Self-Acceptance

No matter who you are, no matter what family you come from, no matter what you believe in or are passionate about, there is one singular, universal trust among us: We all strive to be accepted and loved for who we are. For many, this composes primarily of our external image, our physical appearance, and for you self-conscious folks out there, oh yeah, things like body weight and a couple acne spots play a big role in that.

It’s a dangerously vicious cycle, how one simple glance in the mirror can reveal so much about us. I’m sure many can easily recall the scene in Mean Girls where Regina, Karen, and Gretchen are looking in the mirror in Regina’s room and commenting on their hair lines and pores and whatnot. This scene, to me, is pivotal because even the most flawless-looking people can still harbor secret desires to look even better. They see themselves being less attractive than they really are, and their self-confidence takes a blow because of that.

The mind is a powerful thing. You can make yourself believe nearly anything out there, for better or for worse. When you let yourself become consumed by some unsightly pounds of skin gathering near the bottom of your stomach or perhaps a few bumps and bruises near your eyebrows or maybe a skin condition that you’d rather not share with many people, it becomes increasingly difficult to see yourself as someone who’s worthy of being loved, or, for that matter, is even capable of finding it. For, as willing as you are to find it, so you tell yourself, “Who can love someone that has *insert physical appearance problem here*?”

But everyone has their stories. Everyone has their bruises. And courtesy of the vocal stylings of Pat Monahan (from Train), they really do make for better conversation. You’re never the only one who’s had your fair share of struggles. Some, yes, more than others, but everyone has an equal share of challenges, and I still vividly remember when I was presented with perhaps my greatest challenge so far in my life.

The following is almost taken word for word from when I posted about it on my personal blog, with only some slight edits.

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The first day I carved my new identity on gay Twitter, I received a Direct Message (DM) from a guy who newly followed me, with the Twitter handle of The Mean Gay his nomenclature of choice. A simple ‘hi’. Innocent enough. I was desperate for interaction, so I replied. A few questions on his part of whether I lived on the west coast and whether I was in a frat, to both I replied no (he was a little confused by my name so I explained to him the connection of my college’s abbreviation, WMU, also simply called Western). Conversation turned to his craving of finding a country boy on Twitter to date, as he didn’t use Facebook or any other dating website. The wrinkle in the plot is that he’s currently in England and desperately wants to move to America. Finding a guy is challenging enough; seeking his financial assistance (after saving up money on his own part of course) was an even tougher task. He grew to me rather quickly and began seeking my advice on what to do when this happens or how to say this. Me, being as woefully single as I’ve been my entire life, did the best I could to give what advice I thought was best, and his appreciation of me grew steadily.

Perhaps a day or two later, another guy messaged me. This one, as it turns out, was his best friend of two years, but who happened to live in America; Missouri, in fact. He told me his best friend told him how amazing I was, and we talked a bit. My conversations with both guys took a very unexpected, rough turn, as my replies to them began to be taken as me sounding like an asshole or like I’m mad. Reading a text is an obstacle, yes, because you can only rely on the words to determine the other person’s mood, but these guys took it way over the edge. Despite my reassurances that I wasn’t trying to sound like an asshole, the England guy became quite emotional, and his best friend sent me a few caps-lock-laden messages that…well, had I heard his voice, yeah, suffice it to say he would’ve been yelling at me. The whole situation turned tense remarkably quick. Nobody I’ve messaged in my life, ever, has made assumptions that I sound like an asshole or has told me this directly, even if it’s someone I’ve met for the first time. These two guys…their sensitivity was on another level.

The situation diffused, thankfully, and the next morning I had thoughts about calling it off, but I didn’t. I decided to continue talking to them. Mistake number one.

His best friend later got the idea that it’d be worlds easier on their part if they actually heard me talk. Brilliant. In today’s society, such technology miraculously exists in the form of, most notably, Skype and FaceTime. Genius. I convinced the England guy to do it, and after setting up another, anonymous Skype account in line with my respective Twitter handle, not even a week after we began talking on Twitter, we Skyped…for the first time. His personality was quite similar to how it was online; impatient, short-tempered, bitchy, but…a soft underside. There were moments of humor and laughter, and we swapped Mean Girls quotes among other things. On the whole, not a bad conversation. My talks with his best friend also seemed to be going relatively smooth…so long as I did my best to be careful what I said, I suppose, and yes, I was willing to make that adjustment if it meant pleasing them, mistake number two.

Around this time, I also discovered emojis. I had never put much thought into using them in my text messages along with the eve-popular lol and whatnot, but I thought if they saw the emojis following my messages, that may diffuse any unexpected flashes of anger at my texts.

We then began Skyping and FaceTiming almost every single night, me and him, from 8 or so to 3am…4…5…whenever. I later found out his real name, Jay, as he in turn found out mine. Our conversations gradually deepened. The awkwardness slowly drained away. Yes, his personality had many flaws, but I wanted someone to talk to. I was that desperate for friendship, especially from other gay guys. I wanted that connection, that relatable level of interaction.

