Today is the 17th anniversary of Self-Injury Awareness Day! In response to this global event, I wanted to talk about how I learned to love myself and stop self-harming.
Please Note: I tried my absolute best to make sure this post isn’t triggering in the spirit of keeping this post positive. However, if you feel triggered or unsafe at any point, please stop reading and reach out to a hotline. Below are some numbers to call just in case:
MVSafetyNet (USA) 1-800-366-8288
SupportLine (UK) 01708 765200
Back when I self-harmed, I didn’t know how to forgive myself for making mistakes. I was a perfectionist and a little too eager to please my parents.
I didn’t realize that it’s OK to mess up disastrously if that’s what it takes to learn a lesson, and I didn’t believe that I was worthy of self-respect because of my flaws. Talking to a therapist helped me big-time in seeing the inconsistencies in my thinking and how to change them. It made me stop and think about where I was heading on that path of aiming for perfection and then destruction when it didn’t work out. I’ll be honest; it wasn’t a good place.
Life wasn’t getting any easier and room for error expanded monstrously as a result. It just wasn’t sustainable to keep plowing ahead while my mental health suffered and I learned less. Honestly, I don’t think I stood a chance of passing my AP Spanish (AP means college-level in high school) course in the beginning of the year because of my negative mindset. Even my teacher was worried about me at that point. Once I learned to change my thought processes, my true potential opened up. I’ll have you know I got a 4 out of 5 on the exam.
There are some lessons we can’t learn without being wrong the first time; this goes for school and life in general. That’s why a mistake doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Actually, it can be a good thing because it’s one step closer to the right direction that we wouldn’t have taken if we froze in fear. Remember: It’s OK to be afraid, but never fear.
Then there was the fact that my obsession with perfection constricted me. I wouldn’t allow myself to do certain things for fear of failure and the ensuing shouting match with my inner self-critic. (I always lost.) That year I hardly wrote outside of class, drew, or crafted at all because I would never be satisfied with the end product, and would end up making things worse when I tried to fix it. Creativity has always been a huge source of fulfillment for me and I deeply missed it that year. I still remember how I would glumly sit around wishing I could just write a poem without thinking too hard like the old days. It wasn’t fair at all.
How did I get over all of that?
I had to learn that my passion is more important than my fear.
Yes, I don’t know if I will succeed, but the benefits of success outweigh the cons of failure. One more thing about failure…it’s only as bad as you make it. I came out of sophomore year with a 2.8 GPA and the average GPA for my incoming class at my current university was 3.6 and above. As you lovelies know, I made it in. Side note: Never ever ever determine your self-worth from a number. When things don’t go as planned, it may seem like your life is over, but I promise things will work themselves out in the end. You just need to be open-minded and ready for when that new opportunity comes your way.
I had to learn to accept me. All of me.
It’s a lot easier said than done, but I had to accept the fact that I have limitations just like any other person. I’ll trip, I’ll fall, I’ll make a fool of myself, and that’s OK. Here’s why:
- I’ll catch myself when I trip, I’ll pick myself up when I fall, and I’ll laugh when I make a fool of myself.
- Establishing myself as a “safe zone” was monumental in my recovery. I had to be able to trust myself that I wouldn’t freak out and lose control. It took time and practice to be able to put a buffer between myself and my mistakes, but eventually I learned to be mindful and at peace with myself.
Also, regardless of all that mindset stuff…
If this sounds sappy to you, great. Back when I self-harmed, I would have laughed at the idea of intrinsic worth. I believed that love and respect had to be earned; even from myself. Do yourself a favor and learn from me. Never ever think like that.
I had to build a support system.
Everyone needs a shoulder or two to lean on when the going gets tough and you start to lose faith in yourself. I won’t lie, it’s scary reaching out to others for help, but I swear it’s more than worth the risk. (This is cost-benefit analysis, lovelies, always use it.) Even strong people can’t be strong all the time, two heads are better than one, and genuine friends beat fake friends any day.
Believe me, there’s someone who cares about you out there. We live on a planet of billions of people, so statistically there has to be someone. 😉
To wrap up, there were two reasons I waited so long to get help for self-harm:
- I didn’t believe my problem was important enough
- I didn’t want to worry my parents.
In reality, I wouldn’t have got help at all if my English teacher didn’t walk me to the counselor’s office. (I was too socially awkward to turn her offer down, OK?) I thought the game was over when I had to get both my parents to sign the consent form for me to see my counselor, but they understood and supported my decision. (I know this unfortunately isn’t the case with all parents.)
Bottom Line: All of your problems are valid and you’re not a burden.