Three days ago, as I sat on the long boat cruising through Khao Sok National Park, it occurred to me that I was living. It took me 23 years and 9 months to stop purely existing, and to start truly living. A smile crept across my face as the refreshing breeze cooled my sweaty body from southern Thailand’s humidity. I thought about how I enjoyed fluffy pancakes for breakfast, greasy fried rice for lunch and rich dishes that I couldn’t even guess the ingredients they were made up of for dinner; Something I could not have done in the past without caring to think about the caloric content or the nutritional value.
I thought about the 11+ years I spent in self-hate. I thought about my middle school and high school years spent starving myself for an unattainable standard of perfection, and I thought about my college years spent at the gym in search of that same convoluted ideal. I thought about how I used to paint my face with make-up every morning and coat my body in self-tanner each night, in hopes that I would be beautiful. And I thought about how silly and minuscule that all seemed now compared to the massive rock formations we cruised around and the fresh lake water that splashed upon on us.
I thought about how I laughed uncontrollably with friends the night before in cabins set on the lake in the middle of WiFi and data-less nowhere; friends who I had only met barely 24 hours prior. And I didn’t need alcohol or a tight dress or attention from guys to make me feel special. I thought about how we are put on this planet to live, not to exist. We are meant to laugh so hard that it hurts, to feel with our entire souls- the good and the bad, and to experience the raw beauty of the world and the raw beauty of ourselves.
The raw beauty of our unapologetic selves, to be exact. It’s the part of us that sometimes snorts when we laugh or talks while we chew. It’s the part of us that sometimes overreacts at something so insignificant, that overthinks and gets a bit too sensitive at times. It’s the part of us that’s just plain weird and laughs at our own jokes. It’s ourselves in our entirety.
This evening, as I sat on the plane from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur, the pilot turned the lights off for landing and it was then that I felt hot tears stream down my face. They were tears of joy. And I realized that for the first time my happiness wasn’t dependent on a number on the scale or a label on a pair of jeans. My worth was no longer dependent on how many guys from the bar bought me a drink or wanted my number, or how many likes I got on a photo on social media. I was no longer staring in the mirror and critiquing every inch of my body and I no longer needed make-up or fake tanner to feel beautiful. I realized that for the first time, I genuinely and unapologetically loved myself in my entirety.
And I share this with you, with everyone who is fighting each day to find happiness and self-love, because I don’t want you to give up. I want you to know that I never knew that happiness like this existed. And I think it wasn’t until I stopped searching, I stopped solely existing in my life guided by rules and regulations, and I starting truly living, that I found this happiness and this self-love. And I know it won’t be every day that I feel this content with myself, but that’s the beauty of loving oneself unapologetically.
We have to love ourselves on our good days and on our bad days, probably even more so on our bad ones. The bad days are inevitable and also essential because to live is to feel both happiness and pain. The bad days, the days when all you want to do is crawl up in a ball and disappear into nothingness, well those are the ones that build the better days; that build the best days of our lives. To live is to feel and I fully believe that we cannot live until we love ourselves, our unapologetic selves.