In which anxieties take a nasty turn

otherwise known as, I hope the usage of Zooey Deschanel’s face makes this less serious than it is

I am an extremist.

That word never has a good connotation. Be it religious or political extremism, it is hardly ever a good thing. If you’re a ‘positive extremist’ you are given a different title: a philanthropist, a humanitarian. The word ‘extremist’ drags the baggage of negativity along with it.

While my extremism will not put me on the cover of a newspaper (or rather make me a Twitter Trending Topic), it always leaves me feeling awful. My extremism is in relation to my emotions. I wish I could keep a lid on things but much like a filled kettle placed over a heat source for a long time, things bubble over and I scream.

And that can be literal screaming or a metaphorical one.

I have screamed at someone because of how angry I got- resentment had built up over a period of time and the infamous straw that broke the camel’s back whacked mine, but instead of keeling over, I shouted and swore like I have never done before.

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Is that good thing? No. Not at all.

Metaphorical screaming, in the sense of things bubbling over due to emotional unrest would be a day like today when body issues just smacked me on the head. I know, this is a popular tune you’ve heard year in and year out, never fading from the charts. A ‘current issue’ that has yet to be resolved despite multiple celebrities speaking up about ‘body acceptance’. While Ashley Graham’s confidence in the face of all her ‘haters’ is an inspiration, it doesn’t dim the hater that is within yourself.

I judge myself by the number I see on the scale. I judge myself for not doing the work it takes to get to a number I’m happy with. And I don’t know if it is truly wrong to think that way. As someone who has spent five years dedicating her life to being part of the medical field, I know for a fact that I am unhealthy, that the ratio of my hips to my waist means that I am more likely to die of a heart attack or have cardiovascular complications in the future.

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So when events in the past 24 hours made me look at myself again and feel ridiculously emotional, I wanted to revert to an old habit, another extreme. But I’m better at not doing that, so I didn’t. Instead I threw myself into cleaning because that’s the one positive I could come up with.

It is difficult when you look at yourself and want to change so much. I know part of it a mental component, that satisfaction with what you see reflected back at you is something everyone struggles with, but there are also facts, irrefutable facts that make me cringe.

Being a houseman/intern will be challenging two years. I would need to figure out how balance the physical, the emotional and the external adversities that will be coming my way.

While I understand that there are things outside my circle of control, there are also things I can get a grip on. I just hope I can.

crazy

a miscalculation

I think as a child I believed myself to be more capable than I actually am. Either that or I killed that part of me that used to think she could do anything and be whatever she wanted to be.

Growing up is hard guys. And I think I underestimated what an effort it is.

I would like to say that I have gotten better at it with time but we all know that’s not true. I think I hold out hope that I will suddenly wake up with the ability to have everything sorted out quite well. The same way I set my alarm for 4am because ‘I want to do some reading before going to class’ and instead snooze all the way till 6am which is my ‘normal morning routine’ time.

And yet time and time again I set that alarm.

If that’s not wishful thinking, I don’t know what is.

I think that I had mastered the ‘art of getting by’ so well in my younger years that I forget that work gets harder the older you are. I think I also may have forgotten how much effort it did take to ‘get those grades’ or ‘nail that high note’. Perhaps something in me rewires my brain to delete any memory of struggle once I have managed a modicum of success.

My mom has said to me ‘you were so driven when you were younger, you’ve lost that spark’ and I wish I could disagree. My ‘spark’ has been doused with a tsunami of self-doubt. I was a far more confident child than I am as an adult. Puberty took a toll on my mind because I started to care what people thought of me- I would not raise my hand in class as much because I was called a snobbish know-it-all; I began to detest my body and hate my gender because we were the ‘more vulnerable sex’; I would rather fade into the background instead of stepping up center stage, something that 7-year-old Grace loved to do.

My ‘spark’ has been doused with a tsunami of self-doubt- I was a far more confident child than I am as an adult. Puberty took a toll on my mind because I started to care what people thought of me: I would not raise my hand in class as much because I was called a snobbish know-it-all; I began to detest my body and hate my gender because we were the ‘more vulnerable sex’ causing me extreme paranoia each time I venture out alone; I would rather fade into the background instead of stepping up “center stage”, something that 7-year-old Grace loved to do.

