I love to sing. I love to dance. I love to make people smile. This much I know about myself.
I love all things Disney. I love dancing in the rain, climbing trees, and belting out show tunes in my house. This much I know about myself.
I am passionate, determined, kind, and loving. This much I know about myself.
I am a daughter of God. This much I know about myself.
Before I even knew which college I was going to, I was terrified. When all signs pointed to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, you might as well have told me I'd be going to Atlantis. I didn't want to leave California. I had an established and fulfilling life. I had true friends, a self-made business just started to bloom, and an established sense of self. I thought differently. Spoke differently. Dressed differently. I beat myself up everyday for months for feeling the way I did because I knew how difficult it was to get into BYU, what a good school it was, and how unusual and fortunate it was that three of my cousins were attending at the same time as me. Nonetheless, three weeks ago, I packed everything I knew into boxes and totes and moved to Utah.
I think one of the most fundamental truths I could possibly learn in my stay here on earth is this: you cannot lie to yourself. You simply can't. Because your relationship with yourself sets the stage for every relationship you'll have.
Imagine something for a moment. Imagine that you're wearing a coat of arms, decorated with all the accomplishments, words, deeds, comforts, and defining moments of your life. Now imagine them all being stripped from your body. They all fall away, clattering to the ground leaving you completely bare. Someone ushers you into the spotlight before you even realize you've bought a ticket for your own show. The lights are up. But you have no props, you have no reputation to proceed you or define you. You stand before that stage, full of fear and panic. You have nothing to offer but you.
I don't know when I started to define myself by the things I could do rather than who I am as a person, but I can imagine it's been going on for quite some time. You see, for a while now, I've been unintentionally holding on to the darkest part of my story because it plays a role. It makes me have a story to tell. It makes me credible. And it allows me to define myself by my past experiences. That in turn, can keep me stuck in a place between past knowledge and the drive for current progression.
But in this new and unfamiliar place, I'm not Michaela the singer. Here, I'm not Michaela the blogger. Here I feel almost as if I have lost my control. For the first time in about a decade, I'm not defining myself by what I have done. Everyone here has baggage. Everyone here has demons. Why be surprised when the darker parts of your subconscious follow you, even to college?
When you're spending so much of your time on your own, you begin to wonder who you are beyond all those things you thought made up who you are back at home. For the first time in my life, I'm asking myself, "Have I really learned how to love myself, or have a learned to love the idea of who I am?" The girl who conquered her fears. Who faced the brutal fire and came out stronger. Yes, those things are beautiful. They're true. But I'm cheating myself everyday if I'm not learning to appreciate the person who went through those difficult times.
By this I mean, do I love the fact that I'm creative, stubborn, and bubbly? Quirky? Honest? Have I really taken the time to first appreciate and eventually love my imperfections? A month ago I would have answered yes. Today my answer is no.
We are all on completely different parts of this journey. That does not mean that one person's struggle is less important, or that you can't get to where you want to be. It just means that you have to keep trying. Because at the end of the day, after all the rehearsals, meetings, phone calls, texts, and commitments, you are still you. If that doesn't sit right with you, you cannot lie to yourself. You already know it.
So here's a few tips, as much for you as it is for me, in learning how to truly love yourself, and accept the parts of you nobody claps for.
1. WRITE DOWN THREE THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF EVERYDAY FOR THREE WEEKS.
You'd be surprised how much this helps! Remind yourself of the things that you find lovable about who you are.
2. KEEP A JOURNAL
Whether digital or hand-written, journals allow you to see patterns and progress. They are a great source of perspective and a very healthy emotional outlet.
3. (most importantly) VALIDATE YOUR OWN EMOTIONS
It's much easier to tell your friend that their feelings are valid, but when it comes to ourselves we often shut it down and turn our frustration inward. This cycle can be broken by beginning to concentrate you energy on allowing yourself to process everything you're feeling. Some emotions demand to be felt. If you're sad, pretending you're not for extended periods of time is draining in every way.
4. SPEND TIME WITH YOURSELF
Try to find moments in a day where you can be by yourself. Listening to music, taking a walk, mediating, doing yoga, or doing something you truly enjoy for a little bit of self care prove to your body and mind that you care. You'll begin to feel more self-assured and value time with yourself as much as you value time with other people.
I'm on this journey with you. I desperately need to get back to my roots and show myself self-love and compassion. I sincerely hope that every person knows they're not alone, and that they can achieve astute of mind in which you are no longer your adversary, but your advocate. It is your character, your heart, that truly defines you. That's the part that people can't always see right away. So it's up to you to love it first. Love it despite those who cannot see its worth. Let's begin today, and see how much we blossom and grow. I believe in you.