Note: Please excuse the cliche title of this post and give it a chance before you roll your eyes and scroll on.
Recently I went through a bunch of my old stuff in the garage at my mom’s house, and I found a huge box with all my old diaries (at least 20 journals). Since my grandma gave me my first journal at age 5, I’ve documented my thoughts and feelings through writing up to now. I took my time reading through a few of my main diaries, laughing at the entry in which my 7 year old self wrote her first curse word (it was “bitch”), pausing at the poems I wrote about how miserable I was when my parents were getting divorced, and wincing at how worked up I got over my former romantic interests.
After reading through my diaries from ages 6-15, I noticed a pattern. I had formed chapters of my life based on the boys I had crushes on (I’d even sectioned the chapters off with post-its: “Niko love” and “Harry Potter” were two of the earlier ones). When I really thought about it, I realized that I often think about my life chronologically based on who I “liked” at the time.
I also was a bit disturbed with how obsessed my younger self was with boys. Of course it’s normal for little girls to have crushes, but I got worried after reading months and months of entries about one guy I liked in middle school. The only account I have of my life as a tween is her ramblings about wanting desperately for a boy to like her back, planning on how to get him to ask her to a dance, dissecting every word he said to her to find his true feelings for her, etc. I read her angry words about a girl she “hated” because this guy liked the other girl instead, and now I realize that my past self was deeply hurt.
It’s almost scary to me to see how much I let my life be dictated by feelings of attraction (or even obsession) over boys, who (no offense intended) weren’t actually all that great anyway. From a young age, I began to base my sense of self-worth on whether or not my crush liked me back. (By the way, that first curse word was used when I was calling my 2nd grade crush’s crush a “bitch”) Reading all the diaries just made me realize that I continued that pattern for years — and I still catch myself doing that now.
I wish I could go back and teach little Chloe, and especially teenage Chloe, to learn to love herself. Not to sound egotistical, but I think I was a pretty cool kid and I had a lot going for myself self-esteem-wise, until the awkwardness and insecurities of puberty kicked in. I saw all my classmates in middle school get “boyfriends” and I felt that if I didn’t have one too, there probably wasn’t anything good about me. So I became obsessed with getting a boyfriend, and this continued on probably until this year.
I feel like kicking my past self because I really did have a great life growing up, with so much to be grateful for, instead of pining over people who had no idea I was interested in them. I think the hardest part of all for me is trying to turn these realizations into something positive. Yeah, I spent a lot of my life feeling bad about myself because I couldn’t get guys to notice me, but there’s no use crying about it now. The best thing I can do for myself is to try to remember that I have a lot to be grateful for, I still do have an amazing life, and there is so much more to me than being somebody’s girlfriend (which sounds so obvious, but I wouldn’t have believed it deep down even just last year). The worst thing that could happen is that in another decade or so, I look back on my journals from my 20s and realize that I continued that pattern of low self-esteem and wasted my time thinking about how others perceived me when I know now that I was better than that. My journal from here on out will reflect my thoughts and feelings on subjects deeper and more personal than “why won’t he text me back” or “I hate him for breaking up with me.”
So after this long-winded self-reflective post, I urge anyone reading this to know that you are wonderful. You don’t need anyone’s approval to be your beautiful self. Although it took me 20 years to figure that out for myself, I hope you already know that, or at least know it now.