It is as though extroversion could be unlearned.

It doesn’t help that my mind is a steel trap when it comes to certain details, like how a Math teacher in secondary school let slip that they would discuss my ballooning weight in the teacher’s staff room, or how a classmate said that the first word that comes to mind when he thinks of me is ‘bitch’.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will always hurt me. Bones mend and become actually stronger in the very place they were broken and where they have knitted up; mental wounds can grind and ooze for decades and be re-opened by the quietest whisper.

-Stephen Fry

I hate that I allow myself to be so affected by the things people say to me or about me.I hate that I let those words echo in my head, allowing them to dictate how I act around people, leading me to filter my thoughts and actions. That is not always a bad thing but it is when you find that you cannot relax in any social situation.

I miss my freer self. Does that make sense?

I used to be more Lydia Bennet than I was Elinor Dashwood. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with being Elinor, I have come to miss the gumption that I used to possess. I sometimes see bits of it come through when I am very comfortable with my company, but I am often on my guard.

Yes, I know that all of this is the normal human experience of self-censorship and adapting yourself according to what is seen as acceptable to the world, but gosh, it is tiresome.

And I am so tired of feeling tired.

the Thief of Joy

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I don’t think I’m the only person who does this on a daily basis: compare myself to others. Or rather, allow myself to feel inferior compared to others. With how easy it is to take a peek into another person’s life nowadays via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other forms of social media, I’m pretty sure most of us suffer from this terrible affliction of looking at another person and coveting what they have.

I find myself gravitating to comparing ‘me’ to other people that are kinda similar to myself, be it former classmates, current coursemates or even people I have never met who have a few things in common. I see these other people who appear to be doing so much better and I simply crumble under the repeated blows to my self-esteem. “They’re studying the same thing I am, how can they have time to do ____? They’re able to balance studies, relationships, time with friends out of class yet I’m barely keeping up.”

Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this. I get so self-conscious when I see how put together other people are when I’m scrambling to make things work in my life. How does one stop this endless spiral?

I think one of the steps is putting things into perspective. All we get from what we see in pictures or hear are all snapshots in a person’s life. We may not see it but they’re probably having a crappy day, too. By seeing all their happy shots of good times, we don’t necessarily get an insight into their struggles. People do break down on the inside but they get pretty good at hiding it behind fake smiles. Heck, people might think you’re put together too, you just don’t know it. I love it when the bloggers I follow write about their insecurities because it helps me remember that they’re normal, they’re fallible.

If you’re following someone on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook that really gets you down because you compare yourself to this person so much, STOP scrolling. Detach yourself from that form of social media. Avoid being bombarded with images that only make you upset. Taking a break from being ‘so connected’ to the world may even help you feel better, allowing time for ‘offline’ activities that make you feel good ie: exercising, reading a book, taking a walk.

Recognise your own strengths. I admit that I too, look at other girls and wished I looked more like ___.ย ย I can’t quite remember where I read this but it’s recommended that instead of looking in the mirror and identifying your ‘problem areas’, we should learn to celebrate the parts of us that are unique or that we love. For example, you may have great hair or beautiful eyes or great arms. Focus on the beautiful instead of what you feel you’re lacking. This should also be applied to your mind, apart from your physicality. You may admire this person’s ability to stay up for hours to study but you forget that you’re better at prioritising tasks. Think of what you do best and celebrate that.

Lastly, instead of envying these people and comparing ourselves to them, we need to learn to celebrate their gifts, their talents. Heck, we can use it as motivation to better ourselves. Comparison is only bad when we use it as a form of destruction to our well-being. Admiring a certain characteristic in a person does not mean we should pick at our own faults. Everyone has strengths, everyone has weaknesses. By learning to accept that, we can learn to stop being the green-eyed monster.

Maybe a step we can take is to help boost the spirits of those around us. Take time and tell your best friends one thing that you like about them, something you admire in them. It may be hard for us to see the good in ourselves but it’s so much easier to remind others about the good in them.

Remember, you’re the only version of yourself there is. No one you compare yourself to has walked in the same shoes you have all their life. You’re unique, you’re special and you are talented. Learn to see that in yourself.