How my low self-esteem is ruining my life

I’ve been going through a really low point in my self-esteem over the past week.

About a week ago, I popped a pimple on my chin and kept picking at it until it turned into a dark scar (I’ve watched too many Dr. Pimple Popper videos and tried to be a hero with my comedone extractor tool). I also have a big cold sore on my lip, which turned into a gross scab.

Every time I have a patch of acne or cold sores, I get really self-conscious and think that’s all people can see when they’re talking to me. Even worse, I have to record videos of myself for work almost every day — which means potentially thousands of people will see me at my worst.

On top of that, I’ve steadily gained weight over the past year. As a result, I feel terrible about my body almost every day. I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia for at least six years, so I’m still learning to be happy with how I look at a healthy weight. But even though I know my body is supposed to be beautiful the way it is, I can’t help but hate what I see almost every time I look in the mirror.

More: Taking control over my eating disorder

More: How to deal with Instagram-related insecurities

I had an emotional breakdown at the gym today because of all this. I haven’t gone to the gym in like more than six months, since I mostly just work out at home now — but I’ve been exercising inconsistently because my family was visiting last month.

So when I was lifting weights today and looking in the mirror, all I could see were flaws. When I look at my arms, all I see is fat. My stomach: fat. My legs: jiggling fat when I move. My face: dirty pores, small pimples everywhere, acne scars. I even hate small things about myself, like how my feet have such low arches and I have weird bumps all over my arms.

Most of the time, it feels like there’s a mean voice in my head constantly berating me. I wrote about this in another blog post about dealing with an eating disorder, when I finally became aware that there was a voice, and was working on standing up to that voice in my own head.

It feels like I’m being bullied by someone constantly, who knows all the worst things to say about me to make me feel terrible. I end up hunching over, cowering from this bully, but I feel helpless because I don’t know how to make it stop. There’s nowhere to hide because it’s inside me. Is it me? I don’t know what made me become this mean. Today, I literally said “please stop” aloud to myself in the mirror, with tears rolling down my face.

Having this voice constantly criticize me feels like there’s a weight on me most of the time. My shoulders sink, my eyes look wistful, I don’t smile. This heavy feeling seeps into me, into all my other thoughts and the words I say to others. I tweet passive-aggressive things because I am not happy with who I am. When my boyfriend doesn’t compliment me, the voice takes that as an offense and it tells me he doesn’t love me. It tells me that everything it’s been saying to me is true: that if your boyfriend doesn’t constantly tell you you’re beautiful, then you must be ugly. Even though he doesn’t deserve it, I project this onto my boyfriend and read his actions as a confirmation of my biggest insecurities and worst fears.

More: What I learned from living with my boyfriend for six months

The voice doesn’t just make me feel terrible — it makes me miserable and mean myself, and I pass on that negativity to everyone around me. The voice makes it harder for me to eat or enjoy food, because it makes me feel guilty, fat, and weak for not being able to resist unhealthy treats that taste good. It makes me eat smaller portions because it tells me I’m fat.

I don’t know where the voice came from or why it thinks these things of me. There are so many women who aren’t stick-skinny, whom I find so incredibly beautiful. I would never even think of criticizing them or pointing out any flaws they might see in themselves — so why don’t I extend the same kindness to myself? Why am I okay with picking apart the tiniest details of Chloe and telling her she’s unworthy of love?

This voice makes me feel worthless.

I honestly don’t know what to do about it, because I can’t even remember what it was like to live without it. It doesn’t matter if anyone tells me they think I’m beautiful, because the voice will still be there no matter what. It’s louder than anyone else, louder than my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, and much louder than the kind voice in my head that chimes in when I have brief periods of feeling good about myself.

One of my new goals for the month is to start therapy. I used to see on-campus psychologists for free weekly sessions while I was going to college, but I only took advantage of this service for two different periods (maybe 6-8 weeks in my second and fourth years of college). I think after a quarter of school or so, you’ll have to be referred to an off-campus doctor and pay for services.

