Existing is easy.
I can exist without passion or purpose in this world, and fulfill the definition of living—merely being alive. And yet, every day on this world is a struggle. A struggle to find the motivation to lead a life I can be proud of.
Living is another story.
This is an ongoing challenge. An everlasting investigation. The only confirmation of personal progress is found in self-assurance. I struggle to achieve personal peace every day. I struggle to be truthful with myself. I struggle to fight my persistent disillusionment. The voice in my head that tells me everything I do is pointless. I struggle to find my calling.
My struggles are continuous. My confidence is fragile. And society is harsh to say the least.
Society plays a major role in affecting self-confidence. Society shapes you. How people perceive you can affect your role and ability to affect change. Society is also necessary. I have to participate in this society to maintain a livelihood and feel validated. Human relationships help ease the stress of society. It provides me with a place of comfort and a sense of belonging within the larger spectrum of this complicated world. This world that works to define me, when all I want to do is manage a comfortable existence in my own skin.
I choose to define myself. Others will define me through my actions, appearance and overall self-perception. Yet I possess the power to steer these perceptions in the right direction. I am a strong believer in the idea that actions define character. Every day I resist the temptation to indulge in activities I know will only prove detrimental to my future emotional and physical health. I do this by thinking of my conclusive feelings. Feelings guide me. They inspire, torment, burden, uplift, complicate and validate my existence.
I used to hate my feelings. I was told to resist them. To calm down. To use rationality. To eliminate them. That my feelings were too much. And there was a time when I would have given anything in the world to not have to deal with my emotions. I just wanted to be apathetic. I wanted to feel what feeling nothing felt like. Yet, I fell asleep every day for months listening to this song.
I rejected myself.
In this everlasting battle between Me and Myself… I am the only one who ever suffers a loss.
It is exhausting, and I am slowly working to get over it. There are too many people in this world trying to tear me down. I refuse to rip myself out from the inside out. I refuse to let other people in this world indulge in that kind of self-hatred. It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing this now. I’ve been on both sides of the confidence spectrum before. I’ve experienced oblivious confidence and innate insecurity. I work every day to stay somewhere in the middle. Maybe one day I’ll be able to indulge in the childhood innocence that once kept me so unabashedly blunt, self-assured and happy.
I was a pretty obnoxious kid. Scratch that, I was ridiculous beyond belief. I distinctly remember feeling mature, strong and beautiful at my kindergarten graduation. My purple dress was killing it. I didn’t walk across the tiny gazebo to get my diploma; I strutted like it was the runway of my existence. I loved being the center of attention that day. In a family of four children, it was always a challenge to get my parents’ full focus. At that point, I had a six-year-old brother, a two-year-old sister and a newborn baby brother. I became immensely independent.
I went from an obnoxious kid to a self-conscious teen. When I moved out on my own and embraced young adulthood, I developed an eating disorder. I am still dealing with it today, and am not able to talk about it. I haven’t fully confronted it. I barely even admit to my friends that I have an issue, even though they’ve known it for over a year. They’ve tried and failed to get me help. I know I have a problem. I just avoid it. However, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But I am improving, day by day. And I can say now, after 2 years of struggling, that I now feel happy about my mental state. It may not necessarily be healthy—but it is getting there. And I am finally going to seek help. I think.
I perceive this personal issue as my personal breaking point. It was the climax to my hardships. Everything can only get better from here. My self-perception has already improved. Although I have my moments.
It took me years to get to this point. A point of quasi-self–confidence. And it has been one ridiculous journey.
There are certain things about myself that I love.
I love my ability to read people. I love that I can make people laugh by talking in circles. I love that I tend to make perfect sense. I love my willingness to admit I am wrong. I love that I love so easily. That I can make people feel comfortable and worthy, merely because I pay attention. I love that I see the good in people.
I love when people notice me, even though I’ve never admitted that to anyone. It is honestly embarrassing. It makes me feel special when someone addresses me by my name. When they look at me as they talk to me. It’s such a weird feeling. It’s like validation—I actually do exist in this world. I am a person who some people can remember. I always feel overlooked and under appreciated When someone makes it a point to get my attention, I can’t help but get a glimpse of internal pleasure. It makes me feel good, because even it was just for brief seconds or a few minutes… I mattered to someone. I often feel like I don’t mater.
I love that am honest. It is impossible for me to lie. This may seem preposterous, but I will awkwardly excuse myself from a situation instead of telling a falsehood. I am just not comfortable with it.
