The most important part of self-discovery is learning how to be genuine, to slow down and appreciate the things that make you who you are. It is important to take a well-deserved break from criticism, especially when you find yourself feeling self-conscious the majority of the time. When negative thoughts start to feel like mosquito bites you’ve scratched over and over to no avail, that is the time to let go of what you cannot change in that moment. Start to realize, who you are should coincide with who you want to be. To be your purest self, not tainted by circumstances and reactions, focus solely on passion and appreciation. Think the thoughts you want to have and do the things you want to do. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
And for me, it means liberating myself from myself.
And although people aren’t always able to put self-criticism on hold, most of us could greatly benefit from the opportunity to put aside some thoughts that don’t require our immediate attention. Obsessing about the past or the future, for instance, is something you don’t need to focus on in this particular moment. You should try to change what no longer serves you. If you embarrassed yourself six months ago and you still spend time wishing you could go back and change it, I’m sorry, but you can’t and it is time to let it go.
Even more important, never surmount your worth to the judgment of another. The “never-good-enough,” culture we live in thrives on self-hatred. It becomes especially apparent to me in the moments when I’m in my truest form and I am trying to avoid hatred of any kind. For example, when I picked up creative writing again for the first time, since before I owned a smartphone. Within the first few minutes of the, “writing process,” I simultaneously checked my email, texted a friend, and tweeted what I was doing. And after seeing that what I wrote was garbage, I stopped all of the approval-seeking shenanigans and just wrote. And I wrote for me and only me.
What happened in that brief moment of just writing was it became clear who I was was not the sum of my minutes strategically placed in the view of others. I was the culmination of my own pride. As opposed to being a phony bologna, someone who is happy just to have posted something on clever on Facebook, I found pride in my own accomplishments. For so long I had been caught up in gaining the approval of others, that I forgot what it was like to make my own esteem. I thought about how much time and energy I wasted giving the things I love half my attention, instead of focusing on a single meaningful task with all my heart. This realization confirmed how necessary it would become for me to only let things into my life that I truly wanted to be there. I would tackle tasks that served my soul rather than my reputation. This was the secret to my deepest sense of fulfillment.
My new found fear of craving external validation and subsequent aversion to social media, stemmed from an issue that could be traced back to my childhood. Before I ever even heard of a status update. Even as a young girl, my thoughts were often cluttered with the desire to seem perfect. I cared about having impeccable grades in subjects I hated and unbeatable skills in sports I had absolutely no interest in. I wanted to wear the most on-trend clothing, even if deep down I thought the trend was stupid. I, foolishly, spent most of my life thinking this was an asset to my personality rather than a problem. It was alright to feel that way because it would inevitably lead me in the right direction. That must be a lie we all tell ourselves to avoid staring in the face of what is, common, but also very flawed human nature. The right direction is never away from yourself. Basing what you say and do on the opinions of others is all just an act. You could perform for as long as you want, but the moment I decided to truly participate in my life, I felt so much more supremely justified. My successes were rewarded with inner peace, not temporary praise that dripped away from me like rain on glass. I excelled at the art of being myself.
So try not to focus on getting a great picture at an event. Have a conversation with someone where you don’t hold back anything. Go out and don’t check your phone for a while. Try just to have fun, in spite of your insecurities. I am adamant to protect who I am, and you should be to. You can never fail trying to be yourself. This is my passionate plea to anyone suffering from the pain that comes from rushing toward the instant gratification of approval and external validation. Let go of the raindrops that slide off the glass, they are the tears of an unsatisfied soul.
Life is your window, shine your light out.
You can read more from Alexrandra Pellegrino on her blog.