A Few Realisations
When I was a brooding 16-year old, I figured I'd forever be paralysed by my fear of interacting with people. I never thought that at this point in my life I'd have it all together. These last 6 months especially I feel like I went from being a deadbeat who is behind in life to being pretty successful for someone my age.
After high school, I decided to take a gap year. Didn't know what I wanted to do, didn't have any motivation to really try to work towards a future. That gap year ended up being 3 years of working a deadbeat job (hospitality), and it really pushed me to seriously think about what I wanted out of life. I was sick of dealing with crap pay and crap working conditions, alongside crappy people. In some ways it did help me learn to stick up for myself and deal with difficult social situations, but not enough to completely eradicate my SA.
I decided to try out going to school (to an institute like the equivalent of a community college in my country), and after a year and a half I got a diploma in my desired career path. And the good thing it was also government-subsidised, so I don't even have any student debt. Woohoo!
There were some issues with getting my diploma certificate however... some of it kinda my fault, some of it kinda the school's. So that got delayed, and since I was still embracing the "deadbeat" label, I felt like I had let myself down once again. I wasn't in school anymore, and I didn't technically have a diploma yet, and I was basically back to just working hospitality 6 days a week. I felt like I had accomplished nothing and essentially put myself back at square one.
I took it really hard. And you know how people talk about waiting for the "spark" to kick themselves into gear? You shouldn't wait for that moment to come, because not everyone gets it. But for me, it happened. I felt so awful about myself, and yet so sick of hearing myself complain YET AGAIN about something TOTALLY WITHIN MY CONTROL letting me down.
I thought about venting via writing a journal entry... but I realised what I was going to write would be no different from every other journal entry that came before it. It's the same old ****. And you know when even YOU get sick of hearing you feeling sorry for yourself, it's time to make a change. That was my "spark" moment.
First, I focused on losing weight. I've lost 10 kilos (or 22 pounds) since July, which I'm really happy about! It's probably not much to most people, but as a shorty, it's made a noticeable difference. I still have a few more kilos to lose before I reach my goal weight, but I'm a lot more confident in my own skin, and trying on clothes feels so much better.
During the midst of this, my work situation was starting to make me feel trapped. I was worried I was going to fall into a management position that I absolutely did not want, and there was a real sense of immediacy for me to leave. So whatever time wasn't spent at work was spent on job applications.
Eventually, after a couple of weeks, I got a call back from a HUGE company asking me to come in for an interview. I had absolutely no expectations of getting a job offer out of it, but I figured it would be a good learning experience anyway. Felt like I completely flubbed my way through the interview and left feeling really embarrassed. But a week later, I was offered the job.
I'm still dazed as to how this all came about. I'm extremely fortunate and it was an extremely rare opportunity, especially in this industry.
And don't get me wrong! This has been a great year for me for sure. I feel like I've certainly made a full turn around.
But the whole time I thought to myself, "If only I was thin... If only I had a good job. Only THEN will I feel happy and confident."
Let me tell you... I'm no more confident than I was at the beginning of this year. I'm having a hard time warming up to my new coworkers, and it's a completely different world from what I'm used to. I still feel lonely. I still feel unhappy.
No amount of external praise or acceptance or perceived "success" is going to change that.
Now I've realised it's a completely internal thing. It's good that I've worked on myself in terms of my health and my career, but that doesn't automatically mean everything else is going to fall into place. For things to really change, I have to work on my mental health.
So for anyone out there who is struggling... My advice is to prioritise your mental health. Even if you're achieving all these things, it doesn't matter if you're looking at the world through gray-tinted glasses, because everything will look bleak.
Sorry if this went from being somewhat uplifting to taking a complete nosedive. But there's something comforting in knowing you don't really have to be "perfect" to improve your SA. It's all about perspective.
Just thought I'd share my 2c.