistic talents, my caring and compassionate nature, my relentless overthinking, my random spurts of energy, my loud laugh, my sometimes-excessive hand gestures, and every other thing about me including all the little things people choose to pick apart about me in their free time, which apparently may only ever entail talking badly about others.
Throughout the past few years, as a junior, it’s been growing more apparent to me that no matter who you are or how you treat others, the people that make it their business to speak ill of others will still remain. As a timeless poison seeded throughout society, gossip lives and even thrives in the competitive, insecurity-packed environment of high school. It doesn’t take much analysis or thinking to imagine how difficult it can be for any one of us to learn to love ourselves when we feel surrounded by hate.
Thing is, it only hurts to be alone when we don’t love ourselves. It feels strange — alien, almost — and it might feel like we need the company of others to cover up the emptiness and isolation that leaks out in the absence of distractions.
Self-worth isn’t particularly built but realized over time through effort and energy. The more I thought about this concept of recognizing my value within my own life rather than those of others, the more I began to treasure this person whom I never thought of myself as; this person who’d grown from a helpless, sleeping newborn into a real human being of her own — so resilient, so capable, that she could endure all of her worst days and nights and still be okay, be here, trying her best.
I am still okay, still here, and am still trying my best. And aren’t I worthy of love just for that?
I think it’s safe to say that if we took more time to get to know ourselves the way we all deserve to be understood, we’d realize there’s no one better out there for ourselves than ourselves.
The right people could bring so much joy into our lives — experiences and feelings we never could’ve had or felt otherwise — but even they are addendums to our already complete lives.
1. I tell myself what I want to hear when I’m feeling down. What I’ve understood is that even in terms of emotion (usually an exceptionally unregulated facet of human nature) we build a particular routine within our minds, one which allows us to recognize to some extent what it is we truly need to be okay again, whether it’s a particular message or just some time. Waiting for others to give us something which only we truly understood is beyond meaningless. This is a lesson I remember sometimes experiencing in the past, walking away from talks with my friends feeling unsatisfied with the advice they’d offered me. While it’s beyond okay to ask for help from others, it’s also valuable to recognize that we’re strong, self-sufficient people who know what we need, when we need it.
2. I’ve begun keeping a mental list of my favorite things. There’s this one Brown Sugar/Fig lotion I bought from Bath and Body Works that keeps me smelling so sweet, sitting within my scent feels like I’m cradled within a dream. I made a stuffed bunny at Build-A-Bear that I call Lucy; she sleeps with me every night. I alternate between my favorite pairs of earrings on days that I especially feel good. The water bottle-filling station at the back of my school near the track has lately been my favorite place to go for a walk. I’ve been stockpiling songs on Spotify that touch me with the soft vibes that always set that particular midnight picnic mood. Everywhere I go, I see something I love, and it fills me with precisely the kind of happy energy that only I could’ve understood I needed.
3. Last, and probably my favorite one of all, I’ve been spending some quality time with myself. Lately, going on walks alone has been my breath of fresh air in flooding feelings of academic and personal burden. Especially with the fluctuating weather around me, sometimes I find that the soft sun rays feel warm on my face or the cold wind brushes my cheeks, leaving me feeling vulnerable. Whenever I’ve had a lot on my mind, I’ve turned to writing as a repository to my thoughts, a safe haven for my feelings which constantly switch left and right. In the past couple of years, I’ve kept mini-journals for quick venting within my phone; going on walks, when I’m stuck thinking of something, someone, everything gets jotted down as little poems. These minutes of solitude have evolved into an unexpected guilty pleasure that’s further assured me in enjoying my own company.
I write this knowing that as unexpected as it would’ve been to myself three years ago, I’m all that I need — my beautiful, sweet best friend for life.