More: How Passion Planner helped me get my life together

More: My goals for 2018

Therapy was really useful to me when I first learned I had an eating disorder, and when I was dealing with some anxiety and emotional issues. Now that I’m working and busy with other things, it feels like therapy is just another chore I have to do eventually but never get around to it.

My goal for this week is to call therapist offices and schedule an appointment, and hopefully have my first session sometime this month. I definitely recommend therapy to anyone I can, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting help. Even if your friends or family want to help you, you might get to a point where there’s nothing they can do for you. Seeking professional help is completely normal, and is just as important as any physical health issue.

In the meantime, I want to work on quieting that voice and making room for another one. I know there’s a good voice inside, but she’s not as strong as the mean voice. Or maybe she is strong, but we’re just not close enough so that we don’t talk often. Hopefully I still sound sane to you, whoever is reading this. I know it’s not going to be an easy thing, but I desperately want to get to know her better, and have a friend on my side when the mean voice gangs up on me in my head.

I need to work on letting that voice be my life coach, my guiding guardian angel who will encourage me, or be compassionate towards me when I fall short of my own expectations. I need her to tell me it’s going to be okay, and that even if I feel terrible in the moment, things won’t feel this bad forever. I need her to be there for me, because I know deep down (even when I can’t drown out the noise) that the bad voice is wrong, and that I deserve better. And eventually I will be better.

I remember when I was 19, I started going through my big self love phase. I taught myself to love being on my own, I started my own projects (and later, this blog), and I got a tattoo to commemorate this part of my life. For years, I thought this period of growth was the big lesson I had to learn. I thought, okay I know what self love is, I’m set for life! Nothing can ever bring me down again!

Looking back now, I can’t believe I thought that was it for me. That I figured out the secret to self love, and I would always feel good about myself. After going through painful periods of growth several more times since then, I know now that the work is never done. Learning to love yourself is a lifelong journey, and there will always be ways you practice self-destructive behavior or moments of low self-esteem.

For now, this is my new phase of growth with a big new challenge: learning to change my negative self-talk to a positive voice of encouragement, and how to be okay with my body. Someday when I gain or lose weight, or when I have kids, or when I’m aging, I’ll have to deal with those obstacles too. I’m sure it’ll feel like the worst I’ve ever gone through while I’m going through it.

But I hope the one thing that stays constant is my willingness to try, to learn, to heal. The work will never be done, but I’m excited to see where it takes me (and write about it along the way!).

What I learned from living with my boyfriend for six months

Every night when I went to sleep over the past several years, I’ve pictured variations of the same fantasy in my head.

It’s embarrassingly domestic and boring of me, because I wish I had more interesting fantasies than this, and because it’s embarrassing to admit how cheesy and in love I am — but I’d imagine what my life would look like when I finally lived with my boyfriend.

Some nights, we were in our 30s living in a gorgeous apartment in Los Angeles. Others, we were in our bedroom reading Harry Potter to our kids (who don’t yet exist). In every fantasy, the most important part was that we were together and that we didn’t have to say good night over texts.

Before we moved in together last year, my partner Nate and I had spent the last three years doing long distance (from Santa Barbara to Orange County, to Southern to Northern California, to California to Guam). It was rough.

More: Why I moved to Guam to get out of my post-grad funk

More: The 10 Commandments of a healthy relationship

But the one thing that got me through was dreaming about the life we’d have together when we finally got through this temporary period — even though it felt like it would never end.

Right before we moved in together, Nate and I had gone an entire year without seeing each other, while I had moved to Guam to start a new job and he finished up law school in California, and then while we looked for a job for him and an apartment for us on Guam.

When we finally were ready to move in together, I was ecstatic but also really anxious.

Every time long distance got hard or I felt disconnected from him, I told myself that once we finally lived together, all our problems would melt away. But I didn’t know that for sure: we’d only dated living in the same area for four months before we had to do long distance, so who knew what our dynamic would be like once we actually lived together?

