In a world full of unhealthy comparisons and toxic interpretations of what being ‘successful’ truly means its hard to sit back and realize how far we’ve come as a person.
I was contemplating this when, going through my archives, I found an old photoshoot of myself when I was 20. Looking at her was like seeing another person, someone I can hardly recognize, but in a positive way. It made me reminisce on who I was back then, inside and out, and how much progress as a I’ve made as a person since then through my own hard work (and a buttload of therapy).
I was going to do this exercise on my own but I thought why not document it here and maybe encourage my readers to look back 10 years and actually give themselves credit for what they’ve achieved, not physically or monetarily but mentally and in our interactions with others. So after you read this I urge you to try it out yourself, and hey, you might end up realizing that you’ve come further than you expected.
I’ve paired each point with a picture from that long lost set, uneasy in my own skin and unconfident, and picture from me now at 30, confident in who I am inside as well as out just as an added reminder to myself and a fun comparison for you, kind strangers.
1. I give more of a shit and less of a shit at the same time
Yes, this is a contradiction in terms but hear me out. At 20 I tried so hard to pretend that I didn’t care what people thought of me, putting others down if need be to really drive home this fallacy. The disgust I had for myself oozed onto any poor unsuspecting person that crossed my path, be it a friend or a cashier, no one was safe.
Now that I have released myself from my self hatred and shed those around me that ‘helped’ me mould it, I’ve switched it up. I give less of a shit of what people think about me, if you don’t agree with my appearance, opinions or way of life cool bro you do you but do it away from me because I love me and I’m not changing for you.
But at the same time I give more of a shit about other people, I have finally grown out of being a bitch to random people or to those I love with no provocation. I’ve switched from ‘Oh my god, that woman in Pick n Pay was so rude!’ to “Damn working with all these asshole customers everyday must suck, no wonder she isn’t in the best mood.” It may seem small but for me, its changed my everyday life astronomically.
2. Straight –> Lesbian
This one is pretty self explanatory. At 20 I was just starting a relationship that would mentally break me over the next 5 years. I was convinced that I was in love. Through compulsory heterosexuality (I’m going to do a whole separate post on this), just leaving my strict Catholic school and desperately seeking male validation I convinced myself that I was straight.
One thing that really stands out as an obvious sign (there are so many I can’t possibly list them all) was when I wished said horrendous boyfriend was at my house and I spent the whole time wishing he would go home because then I could go on Suicide Girls. The website full of naked women. Ffs why did it take this long?
Despite how long it took I now feel the most me I’ve ever felt. The most comfortable in my own skin and who I am. This one was a game changer.
3. Inexplicably Angry and Sad–> Diagnosed and Self Aware
I was an angry kid. I was so afraid of the world around me that I lashed out, preempting an attack that may never have even come. I woke up almost everyday with a deep sense of dread and pulled my way out of it to go to varsity in a place I hated studying something I didn’t want to be. I thought this was normal. (FYI waking up with a sense of dread is DEFINITELY not normal) The tiniest thing would set me off, I hated for no reason and then I would dissolve into sadness from the resultant guilt.
I now know that this is textbook bipolar with a liberal splash of social anxiety. Now that I have a name, I’m not just a bitch who lacks self control, I can access meds to help me, therapy and practice my own handling of my past, present and future. I can see the effect I have on others. And most importantly I say sorry. That used to be hard for me.
Diagnosed. Self Aware. Not Always Happy. But doing ok.
4. Scared of Women –> Holy shit women are amazing
School had me terrified of girls from the very start. I went to an all girls school for 13 years. Strictly Catholic with (when I was there at least) little to no queerness mentioned ever.
In pre grade I didn’t know how to make friends, I was different to them and 6 year old me knew it. I was so scared of rejection. So I stayed inside and did increasingly difficult puzzles until the well intentioned teacher foisted me upon a poor unsuspecting girl and made me play with her and her friends. The poor woman tried but I was at school with that girl for 13 years and I don’t think we had more than a handful of conversations.
So as soon as I could I became ‘one of the boys’ and that what I was at 20. Telling people that I had been put off girls from being forced to be around them for so long (not that they intimidated me because I wanted to kiss them, me? No never!)
After my last boyfriend broke up with me I let that fear fall away. My sibling said I needed to listen to music by more women (not just 5 Seconds of Summer an Panic! at the Disco) and slowly through Halsey, King Princess, Fletcher, Julia Michaels, Kesha and others I’ve let myself open myself up to how beautiful and powerful women are. I started being, dare I say it, a vocal feminist. I let that feeling bleed into everyday life and instead of always automatically finding a flaw I saw in someone I would instead find what made them catch my eye in the first place. Confronting my queerness was the final step that made me realize that women weren’t scary just turns out that I was just a chicken shit closeted lesbian.
5. Judgmental –> Hell yeah, you do you bitch!
So you remember the self hatred from before? Well it took its hold most strongly through the medium of judgment.
20 year old me would judge anything from someone’s hair or dress sense to weight and facial features. I should slut shame people left right and centre, no bother. It makes my insides twist with guilt and shame at the thought of how I behaved and the things I said about people. Just because I wasn’t happy with myself I thought it was only fair that I took others down with me.
Well fuck that shit. Now that I’m thirty, flirty and fucking thriving I just say you do you bitch! Because really, was it any of 20 year old Amy’s business that that random woman in a shopping centre was wearing leopard print head to toe? No it wasn’t. And she probably looked fucking bomb in that fit besides!
Letting go of that part of me has made me endlessly more empathetic towards others and myself, like a weighed blanket has been liftoff my shoulders. Now I feel like I can stand up straight and maybe even help others do the same.
Ok damn I got a bit more personal and in depth than I meant to but it felt good so fuck it.
So now its your turn, have a think back to you 10 years ago and try find at least 5 ways that you’ve grown since then. I think you’ll find its easier than you think.