Journal Entry No. 11
By Morgan Wagstaff
February 11, 2019
Lessons learned –
01. You are beautiful.
02. You are worthy of love.
03. You are exactly the person you were made to be.
04. Your experience matters.
05. Your feelings are valid.
06. Do not apologize for being yourself, feeling your feelings, or reacting to an experience how ever you do.
07. Only you can change your circumstance.
08. Do not let other people tell you who you are or how to be.
09. You are extraordinarily unique and deserve the space that you take up.
10. Be gentile and love everyone, especially yourself.
11. You owe nothing to anyone.
12. Cherish the differences.
13. Do not operate out of fear.
Life is not always rainbows and sunshine, but life is beautiful and extraordinary. Sometimes it’s hard to see the beauty, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Physical attributes and the affect they’ve had on my life have become my story. It started as a physical struggle, but over time became matters of much deeper emotional and inner wrestling.
I have always been insecure and cared far too much about what others thought about me. I can’t remember a time where I felt content and confident. But when I was younger, I had a care for others most people my age didn’t have. As a pre-teen I cared for and showed immense love for anyone I came into contact with – a loyal friend and sympathetic neighbor. I had two older sisters and wanted nothing more than for them to like and want me around, so I mirrored myself after them. As the youngest I tried so hard to be enough so I could gain their approval, but never succeeded.
At age fifteen, when a trip to the hair salon ended with a terrible cut much shorter than I wanted, my life was never the same. Now, I know that sounds pretty dramatic, but when I look back on the timeline, that incident is when everything changed. I was devastated. It’s embarrassing now how much weight I gave to my appearance and what others thought about me, but as a teenager that’s all that mattered at the time. A few short months later I started noticing drastic amounts of hair falling out constantly, and I couldn’t get ready in the morning or wake up without hair being everywhere. I figured it wasn’t anything to be worried about because, as everyone says, it was just hair and it would grow back. But one day I was looking at a few photos of myself and was shocked at how thin my hair was. My mom was noticing the change as well, so we went to the doctor and they told me I had alopecia.
Forgiveness is hard, especially forgiving yourself. While my journey over the next ten years was a peregrination of understanding the ‘diagnosis’ and what to do about it, along the way I had to come to terms with the fact that my hair wasn’t going to grow back, and I had let it take over and run my life. The hairless spots grew larger and the hatred for the person I saw in the mirror grew stronger. I hated the way I looked. I couldn’t look myself in the eyes and I couldn’t see anything worth appreciating. I noticed the way people started treating me differently – standoffish and uninclusive. Because of that, I talked terribly to myself. I told myself I wasn’t worth loving and never let anyone tell me otherwise. And I, in turn, did exactly what people were doing to me. I became shy and withdrawn. I missed out on a lot of life and relationships because I didn’t engage with people around me. I let the fear of rejection control my actions, or lack thereof.
I went through a slew of emotional ups and downs – from caring way too much about what people thought, and letting it cripple me, to owning my look and living with confidence. Sitting here now, in my studio, writing this essay, I have so much clarity on the effects that this journey, albeit just the beginning, has had on me. I’ve learned a lot of lessons and have many more to learn.
I’ve given other people way too much power to shape and change me into their ideal concept of ‘normal’. I talk to myself in ways I would never speak to another person which has negatively shaped the way that I think about myself and how I interact with others. Only within the last year have I found myself again, scraping up piece by piece the parts of myself I tore down and buried. I’m learning to acknowledge my worth and that it is okay to take up space. It’s okay to be different and individual. In fact, the differences between us that could suffocate connection are blessings in disguise. I want to be my own self. I want to champion you as you become the person you were meant to be, unique, beautiful and special, and I want the same for myself.
I want to love people the way I once did – without judgement and projection of my own insecurities onto others. I want to come home to myself. It starts with how we speak to ourselves. It starts with the thoughts we give weight to. Progress towards owning our extraordinary uniqueness and truly, deeply loving ourselves begins with changing the internal narrative. So today, I say to myself – My physical attributes say nothing about the person I am. I am beautiful. I forgive you for tearing me down. I forgive you for shutting me up. I forgive you for not appreciating the beauty within yourself. Others can think what they want because your identity doesn’t lie within them. Welcome home.