Of course, the first weeks together after being separated for 12 months felt like a dream. I took Nate around to my favorite restaurants, brought him to meet my friends and family — even just picking out a water filter together at Kmart felt romantic to me.

When I woke up every morning, I couldn’t believe we were really there: the person I loved most and had waited so long for was asleep next to me in bed, and we’d never have to be apart again. My dreams literally came true!

But just like with dreams, we had to wake up eventually and face the harsh truth of reality: living together isn’t easy. Pretty soon, I was stressing out having to drive both of us to work, home, or anywhere we went (Nate didn’t have his Guam driver’s license or car insurance here for weeks when he first moved here).

We had to plan our meals, buy groceries, cook, pay bills, get extra things we forgot to buy when we first moved in, and all the stressful things that come with moving. About a month into living together, we finally got to relax a bit after all our moving in errands and new job things (drug test, court clearance, etc.) were done.

There are so many smaller issues with living together that we’ve learned to deal with over the past six months, so I’ll break them down here:

Dividing chores

Living with your partner can be romantic, but you have to remember that you’re also roommates and need to be fair about the work you each put into taking care of your living space.

In college, I lived with my best friend Angelica for two years and it was easy for us: we split the room down the middle, and kept most of our chores separate. We took care of our own groceries and meals, did our own dishes, and washed our own laundry and sheets.

When I lived with my siblings, we usually all had to do chores at the same time or our parents told us what to do — so we didn’t have to worry about one person doing all the work by their own initiative (although I still think some of us were lazier than others or took easier tasks while we all cleaned the house).

But when you’re living with your romantic partner, all the boundaries are hazy and you share almost everything. You don’t have any parents or outside parties to divide the household responsibilities evenly, so it’s important to set your duties early on (or as you go along and figure out who’s better at what, or who enjoys what tasks more).

Since I was doing most of the driving and running errands for us in the first few months, Nate volunteered to do more of the cooking and washed the dishes for us most of the time. I get really grossed out touching raw meat, so he cut, marinated, and cooked chicken for us. I took care of grocery shopping, and made the rice and vegetable sides for meals.

After Nate got his driver’s license and we took turns driving each other, he started getting tired of still doing the dishes for us. We’re both kind of gross and lazy in our own ways, so I don’t mind leaving the dishes in the sink longer but he can’t stand it. So he’ll end up doing all the dishes and I don’t pitch in (I know, I’m a terrible roommate). One day he suggested I do the dishes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while he would do them Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends — so that’s how we do it now. Another great thing is that we’re both pretty reasonable people and try to make divide most of our labor and responsibilities fairly.

After a few months, I decided I wanted to get more into cooking healthy meals (and using less meat, since I eventually want to transition into vegetarianism). I ended up looking up recipes on my own, doing the grocery shopping (not to be mean but Nate doesn’t really know how to choose proper sized vegetables, and one time he bought like five Brussels sprouts for what was supposed to last us more than five meals each), and cooking new meals. To make up for me doing most of the dinner cooking, he does the dishes after I cook (or I do the dishes when he cooks now).

There are also lots of other chores necessary to keep your household running: laundry, keeping clothes hung/folded and organized, tidying the bathroom (cleaning the sink, toilet, shower, floor), sweeping and mopping, dusting, cleaning the kitchen, throwing out the trash and recycling, and so on.

Honestly, I do most of these other chores because Nate doesn’t really care if they’re done or not (the way I don’t care as much about dishes). I think it’s half because he’s kind of gross and half because his mom is an amazing superwoman and does all the housekeeping and cooking for their family (on top of working full time). I’m the oldest in a family of six kids, so I’m used to doing a lot of these chores. Both my mom and stepmom are clean freaks, so every now and then I go into cleaning frenzies for hours and scrub the whole apartment down.

Sometimes I get really annoyed and overwhelmed doing all these chores for us, since I know if I don’t do them we’re going to live in squalor.