I love when I smile, and especially when I can feel that it is coming from within. The sincerity of it. I love the mole next to my eye, and the one next to my nose and the one above my lip. I think they give my ordinary face character. I love my hair. I love my waist. It reminds me of my own femininity.
But I assure you that there are many more things about my self that I hate.
I hate that I need people to notice me in order to feel better about myself. I hate my quick judgments. I hate my lack of assertiveness. I hate that I sell myself short, even when I know I am right. I hate that I can’t focus after someone makes me feel badly. I hate that I get hurt so easily. I hate that I let people take advantage of me. I hate that I am paranoid. I hate that I am so guarded.
I hate how I feel like I am a bad person. Even when I do something good for someone, I always question my motives. Even simple things—like editing someone’s paper, or buying my best friend a keychain for no reason or even helping someone study for a test after their blatant laziness, when they don’t deserve it whatsoever. I hate how sometimes when I do these things; I am consciously trying to prove to myself that I am not a bad person.
I hate that I love people so easily. I hate that I love making people feel good about themselves, but overtly reject the notion of trying to praise myself. I hate that I get upset when people over look me… Even though I overlook myself. I hate how people would respect me if I demanded it. I hate that I don’t feel worthy of demanding it. I hate that I question myself. Altruism doesn’t exist.
I hate that I am the root of most of my problems. That if I applied myself, I would never get anything less than an “A.” That if I wasn’t so mean to myself, people wouldn’t be so mean to me either.
I hate my tiny eyes, and how they get even smaller when I smile. I hate my nose, the scar above my eyebrow and my disproportionate lips. I think they make my face look unbalanced. I hate my muscular legs, arms and body. They all convey a sense of masculinity.
And then there are things about me that are just factual.
I know this because I’ve observed myself. And also because I asked my family and closest friends over the phone to brutally describe how they perceive me as a person (I learned in Research Methods that people are more inclined to be honest over phone interviews).
My father described me with a million different synonyms for the word: motivated (ambitious, determined, strong-willed, strong character etc). He said I was opinionated, bold and confident. That I know what I want and am passionate about how I express myself. He also hesitantly said that I am independent. Independence came early for me. At ten years old, my mother got a full time job. I was forced to make my own lunch and my six-year-old brother’s lunch… As well as walk and pick him up from school. My father entrusted me with this large responsibility. All he did in the morning was get himself ready. I am the oldest daughter, and in my Lebanese father’s eyes—this is not a big deal. My father never talked about me personally. He never said anything about my personality beyond my strength… The strength I inherited from him. I feel like he doesn’t know me. My father doesn’t realize that I am like him in more ways than one. I have his ambition, his strong character (that he once referred to as masculine) and his harshness. I am so hard on myself because my father has always been so harsh towards me. After every soccer game, even when I played phenomenally—there were always areas of improvement… “That one time in the first half you took an extra touch before passing it down line…” I am hard on other people the way I am hard on myself. I am so brutally honest. I sometimes feel like I am watching myself be too honest… I never realized that parents are sometimes unconditionally supportive. My father has always told me I could be better. My father migrated to the United States when he was 20—all the way from Lebanon. Yet he criticizes me for isolating myself from my family—46.7 miles away from home.
My mother began almost identically to my father. She told me I am determined, persistent and strong. She said that once I “excel at something, there is no stopping [me].” She said that when I reach a glimpse of my potential, I always want more. She said I am her most independent child. She then went on to say that I am “feisty like a cat,” but then utterly surprised me when she described me emotionally… “You are very sensitive and you always shy away from your feelings. It is extremely hard for you to accept compliments.” My mother doesn’t realize that I can’t accept compliments because she put me down for so long. Our relationship has been rocky to say the least, but I know my mother loves me more than she loves herself. She hates aspects of my personality, because they are the same characteristics that cause her to clash with my father. But my conversation with her made me realize that she actually does somewhat understand me. My mother pays attention. It also made me realize that she probably realizes how much I love her, and how hard it is for me to express that. I wrote her a long letter on Mother’s Day one year expressing my appreciation and telling her how much I love her. I ended it with the sentence: “I never want to talk about this ever. I just wanted you to know how I feel.” And she does. I can’t express how elated I felt hearing her describe me. She knows me.
