I can’t believe it’s already been two years since I graduated from Western! To be honest, I debated whether I should share these pictures because on some level I do feel self-conscious despite the pictures not necessarily being representative of how I look now. I added 5 pictures to showcase how far i’ve come in 4 short years mentally, physically, and emotionally, with the first picture being where I started from. There is a picture for each of the past four years. I know regardless of how I look in those pictures, it doesn’t take away from my character, my self-worth, my intelligence, or how loved I am.
Looking at these pictures brings up a number of emotions for me both positive and negative. I graduated in June of 2015 at this point in time I weighed close to 180lbs. A little over a year prior to that I weighed in at 130lbs, a period shortly after I was medically diagnosed with depression. Neither of these time periods reflected my happiness. In fact, I was quite unhappy and self-conscious about my weight at both periods in my life despite being told how “good” I looked when I was at my thinnest. I was incredibly unhealthy, skipping out on meals or if I manage to eat, it would be very little and often unhealthy foods. I had lost 30lbs within a span of 4 months at the time seemingly for no reason because of how my body was reacting to the stress, anxiety, and depression that had built up over many years.
Even mentally, even though I reached my goal of maintaining a 3.7 GPA for most of my undergrad, I still didn’t feel good enough. All this despite knowing I got into a top 25 university. Coming into university I always felt pressure to get that 80, but even when I got that 80 I still didn’t feel good enough. I would question, well you got that 80, but why not that 90? Oh you got two questions wrong on that exam, well you messed up big time there? I lived a life where I let my grades control how I felt about my self-worth making it seem like I wasn’t good enough in society’s eyes. It’s a troubling and dangerous mind game.
To an extent, it still makes me uncomfortable when people make comments like “oh you lost a lot of weight” or “you look skinny now” or even “you’re so small”. Alternatively, it destroyed me when someone I loved dearly looked me dead in the eyes and gently pointed at my stomach and reminded me of the weight I had put on over the past year, in conjunction with comments from other people about “how big I had gotten”. In my eyes it makes me feel like my worth as a human is dependent on h0w much I weigh, as if my intelligence, values, or character meant nothing. But to an extent I know these views are partially shaped by my world around me, with magazines photoshopping the hell out of models, make up and standards of beauty being shoved down our throats on the daily, and clothing shops often representing the smallest of sizes. But on the other hand my self-worth was shaped by how I perceived others to view me and looking back I know that was wrong because i’m more than just how I look. Inadvertently, I gave others the control over how I felt about myself and negatively impacting my life.
I bet there are people out there that question why do I share these rather personal aspects of my life? For me, I believe there is something to learn out of every experience. It worries me when I see how competitive everything has become. For many years, numbers dictated my life. Whether it was the number on the scale, my grade point average, the rankings of the schools I went to or even how much money I would make upon graduation. Numbers controlled my life.
But I know i’m not the only one who lived that way. I’ve watched as my fellow peers allow the same negative thoughts control their life and negatively impact their mental health whether it be about their grades, future prospects, or even weight. It’s no surprise that mental illness is rapidly increasing across campuses around the world. Our view of grades has now crossed the line of measuring academic performance into becoming a sole indicator of one’s self-worth. It makes me not only upset to think about but worried for the future generation that will come after me. We as a collective group need to teach ourselves to not let numbers define who we are. We need to support and teach others that numbers, are just that, numbers. We need to remember that we are more than just numbers.
In this, there are things I wish I could go back and tell my 14, 18, or even 20 year old self. Being in my mid-20’s i’ve come to realize that numbers don’t define who I am nor who I will become. Numbers don’t control my happiness, I do. I’ve reached a point in my life where i’ve learned to let go of the numbers and focus on myself. Even today, I still catch myself playing that numbers game, it’s not always easy to change our mindset and it doesn’t happen over night. But slowly I’ve been working on it. What makes me happy is being able to tell myself I tried my best regardless of what the number actually is. If I can look at myself and say things like “I studied my butt off for that” or “I sweated everything I had” then that to me is satisfying enough.
Today, I’m grateful and happy to be healthy and to be able to exercise and fuel my body with nutritious food regardless of what the number on the scale says and my body tells me i’ve reached a healthy point where I feel good about myself. I’m happy with where I am at and what I have to offer the world. I feel confident in my body and where my life is (albeit slowly at times) taking me. I didn’t choose to go into nursing for the glitz and the glamour, I chose to enter nursing because I want to help people. I want to inspire people, I want to advocate for people, but most of all I want to help patients live happy and healthy lives even if it’s just changing the life of one person.
So what does this post have to do with anything? Be happy. Be you. Do your best. It’s what you can do in starting to live a meaningful and rewarding life. Weight, money, followers on social media, or grades don’t define who you are. Those numbers don’t measure your true beauty, talent, purpose, strength, or your worth. Your worth as a human is beyond measurable.