A guy once told me I was like a mermaid. Now, this sounds like one of the coolest compliments ever, doesn’t it? However, just as I was about to feel flattered and thank him, he explained: “You lure people towards you, only to drown them, and then blame them for getting too close.”
I was speechless. He was absolutely right.
The worst part is, this wasn’t the first time I was told something similar; but I was so used to being described as “made of stone,” “cruel,” “cold as ice,” or anything along those lines, I didn’t care much, at least not until then.
What pained me the most, though, was the realization of how unhappy I was with myself.
People who hurt others are actually hurting themselves, and I knew this very well. I just refused to admit this was the kind of person I had become.
Looking back, I recognise I had always been aware, in a way, of my behaviour. For quite a while, I focused exclusively on my appearance; I placed my worth on how pretty I looked and on other people’s validation, for I genuinely believed I had nothing to offer but an attractive exterior.
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I was obsessed with the idea that my inside was undeniably horrible; a monster who deserved to feel pain. So I desperately tried to make up for it by pretending to be flawless, while I secretly sabotaged myself in any way I could think of.
Being at war with oneself is exhausting; the agony, indescribable.
It was something that completely drained me of who I was. I no longer smiled (those authentic smiles used to light up my whole face), or laughed with every muscle in my body. I had a pulse, and I still was breathing; yet I was downright lifeless.
I remember I only allowed myself to feel pain when I was in the shower, because it was the only way I could pretend my tears weren’t actually there. I could still deny my vulnerability, and therefore, my humanity.
It was one of these moments when I decided I couldn’t do it anymore.
I only had two options: either to end my life, or make a change. Whenever I open up about my past struggles, I constantly have to face the question, “did you ever try to commit suicide?”
The answer is no, I did not. At least not actively, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it all the time. Crossing the street I pleaded, “please, please someone run me over.” When partying with my friends, I wished there was some drug in my drink that would kill me. Sometimes, out of nowhere, I begged for a heart attack.
Truth is, I did have an escape plan, just in case I needed it someday.
Nevertheless, right when I had to make the choice between life and death, it dawned on me.
There was a reason I had never taken the initiative to kill myself: there was still a part of me that was hopeful, thirsty for life; a part of me who couldn’t stand the idea of hurting those who loved her; and who was so proud and stubborn, she refused to be defeated.
So I decided to hold on to this, tooth and nail and with every ounce of strength I had in me.
I forced myself to do an exercise.
Every night, I would stand in front of the mirror and say the words “you are loved, you are beautiful, you are worthy.”
To be honest, I felt pathetic and ridiculous at first. I repeated the words without really meaning them, but I stuck with it.
We probably all know the saying “fake it ‘til you make it,” and while it might be a cliché, it turns out it is not only real, but also incredibly useful.
I faked the whole thing at the beginning; I pretended to celebrate my virtues and love my flaws, I acted like the most confident person on earth.
I even added a positive — and slightly sarcastic — perspective to every single situation. The thing is, though, as time went by, it all became easier; until it came naturally, until I realised I wasn’t faking anything anymore. I didn’t need to.
It takes a lot of effort, patience, frustration, smiles, tears and screams (sometimes all of these in the same day).
But, I’m finally starting to believe I really am loved, I really am beautiful, and I really am worthy.
I even made a list. I’m happy to say I was surprised by how long it was. I’m not going to share all of it (perhaps someday I will) because it’s practically endless, but here is a small part of it.
Reasons to live:
– The ocean.
– Because maybe one day I can help someone out there who’s struggling.
– That feeling when my fingers touch a piano.
– Because I deserve to see my own beauty.
– There are so many places I have to see.
– Skinny-dipping in the ocean at midnight.
– Because I love to dance. Anywhere. Don’t care who’s watching.
– Ice cream.
– I need to be alive if I want to keep singing in the shower.
– Sunrise at the beach.
– Laughing until my belly aches. Or until I pee my pants.
In all honesty, at times it felt like I had nothing else left to fight with.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Courage is not about winning every battle and coming out of it unscathed. Courage is getting back on your feet even when it would be easier to stay on the ground, crawling when you cannot walk anymore.
Life is for the brave, and I’m lucky to be a part of it. Now, I understand the moment I thought of as my destruction turned out to be my birth.
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