Living For and With Yourself

Beccy Bollard 6 April 2019
Image Credit: Genista Aloe

I know that I’ve struggled with this for a long time by the very fact that I haven’t allowed myself to sit down and write in years. I disliked my own narrative voice so much that I refused to allow myself the time and space, disconnected, to be alone with my own thoughts, let alone the platform to express them with others.

I have always grappled with the idea of myself as a solitary entity, apart from anyone else. I have always needed, in a way, to be an extension of someone else. The exciting best friend, the devoted girlfriend, the successful daughter – whatever the role, I was never acting it for myself, I was projecting it for an audience. Even now, I question: why am I writing this? Who do I want to see it? How do I want myself to come across? It feels that only in writing these questions down can I escape the binding of my own created self.

I have set myself one fundamental goal: to live completely and wholly for myself, whoever that may be

I recently turned 20, and in the transition of leaving my teenage years of frivolity and obsessive over-thinking I have set myself one fundamental goal: to live completely and wholly for myself, whoever that may be. As I write this, I’m sipping on a vodka and squash (I’m hoping for maturity in sense of self, not in drink of choice) and considering all the times I have had a drink for the sake of making myself interesting to another person. The times I’ve accepted drinks to appease a male companion, when I simply could’ve said no and walked away. Small acts that have combined to create a lifetime of half-hearted autonomy.

Social media was my biggest enemy. An entire life invalidated unless it was expressed online, for others to know I was living it and living it well. My happiest moments are, of course, undocumented. My saddest moments, mere seconds after pictures I had plastered online, grinning from ear to ear. My first year of university, to the shock of various, no doubt technologically up-to-date, relatives who asked me about it at various reunions, was awful. Coming off of multiple deep grievances, I was the most depressed I had ever been – I felt completely and utterly alone.

Instead of doing anything productive to tackle this, I used the perceptions others obtained of my life from online to fuel my own perception of myself and my life. It was all lies, my life reduced to a fraudulent Facebook album and a calculated Instagram account. I have been glued to my phone for years – it is both extension and reduction of myself, and it is time for that to end. I have deleted the Instagram app from my phone and removed tinder, where swipes and likes acted as a measure of social capital.

Making others laugh was a not a matter of spontaneity but a matter of necessity

Walking down the road I would often view myself as if from afar. In a world of immediate impressions, all that mattered to me was the impression I would give off. I was distraught if I did not look my best, and upbeat if I felt my hair was falling in the right way or my skin looked particularly clear. Schooling my expression, whenever I walked past someone, even though undoubtedly all that passed me didn’t care, was a constant task. Making others laugh was a not a matter of spontaneity but a matter of necessity, lest their impression of me was less than perfect. I would call myself a subtle blend of narcissism, perfectionism, and low self-esteem.

In writing this, I am pushing back against that. I am challenging the me that never thought I was good enough, as is, to write an article or do anything for myself. I am making a promise to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them, and make a pointed effort to know I am doing them for me. I will exercise because I want to feel good, not because I want to look good for others. I will go to that lecture because I am interested, not because of who I may see there. I will take myself out to places more and connect myself to the scrutiny of others through my phone less.

I plan to live entirely for myself, and I encourage you to do the same. I imagine it will be a matter of small steps, slowly unlearning the patterns you may have fallen into and learning to self-care; but if I can write this, I know you are capable of doing things for yourself just as much as I am. Be the person that makes you happy, not the person that adapts to make others happy.