My brothers describe me as intellectual, hardworking and “a beautiful young lady who needs to stop being mean to [myself].” They both said that they see me being a successful lawyer one day, and that they admire me. My older brother said that he appreciated me. He said that I am a good, Muslim girl. He said that I am a good athlete. That I have a bright future. He also said that we have a great relationship and that he can always come to me for advice, because he trusts my judgment and knows that I care. For so many years, my brothers would side with my mom in putting me down. They used to tell me that I needed to lose weight and change my attitude. They called me selfish. They blamed me for our parent’s issues. When I was experiencing backlash from both my parents, and all my siblings. It took a toll on me. After several years, my family noticed a change in me. I isolated myself. I was disillusioned. My grades dropped. I just didn’t care about anything. As time went on, I got closer to my older brother, who realized how hard he is on me. For some reason, when he is upset, it tends to be my fault. I am so close to him that he is willing to unleash on me at any given moment. I think my brother is slowly starting to realize how much our family has negatively affected me. He now does everything in his power to compliment me every time I am with him. He is honest with me. Since my brother played semi-professional soccer, it makes me feel amazing when he emphasizes to me that I am a good soccer player… More so, he knows I have had eating issues… And so he is full of positivity and love—a complete and total transformation from the past. I love my brothers. More than they can imagine. They both have the BEST hearts.
My sister is a nonchalant and care-free person. She doesn’t take anything seriously. When I called her, she was with her best friend (whom I’ve tutored and acted as an older sister to) and immediately asked her for her opinion. They both determined that I was a “strong woman who is very smart.” Honestly, my family thinks I am way smarter than I am. She said, like the others, that I was determined, and had good work ethic. I really don’t though. I mean, I tend to take way too long on basic assignments. She told me I was mature and beautiful and that I know what I want and am willing to work for it. Not true. I have no idea what I want. Lastly, she told me that I was loving and protective. It honestly made my day when my sister told me this. If anybody in the world were to hurt her, or my family, I would be devastated. I often have dreams of bad things happening to my sister. I wake up in the morning in utter and complete shock and devastation. My sister is beautiful and innocent and has such a great heart. Even though she is spoiled, stubborn and unwilling to compromise… She loves people with a sincerity that is rare. She is so confident, and I have always admired that. I love her like she is my young child. I perceive her that way, and sometimes treat her that way. Which is why she takes advantage of me. I often just give in to her to avoid a stupid fight.
I also admit to being extremely jealous of her. This jealousy translated into admiration… but when I was little, that was not the case. I was constantly called the “ugly” daughter. Lebanese men are obsessed with beauty. It hurt me, especially when my immature sister would throw it in my face. I would try and compete by spending time getting ready with my mother’s beauty products, while my sister was effortlessly adorable. I would thus indulge in various activities that I could excel at. Like reading and playing with my dolls. I stopped competing, because there was no competition. Now that I am older, it still gets to me at times. When I went to Lebanon last summer and saw my father’s friends, who I hadn’t seen in years… They all stared at me in shock. Like I was alien. “I can’t believe it’s you, you are so cute now! You are so pretty. Seriously so attractive. When you were little, oh gosh!” Then they would wait for my reaction… As if I would be thrilled. Like they validated my existence. Like being perceived as beautiful by people was the only thing in the world I cared about. It was sickening. But I have grown more comfortable in my own skin. I also realize that beauty isn’t everything. There is a beauty in me that delves deeper than appearances. The Disney princess I was one obsessed with, Jasmine, may be beautiful and thin, but that is not what generated my interest in her—even as a child. Princess Jasmine stood up for what she believed and didn’t succumb to societal pressures. She is also Arab, stubborn and intelligent. She is the only Disney princess who isn’t obsessed with obtaining a man. When Aladdin lies to her, he is forced to prove his remorse by risking his life for Jasmine and her father. But, let’s be real, men add a dramatic touch that is irresistible.
Speaking of men… My best friend, who I refer to as my fake-boyfriend (no he is not gay, we just have a complicated relationship) described me as loyal and loving. He told me, “Your family drives you crazy, but your love for them trumps everything else you feel. It is your defining characteristic. When you love someone, you go out of your way for them. You even sometimes put yourself at a disadvantage to make sure that you are there for them. Your loyalty and love trumps your own desires and wishes in certain situations. You are hard on yourself, but recently, you’ve been reflective. Self-reflective as well as analytical. You’ve turned this harshness into being more reflective and improving yourself… And growing in a good way. You are constantly changing and growing into a more mature and confident person. I think you are becoming more confident at least. But definitely when I think of you, I think of your love and passion.” Yea, he loves me. And he’s biased. He’s also a second-year law student at the University of Southern California. So he is a bit eloquent… Just a tad. He is one of my best friends in this world though. I’ve known him since I was two years old and we have kept in touch, even when he lived in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and D.C. when he went to Georgetown. I hate him, and I love him. I’m actually scared to love him. He pisses me off more than anyone in this world. That is all I have to say about that.
