Originally published here
I remember sitting in my therapists office almost a year ago answering questions about my core beliefs. Most of these beliefs were negative, hurtful and unnecessary and I had never really thought about them before. Now it’s rare that I go a day without thinking about how I see the world and myself.
I was a miserable person, almost always. Rarely have I found myself in a position to be honest and open with how I really felt or thought. I’ve never had the confidence to even admit I liked some of the things I liked. A lot of that came from having fucked up, broken parents. You know, the kind of people who convince their kids they hate Elmo so they don’t have to buy or deal with that “stupid shit”? It was/is absurd. They are both still like that, as far as I know. If a large number of people like something, it must be terrible….but my mother is a huge fan of The Walking Dead and my father supports the NRA so… They can’t even stick to their own convictions they carelessly drilled into my soft, malleable little kid brain.
I will be 36 this Halloween and I am trying to sort through this shit in my head and decide which are actually my thoughts, like, I really believe them at my core, and what is just dangerous, toxic litter left behind by careless fucks with no regard for the consequences. It has taken me a year of serious reflection, hard work, soul searching and a lot of painful realizations to even scratch the surface. I am, at least, starting to scratch the surface. At first I felt bad about that, like I was so far behind the curve and must be an inferior human. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case.
No matter the age, people are rabidly searching for an easy button. A quick fix. A “lose weight in your sleep” brand of bullshit. I have always been that person. My parents are those people. That’s how I ended up an addict in the past. I just wanted to feel better immediately, in any way I could. I had no support or adults around who were even capable of taking care of themselves, certainly not ones equipped to dole out healthy life advice.
Nope, I am figuring it out as I go just like a lot of people. The people who want to feel better. The ones who don’t get pretty defensive about it, making excuses and shitting on anyone who is trying to be a happier person. In my experience, it is because they are scared, intimidated and envious of anyone who can and is willing to do the hard work and self-exploration, even if they don’t realize it.
I don’t do that anymore. I am taking personal responsibility for maybe the first time in my life. I still get pretty frustrated at my inability to be “better” as soon as I learn what I need to change, but it is getting easier to remember that none of this shit happens quickly. There are no maps, or cheat codes. It is just work. Not even sexy work a lot of the time. (Though, open communication is sexy as fuck.)
I want to shed this completely unnecessary negativity that I feel I’ve been drowning in my entire life. To do that I have to challenge my immediate thoughts.
For example, if I find myself instantly dismissing something as “stupid” I check myself now.
Why is it stupid?
Just because you don’t like it?
Who the fuck made you decider of all things awesome?
I am getting better at replacing that habit with something more positive. Instead of dismissing the Thing as stupid and stereotyping the fans of such Thing, I am able to accept that the Thing just isn’t my cup of tea. The older I get the more I realize that is what is so fucking cool about us, as people. If we all liked the same shit, we would never learn anything new and that sounds boring as fuck.
That’s a core belief I have been working on and improving. I can tell it has improved, for real, because I feel not just less negative, but more positive. It is a pretty dramatic personality shift for me, honestly. Between what I had picked up from my childhood and my terrible self-esteem, I had a nasty habit of hating things because it was easier, in my head. It didn’t give anyone any ammunition to use against me. If I hated everything, I would never have to try, which meant I could never fail. I also couldn’t grow because I was never honest with myself. Fuck what anyone else thinks. You have to be honest with you. I am getting better and better at it. Sometimes it really fucking sucks, though. Some truths are easier to accept than others. At least in my case. Your mileage may differ.
Change is ridiculously hard sometimes, but it is starting to feel more like stretching, a good, necessary uncomfortable feeling, and less agonizing. That is enough to give me hope that it will continue to get easier as long I am putting in the work.
Nikki is a photographer, writer, and general creator of things. She writes about mental health, sex, and relationships.