Somewhere between my rebellious pre-adolescence and coming of responsible age, I became hyper self-aware and overly-conscious of how other people perceive me. Is this what being an adult feels like? Is this the inevitable evolution from the “I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks-about-me” stage? Or is there something else going on?
I used to have a bit of an ego – I admit it. I really didn’t care what anyone thought about me because I loved myself. I thought I had everything figured out. I thought I was exponentially more mature and more talented than my peers. I was a Myspace celebrity with 62,000 friends; I got hundreds of comments on my Livejournal posts about my above-average life; I had a few “haters” which obviously meant I was awesome; I was repeatedly praised for being the best artist / best writer / best whatever; and I was constantly reaching for bigger and better things because I felt I was great enough to obtain them.
Then I turned 20.
Suddenly I wasn’t the teenage prodigy anymore. I was just another deluded, narcissistic “millennial”, running the young adult rat race for shallow success and attention. Then Myspace died, and I no longer had the validation of online popularity. New younger talent rose up above me out of the creation of Tumblr and Instagram, and I became obsolete when I didn’t keep up with the changing of social technology. And when I tried, I was criticized and made fun of by “friends” for taking “selfies” and being an “Internet personality.” And in my real life, college courses got harder and design/photo jobs became slimmer – suddenly I wasn’t the best artist / best writer / best whatever anymore. I stopped striving for bigger and better things because I didn’t feel like I was great enough anymore. I let the many disembodied voices of criticism and the fear of other people’s opinions consume me. This self-confidence I had was slowly being drained out of me and I was left with the bare bones of insecurity.
The demi-punk 16-year-old version of myself (the one with the weird side mohawk) that used to say and do whatever she wanted without a care in the world would be pretty bummed to see me as this self-conscious, super-anxious person who lets trivial concerns and the thoughts of others dictate my worth. Maybe that earlier girl was sometimes arrogant and little self-absorbed, but at least she had dreams and fearlessly chased after them.
I’m tired of allowing myself to shrink into a shell because I don’t want people to view me negatively. I’m tired of trying so hard to keep my “ego” in check so people don’t call me “arrogant”, so much to the point that my self-worth has deflated. I’m tired of not chasing after my dreams because I’m afraid of looking silly. I’m tired of caring way too much about what people think of me.
I’m gonna do what I want to do, say what I want to say, post what I want to post, create what I want to create, and live how I want to live.