I asked other close friends to describe me as well. After I got off the phone with my fake-boyfriend, I needed less-biased opinions.
Best Friends: “You are a good friend and a good person. You are really hard on yourself in more ways than one. You are very caring, super sensitive and understanding.” I honestly have no words for this. I feel like my friends tell me I am a good person because they know I think that I am not one… “Crazy.” … “Good listener… You give great advice on situations. You can be a little crazy. You are probably one of the smartes people I know. You really know how to put a smile on people’s face.” Literally everyone thinks I am way smarter than I am. They confuse eloquence with intelligence and hard work with natural ability.
Soccer Teammates: “You are a good listener with good vocabulary. Hardworking. Passionate. You are particular and neurotic. You are a great teammate and super supportive. ” I really am neurotic though. I edit papers even after I turn them in. Even though it means nothing anymore. I can endlessly work on a task if you allow me. I am always seeking perfection.
After all of those conversations. I realized that the people I spend most of my time with generally perceive me the same way. It made me feel good about myself. My friends know me. I also realized I have great friends. I am so blessed. I often forget that I even have friends. I am constantly reminded of this, and often think to myself: Wow… I have such great support. My friends are so great. There was a time in high school when I had a large group of friends, but never felt more lonely. I was 15. I began to stop making effort to see my “friends” as much, only to realize that I was the reason why we were friends all along. I thus isolated myself completely and made new friends. I started fresh. The new friends I made that year are still my best friends today. I love them with all my heart. They make me feel worthy and loved, and I only hope that I do the same for them.
Fact: I am passionate about everything.
I love people completely, and I hate people furiously. It goes both ways.
Fact: I am highly insecure.
I forget I have friends. I sometimes feel like I don’t deserve my friends because I can have negative thoughts about people.
Fact: I am a very guilty person.
I think about past mistakes, even years later. I can’t handle the feeling of knowing I caused someone pain. I also am quick to hate people, like fully, with every fiber of my being. Then I get to know them, and I see the good in them. It’s in my nature to love. So I start to sincerely love them. Then I feel so guilty for ever judging them. I need to realize that it is okay for me to make judgments… it is natural. I must applaud myself for being able to change my judgments. Not everyone is so open-minded.
Fact: I love when people love me.
Talking to people who love me about my characteristics made me feel worthy and wonderful. I love that when I asked my friends to be brutally honest with me about how they perceived me… They mostly had good things to say. The bad things are mostly things that I have to actively work to change. But I’ve accepted that.
Fact: I am so very blessed.
I am alive and I am free. My life isn’t perfect, but it’s good. I am so thankful for the people around me. The wonderful people who give me strength and keep me going. All of my past difficulties merely shape me into the person I am now. I am so strong. I feel strong. But mostly, I feel empowered and ready to take on new challenges, and embrace the future.
I am strong. I am weak.
And I have an eating disorder. I don’t say this out loud. I bury all my emotions within. I don’t ever actively seek out my friends for advice on how I feel. I am too hard on myself. I don’t think people will care to hear me. I am also so accustomed to relying on myself.
I am going to become the person I used to be—the person I am meant to be. The obliviously confident girl from my past. She was great. She told people how she felt all the time. She felt good about herself. I feel great right now. Writing is always so liberating.
I am emotional. I have feelings. But I have learned to balance this with rationality. I need to let myself feel, and express how I feel. Just like old times.
Dear Girl of my past: Don’t reject your feelings. To reject feeling would be to reject the one part of you that makes you most beautiful. The ability to read people and their intentions. To lift someone up when they’re sad. To give advice to your closest friends. To identify with people around the world. To understand and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. All of these things that make me who I am. Thank you for getting through everything your family put you through. Thank you for suffering. Hardship leads to happiness. Believe me, I am getting the feeling back. The feeling that makes me want to better this world. I want to connect to people who have felt as terrible as I have. Because feeling is what makes us human.
Feelings keep me alive as I live. They’re here to stay.
All I want to do in life is write and inspire those people who are struggling with the same stuff that dragged me down for TOO long. Trust me when I tell you that self-hatred gets you nowhere. It dragged me lower than I could ever have imagined myself. It amplified uneasy situations. Nothing good can come from it. It’s not worth it.
Life gets better. I promise.
To the world, I only have one thing to say: Be you and BE PROUD.
Today, I choose to be nothing but myself. And I feel pretty good about it.
If you ever feel down: Who’s the cutest?