23 was the year I met myself for the first time.
Before 23, I really thought I knew who I was. Now, however, I’ve come to realize that person was almost entirely made up of pressure and expectations–from myself, my family, and the culture I grew up in. I used to be so overcome with anxiety that I constantly had my guard up, hoping that nobody could see the real me–the real, imperfect me.
I was so scared of rejection and shame that I buried my true self so deep down, I lost her. I don’t think I ever even had the chance to know her.
Somehow, moving away helped me leave behind a lot of these pressures. Maybe it was the change of environment, the timing, or the very authentic, expressive nature of Israelis inspiring me. Whatever it was, I finally felt a release from the loop of anxiety, fear, and disconnectedness.
So, what do I mean when I say I met myself for the first time when I was 23?
I mean that, for the first time ever, I’m letting myself just be. I’m releasing the pressure to show up or act a certain way–no longer hiding my thoughts, my feelings, my self.
I sit by the sea every Saturday now. I sit there and I just watch the waves crash towards the shore. I use them as a guide, as I learn to let my thoughts come and go, too.
I let my intuition guide me. I listen to my needs. I validate my emotions.
In doing this, I meet myself. I sit with myself. I reflect with myself. I learn from myself. I heal myself.
These moments of stillness and acceptance show me who I truly am.
Fully accepting–and learning to love–myself when I’m alone trickled into my relationships, too. It’s allowed me to finally lower the mask I always hid behind and close the distance between myself and the people around me. I started showing up as the emotional, open-hearted, authentic, still-imperfect-me.
I showed up as me and instead of fearing rejection, I thought, What if people actually like the real me? How incredible would that feel?
And guess what?
And I do, too.
Thank you, 23, for bringing me back to me.
Written by Jessica Bard.