Photography by Nuzhah Jacobs
There’s something incredibly crippling about being a precocious child and growing up to become a somewhat mediocre adult. No more are the days of adulation and praise; of easy A’s and early nights; of hard work begetting brilliant results. As difficult as it was to comes to terms with, the past fourteen or so months have been inundated with personal failures and a lot of introspection.
I think it began with the failure of my very first relationship. Why? Because in my head, I had thought that I did everything right. I was a low maintenance girlfriend – very easy to please; I compromised on a lot, I prioritised him, his insecurities and his emotions; I endured, and endured, and endured. But that didn’t protect me from having my world rocked. It didn’t protect me from being broken, manipulated and traumatised. So I sat with myself and thought: what now? I thought I did everything right and it still failed. What now?
And then the kilos came. I had always jokingly complained about gaining weight but within three months, I’d gained about 10KG. And I didn’t know what to do. When I left Cape Town at the end of November 2016, my clothes weren’t fitting, I was eating smaller portions at home, going for daily walks and to the gym and doing juice cleanses. But the weight wasn’t moving. And then came a hormonal change for the first half of 2017 that saw me gain about six more kilograms. So I sat with myself and thought: what now? I can’t afford a new wardrobe. My skin was scarring due to the rate it was stretching. I could barely recognise myself when I looked at old photos. I was trying my best and I was still failing. What now?
And then school decided to take a jab at me. What do you do when your academics are moving out of your control? When you do all of the work, submit all of the assignments, stay up until 5am doing projects and studying just to barely pass – how do you reconcile that with the 18 year old who received 8 distinctions when she graduated from high school? So I sat with myself and thought: what now? I did everything I could, and I’m still failing. What now?
And last year, I worked tirelessly on this blog. I invested so much time, effort, and money into creating content. I sent email after email and pitch after pitch just to be ignored. What do you do when you’ve networked all you can, emailed everyone you know, posted regularly, and achieved no success? I tried. Hard. So I sat with myself and thought: what now?
This is the position I found myself in over the last year or so. Being overwhelmed with failure. Not understanding how to cope. Being crippled with anxiety. Trying to please everyone.
…But then I realised that I can’t live that way. I reached a breaking point where I knew that I could no longer live like this. I spent the year mourning myself and it was time to pick up the pieces and move on. So I changed my dressing style to accommodate my temporary size. I started seeing a nutrition coach and gymming more. I started looking at the patterns in my academics and working smarter, not harder. I finally forgave myself. But above all, I took about two months to myself and did the ugly work. I let myself cry. I let myself wallow in pity. I treated myself. (I also got really into skincare, but that’s for another post.)
And in the end I finally understood what it meant to practice self-care. To do the hard work on days when you don’t want to face the world. To rebuild yourself and glue your pieces back together with gold. To build a solid foundation of self-love. I get it now.
So here are the lessons I’ve learnt:
- Small progress is progress. Slow progress is progress. Progress is progress is progress is progress. I have yet to lose the weight but what I have gained back is my happiness, confidence and sense of control. There has been a visible glow in me and I think that is the most important part. My lifestyle changes have not made 16KG disappear and given me the class medal for my courses. But it gave me back some control – and that was what I needed.
- Self-care is not only manicures and face masks. Sometimes it is crying so hard you cannot breathe, just so that you can let it out and then let it go. Sometimes it is realising that you have been a bad friend or a bad partner and understanding this and finding ways to do better and move forward. And then you can do your face mask and feel better, LOL.
- Be kind to yourself. Not because you have earned it, but because you deserve it. Just for existing. Life is hard enough when everything else feels cruel to you – don’t be cruel to yourself.
- Failure happens. And it sucks. It really does. But you have to pick yourself up, learn from what happened and try again. Never be too afraid to try again. But also remember why you started trying in the first place. Focus on yourself. Ensure you have someone to come home to.
- Remember who you are. You are, and always have been, and will always continue to be, that bitch.
So now that you have an abridged summary on where I’ve been lately, time to get back to regular programming.
Yours truly, ya girl