Learning to Love Myself (All of Myself)

I’ve always been told that everyone has their own insecurities and that everyone thinks of themselves as imperfect in some sort of way.  But growing up, I felt for the longest time that everyone was so much more beautiful than me and I longed to have someone else’s body, any body but mine.

I was diagnosed with eczema at birth, atopic dermatitis in scientific terms, but to me, it meant itchy nights with no sleep, waking up bleeding with raw skin and oozing rashes covering my entire body. It meant that as a baby, my parents sometimes had to cover my hands when I slept so that I wouldn’t scratch. It meant that it hurt to shower and even sometimes just to move. It meant that when I finally started going to school, I tried to cover up as much of my skin as possible so that nobody else would see how ugly I was. It hurt that I had cuts in my skin that were constantly infected, but what hurt even more were the stares that I got whenever someone saw my rashes and asked questions like why I was risking infecting others with poison ivy by not covering up my skin (that’s not even how poison ivy works).

Through the years, I discovered that my true friends didn’t care what I looked like because they liked me for being me. But I still longed to be beautiful, to have perfect skin, to be able to show off my body at the beach. When the eczema finally spread to my face, as it often does, I had had it. I holed myself up in my room refusing to go out unless absolutely necessary and my anxiety reached an entirely new level (which obviously did not help my skin). Eventually, I got better with the help of a very controversial medication and believe it or not, some blessed water from a monk, along with some prayer and meditation.

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My lovely face eczema in recovery.

 

This was only last year, and to this day, I still check the mirror when I wake up just to make sure my rash hasn’t returned. It seems no matter how hard I try, I still have trouble overcoming the materiality of my physical appearance (no matter how shallow that sounds). I have made a few revelations following my experience at IMS. My winter break was filled with an extremely ugly period for my skin where I would wake up every two hours at night with bloody sheets and cuts in my skin. I’ll be honest, I stayed in the house mostly out of comfort because it hurt for me to move. But I had time to think that I could be so much worse off. While we were at IMS, the teachers commented that we were lucky just to be able to be there because so many people have not had the opportunity. And as I lay in bed moaning in misery, I remembered that I had a home, I had parents and friends who loved me, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a college like Williams, and I was young with a life of so many possibilities. Its true that often times I still end up feeling sorry for myself and conveying this misery on other people, but I have realized how important it is to gain some perspective, to look at the positivities in my life, since after all, brooding in misery was doing absolutely nothing for me. I can’t say that I no longer care how I look or what other people think of me. But I am starting to learn that the first step is finding the beauty in myself and learning to love who I am.

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I don’t even know where to begin…

So this is one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do, that I promised myself I would do when I had the time. Somehow, I simply never had the time. So I’ve decided to just do it. To start a blog. Not that this is bad timing anyway, seeing as I’ve just gotten back on campus for winter study and I now have a month of winter study to keep me as unoccupied as possible. No excuses this time Maggie. I’ll be honest, the reason it took me so long to get started was because one of those things that I struggle with along with many other people is a need for perfection. A need to have the perfect blog, with perfect posts, and loads of likes (or however things work on here). I even panicked over which website to use to write this. But here I am, streamlining my thoughts, and I’ll admit its pretty fun. And I’m starting not to care about the other things so much.

Which brings me to the other reason I finally got the courage to start writing. I recently went on a five-day retreat at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA where we essentially put our life on hold (technology, reading, writing, talking) and attempted to discover a little bit of ourselves by following a simple 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM schedule alternating 45 minute intervals of sitting meditations, walking meditations, and small meals. I’ll be honest, by day 3 I was going a little crazy. I knew that with each meditation I was improving my concentration and starting to realize a little bit more about myself, but I wanted to be perfect and I wanted it to happen right away. The instructors tried to emphasize that we be kind to ourselves, but it was something that I had some serious trouble doing. On day 3, we had a group interview with one of our teachers, Pat Coffey (one of the only times we were allowed to break the silence) and one of the yogis in our group brought up that as he was meditation last night, he realized that every meditation didn’t have to bring enlightenment as long it brings even the slightest improvement to oneself, which it no doubt did. This is one among the many points I’ve learned at IMS, to be give yourself  a little bit of lovingkindness (metta) and to take moments throughout the day to be just a little more self-aware.

Through my writings, I hope to document any discoveries I find or that I am exploring. I’m not expecting to achieve enlightenment in any way, but I’m hoping to find a way to live my life as best I can.

If you actually got through this long-winded ramble, thank you for lending an ear.

If anyone has any interest in going on a retreat (i recommend not starting with five days as you might get a little crazy as I did), IMS is probably the most respected retreat center in the US and people literally fly in from all corners of the country to attend so the spots go pretty quickly. The cost is also pretty steep, but for people aged 18-26, there is an option to choose your own cost for certain marked retreats. The young adult retreat in the summer comes highly recommended to me. Here is the 2014 schedule: http://www.dharma.org/meditation-retreats/retreat-center/retreat-center-schedule Please contact me if you have any questions.

Metta.