Make peace with yourself


Katie Whaley

Somehowin the midst of being a nearly perfect daughter, adequately excelling in school and maintaining a super sophisticated meme group chat with my friends, I forgot to love myself.
Or, rather, I realized I had yet to ever truly love myself in my 17 years of living.
I came upon this realization this summer, when I had an abundance of time alone in my car, driving to and from places and singing along to some overhyped boyband’s album, able to think about anything and everything in peace. It was on one of those drives —on a rainy day, nonetheless-— when I truly thought about my existence and who I really was. I reflected upon my character, motivations and flaws, unpacking and appraising each trait to better gauge who I am. In those minutes, as raindrops peppered my windshield and some cliche break-up song lulled through the speakers, I cried. I felt intensely unhappy and dissatisfied with who I was. Every subsequent summer drive since that rainy day, I was bombarded with similar thoughts of self-directed animosity — that I was never good enough.
The thoughts of self-hatred had always been somewhere in my subconscious, snuggling up with my low self-esteem and courting my self-consciousness. I knew in sixth grade I despised myself for being shy and introverted. Before then, in elementary school, I detested my body, opting to hide in large sweatshirts. Just last year, I abhorred how unremarkable I was in comparison to my peers and how unlikely it was that I would obtain any sort of future brimming with success.
My hate toward myself sprouted from many sources: bullying, idolizing those around me whom I perceived as better than myself and a deficit of reliable friends, as most of my best friends moved away before the era of middle school. It just wasn’t until this past summer when I realized how resentful I was toward myself.  
I know some of my friends have struggled with similar issues of self-hate; they have confided in me about their depressive thoughts and deep insecurities. I knew I wasn’t alone in this internal battle, however, I remained frightened because I did not know how to resolve this issue.
So how does one love oneself?
My first instinct to address this dilemma was futile. I believed if I changed the things about me I didn’t like, I would be able to unconditionally love myself. After all, if I were my ideal version of me, I couldn’t be someone I hated. When I mulled over this notion, I realized how much of myself needed to change. I didn’t like how introverted I was, or how easily I submitted to unhealthy temptations, or how dishonest I was to others and myself. There were too many things I felt guilty about and regretted.
I discovered it was arduous to suddenly and dramatically alter my personality and thought processes that I have always acted upon and been identified with for years. It was possible, but not probable nor healthy.
My internal strife persisted as school commenced this past month. The first thing I learned this school year was not a lesson plan or a vocabulary term, but that it’s extremely stressful to motivate oneself and to endure challenges with optimism and perseverance when one doesn’t know who one really is.
This wasn’t a matter of seeking advice, either; I’m a very independent and self-reliant person, and there wasn’t anything to ask of anyone. I identified the problem. All I needed was to resolve it. Yet, I found out in just the second week of school how significant another person’s perspective could be.
The story isn’t dramatic or heartwarming. My creative writing teacher was discussing personality traits and his struggles with self-love in his adolescence. I was in shock, listening carefully to how the confident man who stood before us once was just as afraid, self-conscious and depressed as I felt now. He said something very short and could have easily gone unnoticed by my classmates, yet to me, it was a powerful, compelling and exhilarating message.
He said, “Make peace with yourself.”
I remember overwhelming feelings of astoundment and awe and tranquility rush through my body after he said those words. The idea was so simple, but so profound I would never have thought of it. Something clicked inside then, as I wrote on a pink sticky note his four words. Loving myself was not changing myself to a conceptual model, but accepting me flaws and all. Now, it’s strange to think I had never considered this as an option. I was consumed in the mental state that I was the problem that needed fixing.
Since that day in creative writing, I’ve been practicing making peace with all parts of me I had just recently tried to forget or change. I’ve accepted I was once too shy to speak with anyone new and I’ve accepted the evil inside me that always succumbs to unhealthy temptations like procrastination and indulgence. There are some parts of me I have yet to face, but, one day, I hope I will be able to make peace with those parts, too.
A teacher, a person I had known for two days since starting my senior year, gave me some of the best life advice I have ever received, and he probably didn’t even know my name yet. Just that concept alone goes to show how I should have confided in someone in my internal battle and my emotional conflict. His four words have helped me perceive myself in the brightest light I’ve ever seen myself.
I hope my peers and friends can learn to make peace with themselves as well and take initiative in seeking advice when needed. So many people struggle with self-worth and self-love, and I hope this can be a message to them: Now is the time to make peace with yourself.