Just a few weeks ago I spent half of my Saturday cleaning our apartment and got passive aggressive and mad at him for not helping me while he played online poker. It wasn’t really fair to him for me to get mad since I didn’t ask him to help, but he started cleaning the kitchen and threw out the trash once I snapped at him (which I regretted soon after).

But I know that even if I feel compelled to do lots of housework and get irritated with Nate for not taking initiative to split the work, I should remember to ask him for his help, because he will help if I ask. Communication is also a big part of splitting the work evenly, and we’ve learned that it can help a lot (and avoid some spats too).

Having your own space

Living together is kind of weird. Before we reached this stage in our relationship, I don’t think I’d ever farted around him. But when you spend almost all your time together, you can’t really hide anything — so now it’s just a joke between the two of us to see who can fart louder and surprise the other person. Now we’re at a point where we even brush our teeth in the bathroom while the other person is taking a poop.

While it’s nice being so close (both physically and emotionally), it’s also important to make space for alone time.

I definitely can be a needy person. When we go home after work, I ask Nate if he missed me, even though we spend the whole day texting and have lunch together. But even a needy person like me needs some time to herself.

It was hard for me to be okay with being apart for even a few hours when we first moved in (since we hadn’t seen each other for a whole year before that), but we pretty much hang out all the time so now I’m fine with us doing our own things. After work, we’ll eat dinner together and then he’ll go play basketball or watch anime in the room while I chill in the living room and watch my shows or write. Or on weekends, he’ll play poker in the living room and I’ll write across the table from him (or I’ll go in the room to focus, which I’m doing as I write this).

Every couple is different, so you’ll need to find a happy and fair balance between your time together and alone (even if alone time means doing your own things right next to each other).

Quality time

While it’s important to make time for yourselves, you should also make time dedicated solely to each other.

Nate and I spend more time with each other than I’ve ever spent with anyone else in my life (besides my immediate family). I mentioned our daily routines earlier, but we basically spend 16 hours a day together. That’s a lot of time to spend with one person.

Understandably, when you spend practically all your free time with one person, it’s easy to be distracted while they’re talking to you or browse on your phone while you’re together. You can’t be 100% present every moment you’re together, no matter how romantic you think that might be. It’s just impossible.

Even if we do spend most of our time together, sometimes I end up feeling like I miss him when we haven’t set time specifically just to be present together. Although you’re technically spending time together when you’re getting ready for work or in the same room on your own laptops, it’s still important to set aside time just for each other.

The quality time I enjoy the most is when we talk about the future or other deep/personal things before bed, or when we watch TV shows/movies and hold hands and make comments on what’s going on. Our favorite thing to do together is stay home (and save money), but when we do go out to eat, we don’t really check our phones. We try to go to the beach at least once a month (and have been going much more often since my family is visiting), and we’ll bring books to read.

I know this is completely nerdy, but one of my favorite things we do is talk about hypotheticals or analyze things together. We have this ongoing game where we listed a bunch of positive personality traits (charisma, intelligence, humor, etc.) then debate each other’s merits under that trait until we can give each other a rating from 1 to 10. When there’s a power outage (Guam things) or some down time, we take out a notebook and continue the game. The best part is that we’re fully immersed and making arguments, but having fun with it at the same time. And one of the best parts of living together is that we both can be our nerdy selves and have fun debating in a way we couldn’t with anyone else.

Grandpa

My grandpa is 92 years old, and he still has the sharpest memory of almost anyone I know.

He loves to tell stories, and one of his favorites is how he used to take care of my Auntie Nora when she was a baby. When he was only a pre-teen, he left his hometown of Gimba to live in Manila with his older brother Cirilo and wife Hosma. He took care of Nora at home while they worked: he changed her diapers, played with her, and carried her.

Some days he even took her to school with him. He tells me his teacher carried Baby Nora while he did his schoolwork sometimes. At such a young age, he was already selfless and taking care of others.

