Loving myself through loving others.
I began my
last semester of college with visions of afternoons spent journaling, weekends
of solitary hiking, and meals spent reading. I truly looked forward to the
months that I would call “time for me”, but what I later realized was that this
isolation was doing more harm than good. It forced me deep into my own chattering
mind where deeply held insecurities and my battles with body image overwhelmed
me. Although I had always identified myself as an introvert, and spending a
Saturday night alone was much more comfortable to me, I was becoming agonizingly
restless. Unbearably uncomfortable.
passed like this. Uncomfortable. Of course there were times spent with friends
and there were also times spent in satisfying seclusion; but nevertheless, six
months passed. The semester ended with a painted graduation cap and a road trip
back home and I soon began to feel the loneliness lift from my shoulders.
Family and friends surrounded me once I returned home and I began to realize
that the unhealthy mind-chattering was waning. Although many things were
changing for me (I began volunteering, the stress of school had ended, and I
was painting and reading much more), the most significant change was that of my
social interactions. I went from spending full days avoiding interaction and
cultivating my separation from others on a campus of more than 30,000 strangers
to a small house with three family members and a few readily accessible close
friends. Spurred by a lightness of mind, I spent some time reflecting on that
last semester. I was aware that I felt much different now that I was home, but
I had no idea why.
habits of behavior were conducive to my own isolation. I was closed from most
people, from new experiences, from change. I thought I was protecting my
individuality, but I was really hindering it. By distancing myself from others,
I was limiting my connection with others, and as a result, impeding a precious
connection with myself.
Every person you interact with leaves something with you.
That something may be a positive or negative experience, a good or bad feeling,
a smile or a worry, but it is something. We learn more about ourselves through
interactions with others than we ever could on our own.
Unfortunately, it took me six
months of ‘trying to find myself’ in isolation to realize that the most
valuable parts of me can only be unearthed through my interactions with others.
For the past few years, I have worked to make honesty and authenticity a daily intention and I’ve discovered that there is no longer a filter to squeeze my
words and actions through. I have found myself diving deep into conversation
with strangers simply because my walls are down. The irony, however, is in the
comfort I’m beginning to feel. That introverted little girl inside me struggles
to keep her identity, but the maturing, loving, and more confident soul is beginning
to overshadow her. That little girl is just scared; scared of the love she may
find if she opens up her world to it.