When I was young- probably 9 or so- my cousin called me selfish. Yet to explore any sort of self discovery or identity, I was shocked.
This stuck with me for years, and later I began to show many behaviors that were selfish. I continually told myself I was misunderstood, different, and unloved. I began to doubt myself and who I was as a person.
Where did I fit in this world?
I faked sick on family holidays and refused to believe I belonged. I detached from the people who loved me the most, unaware how important family and my roots were. I was antisocial, confused, and misunderstood. How could anyone understand me if I couldn’t even understand myself?
On a 9th grade trip to the Birch Run outlets with my mom, I remember picking out a sleek dark purple jacket at Ralph Lauren. I felt like a star.
Upon returning to Traverse City, I pranced around downtown, running errands with my mom wearing my black Express pants, envisioning myself in a place like Chicago or even New York City. I dreamed of being somewhere different- somewhere no one knew my name.
Somewhere along the way I started to identify as the “black sheep.”
I didn’t know who I was at age 15, but I was certain I didn’t belong in Michigan.
As I went on to college, making new friends and seeking the approval of fraternity boys (some of which I’m still friends with today), I was lost in a sea of vodka and $1 beer. I did whatever I could to find love, but most of all, acceptance.
My drinking began to get out of control, and so did my self respect. After college, I moved in with an older boyfriend who I later got engaged to. I thought this relationship would save me from the all-nighters and my bad behavior- which it did, for about a year. Then, I gave back my Princess cut diamond and took off to San Francisco.
I did the cities- 7 in all. I worked in fashion. I considered law school. I did the startup thing. I had no idea what I wanted, so I kept running from myself- only to find myself right back where I came from 12 years later.
As an adult, I’m aware I’m still a little selfish- and now, it’s okay. This kind of selfishness is self-care, which at the core isn’t selfish at all.
The difference today is that I know how to set boundaries, but also to welcome the love that surrounds me. My identity was never lost- I needed to mistakes, try things out, and move around to truly learn who I am as a person- and that being myself was all I ever needed all along.