A few years later, when he was a teenager, he saw disaster strike his beloved homeland. He volunteered to fight in World War II, to defend the Philippines and his people. My grandfather was tortured by Japanese soldiers and today is almost deaf because he lost his hearing as a gunner in the Army. But still, he tells me he would enlist in the military and serve the Philippines and the U.S. all over again, if he could.

While he was already in his 70s, I remember my grandpa still took care of me. As a kid I loved mangoes. My grandpa would buy me mangoes all the time — those yellow-skinned Philippine mangoes with the juiciest, sweetest insides that would make my fingers all sticky as I ate them down to the seed. He bought me entire boxes full of them: like 20 mangoes just for one little girl. I remember watching him slice them for me and I’d eat them chilled — the most decadent, satisfying treat to enjoy while beads of sweat dripped from the nape of my neck, during an afternoon at his house in Liguan Terrace.

My uncle comes over to my grandpa’s house every day for lunch, and every day my grandpa makes him a sandwich. When I come visit for lunch, he offers to make me food too. Can you imagine? Almost a century old and he’s still cooking for us. Almost a century old and he is still one of the strongest people I know.

Tonight, he isn’t feeling his strongest. He has kidney disease, an aneurysm, internal bleeding, loss of appetite, and a slew of other problems yet to be diagnosed. Almost a century old and he was dragged to a CAT scan, x-ray, needles prodding through his tissue-thin skin, laid on a hospital bed on the side of a hallway with little dignity.

After being in the hospital and waiting for proper care for five hours, he opens his eyes from his restful state. He looks at me, with dew in the corners of his eyes.

“What time is it?” he asks.

“It’s seven o’clock, Grandpa.”

“Chloe,” he says.

I wait for him to finish his sentence, wondering if he wants a drink of water or one of the bananas we’ve snuck into the ER in my backpack. He hasn’t eaten in eight hours.

“Have you eaten yet?” he asks me.

How Passion Planner helped me get my shit together

I fucking love planners.

I know it’s nerdy, but there, I said it. Ever since elementary school, I’ve used planners to remember when homework is due, plan ahead for tests (or rather, cram for a few hours the night before), and work on projects (slap some construction paper on a poster board and bring it in the next day). I’m a hopeless procrastinator, but knowing how much time I have until I absolutely have to get things done still helps.

I used planners for school and events all the way until my senior year of college. That year, I decided not to think about what direction I was going to take next because my anxiety about it was crippling. I allowed myself a few months to travel with family, relax, start watching The Walking Dead, and not worry too much.

But by the end of 2015 (six months after I graduated) I still had no solid plans for my future. I knew generally I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to get a job. I also wanted to finally write my ebook about long distance relationships, but the idea of creating a whole work of my own was too overwhelming (and I’m still working on it to this day).

Enter: Passion Planner.

I heard about the Passion Planner from a college friend who shared a video about Angelia Trinidad, a Filipina millennial (like me and the friend who shared it) who started her own business making planners.

The concept seemed cool: you write out a wish list of things you want to accomplish in life, then you break those goals down into action items. After my cousin Sam got a Passion Planner for herself and showed me how much use she got out of it, I had to get one for myself!

Sorry the photos look so tiny with this blog layout, but just click on them to see the full details!

Truly, I don’t know if I would be where I am today if it weren’t for Passion Planner.

I’d like to think I’m motivated and would have found a way to achieve my goals, but having this method of tangibly creating steps to get to my vision was life-changing for me.

The Passion Planner has just enough structure to help me feel organized, but also leaves plenty of space for creativity. After almost a year of using PP, my mom and stepmom introduced me to bullet journaling (or bujo, as many planner nerds call it. I personally hate that nickname but it’s easier to write so I’ll use it, but I’m gonna cringe while typing).

With bullet journaling, basically you get to build your own planner out of a notebook. It can be as intricate and fancy as you want — many people online buy expensive, high-quality, pretty notebooks for their bujos (I’m trying not to throw up with this shortened name).

