I’ll elaborate my experience of a retreat I attended last month in a later post because there is so much that I can talk about that I find so important. For now, I can say that the principal takeaway from this retreat is absolute self-acceptance. To be honest, it’s quite a strange feeling. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really felt it before, which makes sense, because I know I’m flawed and there’s always room for self-improvement. But at the same time, I suppressed so much about me that I almost lost myself, and it wasn’t until recently when I discovered that I was so much more than I thought I was.
In sixth grade, I was considered the “artist” of the grade. I drew beautiful portraits of people, animals, buildings, nature, yadda yadda yadda. If you could name it, I could draw it. My teachers were so impressed with my work that they would display it in front of the class. My classmates asked me to draw portraits of them, which I gladly did out of good favor. During this time, I also got into Japanese manga because I really admired the style of artwork in the comic books. Because I held this “artist” identity, I consumed myself with this manga culture. This is not entirely a bad thing, but the problem was that manga and anime were all I could talk about. Whenever another subject came up, I was totally clueless and didn’t say anything. Hence, I couldn’t communicate with anyone. All I could do was bury my face in a sketchbook and just draw. I liked it, I was good at it, but that was all I knew. This continued on through seventh grade and eighth grade, which consisted of four years of people starting to make fun of me because not only did I gain weight from eating poorly and giving up sports, but also because they didn’t understand the beauty I saw in my manga obsession. Oh yeah, and I was also into Korean pop, which didn’t help at ALL–in fact, it worsened everything.
By the beginning of ninth grade, I added much more dimension to my character. I found new interests, such as working out, cooking, taking photos, editing videos, piano, film-making and shopping, but I still kept the artistic aspect of myself, only in a more sedated form. My new school was (and still is) much larger than my middle school, so I wasn’t the artist of the grade anymore, which was perfectly fine. I don’t really care about pursuing an artistic field to begin with. Anyways, I began to grow out of manga and anime. As I explored new areas, I found that I didn’t need to spend so much time and energy into manga and anime to feel happy. Same with K-Pop, which I only listened to once in a blue moon for the sake of my curiosity. Overall, I was just so grateful to have found people who found value in me and saw me as a good friend. I received treatment that nobody else gave me before. Back in middle school, I felt so lost that I’d come home, look at my family and see them as complete strangers. With being open-minded to different things, I found that I had so much to contribute.
By the time I started twelfth grade, I pretty much had my whole future planned out. I wanted to pursue an agricultural science major and become either an agricultural researcher or food scientist. Because I was turning eighteen, I planned out what tattoo I wanted and became more politically informed about the candidates running for the 2016 election as well as everything about how the government worked (including some conspiracy theories). I actively pursued my blog and YouTube channel because I found so much pleasure in expressing myself (and I still do!). I knew or have heard of practically every aspect of health, fitness and weight loss there was to know. Most people knew me as the “health nut” or the “super healthy girl”. I’d carry my sweet potatoes in the hallways, sneak Greek yogurt in class and chug water from 40-oz BPA-free bottle with pride. I was glad to have been so much more diverse than the 13 year-old me.
While I did receive some compliments on my healthiness once in a while, my culture and my peers seemed to be into different things. This includes but isn’t limited to one-upping each other, partying, doing drugs, drinking, hooking up, going to sports games, pursuing the Ivy League schools, everything that I was either indifferent to or disliked (note that I’m not disrespecting ANYONE. I do not blame anybody for these things. These are things I have only observed, and I can’t change them and I respect that because this is what they love to do and that’s okay.). My sister told me that I should “branch out” and try to go to parties, even wanting to take me to one herself. It was true, though. I never attended a school sports game because they ran too late in the evening. I never went to parties because they had junk food and booze. Let alone, I never reached out to anyone outside of my social circle just to hang out with them.
I decided that I needed to keep my “healthy talk” to a minimum and only speak of it if someone else brought it up. I tried to be open-minded to these new endeavors. I really did. I attended the last Homecoming football game and had a terrible time. I tried to go far and beyond in my work, seeing my students as my rivals, and made no friends. Still thinking that being passionate about health and fitness was not socially acceptable, I thought this would last forever and I felt just as lost in myself as I did in middle school. The world doesn’t understand me. Therefore, I am unimportant and everything I have done in the past four years have been meaningless.
During my retreat last January, however, I saw a major shift in what I thought was the reality of others’ perceptions of me. Some classmates who I didn’t affiliate myself with and found absolutely nothing in common with gave my insecurities a run for their money. I learned so much more about myself in two hours than what at least two years of independent reflection would have done. If I was alone, I would have no clue where to search. All I needed to do was stop assuming and just listen.
Lately I’ve been loving partaking in more school-related activities where I get to interact with classmates I generally don’t have a deep conversation with, but in all, I’ve given up on attempting to please those I felt as if I need acceptance from, including some very close people in my life. That has made all the difference in my personal well-being, and also in theirs. I have so much more time and energy for my passions now. I just thought to myself in response to those who didn’t get me: This is the real me. If you can’t accept that, then fuck off.
People don’t accept you because you don’t. They feel sorry for you if you don’t. They accept you because you accept yourself. Ultimately, you are the only person you have to please in this world. You rule your mind or it will rule you.