I was 10 years old and I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t think I could manage all that schooling.
Then, I was 12. I bullied the boy in my class who talked funny so they wouldn't bully me.
When I was 14 I started wearing dark eyeliner, straightening my hair and secretly buying padded push-up bras.
I’ll never forget: when I was 17, the guy who sat behind me in calculus told me I had fat arms, and I believed him.
I turned 21, and I spent way too many nights drinking and partying.
At 23, I edited my photos on social media to the point that I didn't recognize myself.
Now I’m 25, and I'm strong, confident, passionate, adventurous, awkward, beautiful, hilarious, hard-working and empathetic - and I own my life.
To think, it has taken me 25 years – twenty-five years - to even feel comfortable writing that last sentence. Even now, believing it all is still something I strive for each and every day.
All of us have unlimited potential and a true ability to achieve anything we want in life. Yet why are most of us not even coming close to this reality? The sad truth is most of us don't own our lives.
Insecurities own our lives. Fear, failure, negativity. More often than not, it’s these things that guide our decisions.
I was controlled by them too. But with a major effort they are transitioning into confidence, curiosity, success and positivity.
Here is how I've been taking back ownership of my life:
Allow Yourself to Live Life
Most people who know me know what a homebody I am. I can spend an entire weekend in my apartment watching Netflix and not think twice about it.
It’s nice to think that I’ve grown out of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but I also know I've hindered myself from experiencing more than just the thrilling cliff hanger of the Stranger Things finale.
To me, allowing yourself to live is to step outside of your comfort zone. Since last year one of my biggest goals has been to just simply live. To spend the money on things that bring me joy (within reason, of course). To surround myself with people that I actually enjoy. To stop fighting the fact that I am 5'4" and have a curvier build. To listen to my music really loud in my car. To wear the outfit I'd been saving for a special occasion. To go skydiving. To just experience what I would like my life to be. That's the thing I've learned, is that you have to discover what you would like your life to be. That's the first step.
Dictate Your Decisions
I wonder how many people have laid on their deathbed and suddenly realized that this whole time they had been living a life that only made other people happy. It would actually be pretty easy to go your whole life living for others.
I became aware of this not on my deathbed, but just lying in my bed last year and realizing that, every day - from the moment I woke up to the time I went to bed - I was living out my days only caring what other people thought. I had become a spineless spectator of my life.
Finally, I acknowledged that my decisions couldn't be based on other people's opinions because other people didn't have my same values, same morals or same general principles. How was I going to succeed if my choices were being made without me in mind? When you have your values straight, your life points in your own direction.
Believe to be Inspired
You know that feeling when absolutely nothing can stop you? When you can't take that smile off your face and you feel giddy? When you are positively anxious and can't wait to see what's next?
To me that is the ultimate inspiration. I desire that feeling every single day of my life.
There are actually thousands and thousands of articles on the Internet right now that have "how to find inspiration" in the title. We are all searching for this feeling. We all want to believe in something.
But it really is as simple as believing. Believe that today is going to be the day. Believe that you will get the job you want. Believe that you are the best version of yourself. Once you start believing you'll start subconsciously feeling inspired to get there and nothing will stop you.
Validation Isn't Subjective
I came across a video on YouTube of a teenage girl crying about not knowing whether or not she was pretty. The heartbreaking title was "Am I Ugly or Not Comment What You Think." If that isn't devastating enough to hear, there are actually hundreds and hundreds of posts like this on social media.
Not many people actually ask those questions straight-up, but everyone else is secretly wondering the same things, seeking answers that would somehow validate their existence.
I was just as guilty of this, with questions such as, “Am I fat or no”, “Am I popular or no” “Am I rich or no,” swirling around in my head. Whatever the answers were, they were always going to be subjective.
I finally discovered personal validation by being confident in matters that were only objective. It was no longer the number on the scale, my social media following or the money in my wallet, but it became based more on my education, my health and my unrelenting faith.
The question should never be “Am I perfect or no,” because none of us are. But we are valuable and we do matter.
Start Each Day With A Grateful Heart
I've always considered myself to be grateful. I mean, after all, I resisted the urge to use the hashtag #blessed fairly frequently.
Yet I still wasn't feeling a satisfying amount of appreciation for my life. So last summer I started writing down three things I was grateful for and one thing I wanted to improve. It was easy enough. Every morning when my phone alarm went off, I stopped checking social media right away and I started writing this daily list in my notes. Yes, there are some days I forget, but it has become such a habit that if I forget in the morning, I remember later on and I just type it out as I'm thinking of it.
I now have quite the collection of notes, and on days when I need to be reminded of how privileged I am I scroll all the way through.
Today I wrote that I’m grateful for my creativity, the perfect song at the perfect moment and healthy hair, and I want to be better at stopping to listen first. Some days this list isn't long enough and other days I struggle to come up with anything, but no matter what I've gained a much stronger sense of gratitude that can fuel me through my days.
Thank you for reading these, and if you own already own your life then hell yes and more power to you. I hope you get everything you're chasing! If you are still striving to have the control you deserve, don't give up. Stop being afraid and just work as hard as you can each day to unlock everything you have the capacity to be.
Amazing things are about to happen.