You set one page in the beginning as an index or table of contents, so you know where all the other lists and planner pages are. You can change formats of the planner, with monthly/weekly/daily pages, depending on how you want to organize your time and tasks. You can create lists on other pages with tasks to finish further in the future (bujo fans call it the “future log”). It’s really whatever you want to make it!

I got super excited about it, after obsessively looking at photos of other people’s bujos on Instagram and Pinterest — you’d be amazed how many people are even more obsessed with planners than I am! I ordered a beautiful sea blue Moleskine notebook and my moms got me washi tape (an essential for any planner nerd), sticker tabs, and a variety of Post-Its.

I started my bujo with the best intentions, but gave up after a few weeks — as most people do after jumping into a new hobby too quickly. It took too much effort to draw out my planner every week, and write out all the interesting things that happened to me every day. That sounds lazy, but it was much too meticulous of a system for me and required more work than it was worth.

Experimenting with a new kind of planner was fun, but within a couple weeks I went back to what really worked for me: the Passion Planner. I bought a new one for 2017 and used it almost the entire year (a bit less on weeks when I went on vacation).

Here’s how the Passion Planner system works:

In the first few pages, you’ll see detailed instructions on how to use your magical planner.

At the beginning is your Passion Roadmap, a step by step guide to map out your goals.

First, you set a timer for five minutes and imagine the paper is magical: whatever you write on it will come true within the set timeframe. You ask yourself: “If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?”

The roadmap is divided into three months, one year, three years, and lifetime. Under each section, you write whatever you want in your life to come true — no matter how unrealistic or seemingly out of reach. Some of my lifetime wishes include becoming a relationship guru blogger; becoming a published author; earning a PhD; visiting Egypt, Central America, South America, and Australia); getting married, having kids, and eventually having grandkids.

Next, you circle one goal from each section that would have the most positive impact on your life. You take one goal at a time, then write down every step you need to take to achieve that goal, then assign due dates for each task.

You take these tasks and put them in your monthly calendar/plan, then every week you follow through with your steps to get to your larger goal. On the daily sections, you schedule out all the activities and chunks of your day. It sounds a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly after a few weeks!

At the end of each month, you have a space to reflect on how you’ve grown since the last month, who you’re grateful for, what you’ve learned, what you can do to improve next month.

It’s crazy how simple this process is: you basically just write down a goal then figure out the steps to get there, then you DO IT. That’s it! How have we not already figured out to do this before??

Looking through my 2016 planner, I’ve made some of my Passion Roadmap dreams come true: have a job in writing/social media that’s fun, be financially independent, manage my anxiety better, do yoga regularly, and have good friends I see often. It’s kind of embarrassing how low my bar was set at the time, but I pretty much just wanted to get out of a stagnant phase and be happy.

From my January 2017 Passion Roadmap, I achieved some goals too: went on my first solo trip, built my savings account to a comfortable amount, traveled to more new places, finished one year at my news job (I’m at 15+ months!), have artistic outlets to express myself.

While I’m happy with where I am now, and proud of how far I’ve come, there are still a lot of ways I’d like to improve my life.

In my 2018 Passion Roadmap, my main goals by March 2018 are to publish five posts on my blog, eat healthy, work out regularly, and have my ebook ready to sell.

By 2020, I’d like to be an avid reader (like I was as a kid, but lost over the years), have developed skills (in writing, photography, maybe coding?), have less anxiety, work at a job with good pay that I’m passionate about. I’d also like to be married and be a vegan by that point, but we’ll see what happens. The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be using the methods I’ve learned from my Passion Planner!

If you plan on buying one too, please use my email address under the “refer three, get one free” program during checkout so I can get one free next time too (ya girl’s trying to save money): chloe.babauta@gmail.com.

Other fun ways I use my Passion Planner:

  • On the back inside cover of the planner, there’s a pouch where you can store whatever you want. Throughout the year, I left movie ticket stubs and other little mementos I wanted to hold onto. At the end of the year, I put the mementos into the blank pages in the back of the planner like a scrapbook, and taped movie ticket stubs/other memories in the weekly planner pages. When I want to look back on my year someday, I’ll have a scrapbook filled with my daily life memories!
  • Doodles
  • Map out my goals for the month

Other posts you might enjoy:

2018 Goals

Rituals of Self-Care in My Post-Grad Life

2018 goals

At the beginning of 2017, my goal was to say yes to new things.

I traveled to Bali alone (my first solo foreign trip), where I had a romantic honeymoon all to myself. I took a trip to Thailand with a group of my childhood friends, where we played with elephants, got matching tattoos, and threw up on the side of the road in Chiang Mai (wait, that last part was just me). I spontaneously tried surfing with two friends I don’t often hang out with. Instead of staying in every night (which I used to be known for in college), I went out with my friends every weekend. I created connections with so many amazing people, grew closer to my family and old friends, and spent lots of time with my group of talented reporter coworkers.

I also went through a lot of heartbreak, being away from my parents and siblings the entire year. I struggled with a complicated relationship with my partner while we were broken up, and then again while we figured out a way to finally live together. I spent many nights crying alone to myself, or sitting outside on my grandma’s patio looking up at the moon. I also had many moments of pure happiness, where I’d cry too because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have this life (I know I cry a lot, okay).

2017 brought a lot of turbulence, but it was a welcome change from how stagnant I felt in 2016. I spent so much time saying yes to new adventures though, so by November 2017 I was drained. I put too much effort into always being part of everything, too much time going to events just to please other people — and not enough time caring for myself. I gained a considerable amount of weight from going out drinking (then the late night meals after drinking) and always eating unhealthy at restaurants with family and friends. I didn’t make time to Passion Plan, blog, or work on my ebook project. I literally only read one book in its entirety this year.

In December, I decided I needed to spend more time working on myself. I started reading for fun again, I took up sketching again too, and began watercolor painting (after receiving a very thoughtful gift of watercolor paints from my aunt). I went back to yoga classes, tried to get back into weight lifting and home workouts, and went jogging in my neighborhood. I revamped my blog design to make it a pretty space for my writing. I worked on my ebook again for months until I finished a full second draft.

There are so many things I want to do to grow. I feel this sense of urgency flowing through me all day, like I want to be doing the most with the time I have because I know I have so much potential for growth. I’m learning I need to be more careful with my time, and sometimes that means saying no to social events or extended family obligations because I have my own work to do.

It’s overwhelming thinking about all the ways I want to better myself in the future. I bought a film camera so I could play with photography and explore a new medium. I want to learn how to blend watercolor hues and paint beautifully. I want to be an avid reader like my parents. I want to someday be at peace with myself and not suffer from anxiety.

But most of all, I want to develop a healthy relationship with my body and with food. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for years, and it’s gotten worse this year since I started gaining some weight. Eating is a constant battle for me — whether I’m trying to feed myself to my fill, binge snacking uncontrollably, or pretending I’m not hungry just so I can shed fat.

I’m at a point now where I don’t completely hate my body (or at least I know I shouldn’t). It comes in waves. I know I don’t really need to lose weight or mass, but I want to be able to nourish myself and not have these strong feelings of shame or pleasure associated with food. I want to get to a point where I see food as a way to care for myself, rather than punishing or rewarding myself for how or when I consume it.

All these ways I want to change aren’t going to happen in a day. I doubt I’ll even achieve them in 2018, or 2020. But the best thing I can do for myself is start small.

My only goals in 2018:

  • Care for my body (nourish it with nutritious food, do regular exercise that feels good, strengthen my connection to it with yoga)
  • Create art
  • Be more grateful
  • Heal

This blog post sounds really serious (and I’m not usually so serious in real life or online), but I’m also trying to become more confident — plus I just finished reading Hunger by Roxane Gay and I’ve probably absorbed her blunt, honest writing style for now.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, I hope you have a wonderful start to your new year! Let’s grow together!