But the negatives…oh yes…the negatives with him were certainly there. I was required to message him back on Twitter within 2 minutes at least or he would become impatient. His best friend was also the same way. I learned both of them had been screwed over by guys in the past. They had been in relationships that didn’t exactly end on the best note, leaving them weary of placing their trust in other guys period, regardless of anything I told them. Assumptions on their part were commonplace; there was a heavy emphasis on me not flirting with any guys on Twitter (despite Jay being the guy who’s actually looking for a relationship on Twitter), and me talking to only the two of them. I was given a list of people I could and couldn’t talk to. Some of the guys on the ‘couldn’t’ side were classified by them as home wreckers. My secret thought was that the relationship these guys had with the people on that side of the list had turned sour due to their own fault, and it wasn’t hard to see why, but I still chose to go with it. Mistake number three. They went as far as forcing me to send them screenshots of my DM folder, and despite me only talking to the two of them most of the time, they still didn’t believe me.

And yet, despite their difficulties, the friendship continued.

The weekend before finals, I took a two-day break from Twitter to study. That was mostly the intention; the side-bonus was getting a break from the two of them. I had that feeling of literally walking on eggshells with every message I sent at them. Every word felt like it was being overanalyzed and churned back in my face to insinuate that I’m doing this thing or I’m talking to this one guy. I needed time to focus on me. Yes, at this point I should’ve forgotten about them entirely, and yet I didn’t. The following Monday, I returned with a tweet along the lines of if I could not go to school and take my exams, that’d be great. UA Fab Gay (who they didn’t want me talking to as they specifically mentioned he was a home wrecker), replied to me saying my tweets were on point this morning. I replied saying it was sweet of him to say that and wished him luck with his ecology exam, him being a fellow college student like myself.

Jay’s best friend, at this point, had developed feelings for me, which also explained their concern of who I was and wasn’t talking to. They later saw this brief conversation, and the reaction was…explosive, to say the least. His best friend, Jesse, was actually driven to cutting his arms. Because of what I was allegedly doing, because I was supposedly flirting with this guy and he didn’t feel like he was good enough for me, he cut himself…over something he presumed I was doing on a social media site.

And, oh yes, this unfolded as I was Skyping with Jay that night. Here I am, lying in bed, talking to Jay who is having an emotional breakdown and ready to cut me, and here’s Jesse, who I’m messaging through Twitter, trying to calm him down, him being on the verge of committing suicide.

Meanwhile, my roommates are in the living room watching Family Guy.

And you thought your Monday nights were eventful.

By the greatest of miracles, Jesse calmed down. Jay, on the other hand, was another story. He decided to blow up at me and, for at least 30 minutes, I forced myself to listen to a tirade of insults thrown at my direction. Among the highlights, that I didn’t deserve a family, that if he knew me in real life, he’d shoot me in the head or bash my brains out with a baseball bat, that I’ll be single for the rest of my life and I’ll die alone. Throughout all of this, I said nothing. I simply laid there on my bed, taking it in, trying to distract myself.

And then came the part of him threatening to frame me for Jesse’s death if he had committed suicide.

My reaction to him? “Oh no, I don’t hate you, no.” He then went as far as threatening to cut his arm with a pair of scissors. Hours later, he calmed down, and we signed off.

The following morning, I again had thoughts of calling it quits, but I didn’t. Mistake number four. Big time.

That Wednesday, I wound up working in the caf the entire day. He messaged me a few times but as I was clocked in, I couldn’t exactly reply due to the strict no-phone policy. Unsurprisingly, he freaked out and thought I was talking to other people and so on. Best of all, one of my followers allegedly told him that me and him were Skyping when we weren’t, and this sent Jay over the edge. I had to tell him five times that no, I wasn’t Skyping with anyone.

What was enormously frustrating throughout all this was that he was immediately willing to believe something someone told him once, which was a lie, compared to what I had to tell him at least five or six times, which was the truth.

Still, we worked through it. He opened up to me more. He told me of how he had been bullied all throughout high school and how he basically felt like he had nobody in his life.

At one point, much to my surprise, he revealed that he had feelings for me too. At this point, Jesse had settled for calling me a friend, but Jay…Jay was the very first guy that’s ever expressed an actual interest in dating me. I turned him down, but we continued to talk almost every single night. He was always gravely concerned about not showing his face and me not showing mine. We only communicated through voice.

The assumptions, however, continued. He supposedly received messages from other people of things I had said to them about him. Among them, that I said he was an anorexic bitch, that I never planned on helping him move to America despite what I told him, that he was attention-seeking, and, probably worst of all, that I thought he should drink chloroform and die.

All of this, yes, untrue, but in his warped sense of reality…to him it was real, and I had to work to convince him that, no, all of that was lies. He told me he supposedly got screenshots of this…but how? I quietly assumed he was lying to me, as I never said any of those things to anyone. Jesse attempted to publicly attack me as well.

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Jay had also shared his fair share of subtweets about me over the course of the previous few weeks, about 8 in total. Me? A grand total of 0. For some reason it seemed I was the only one being remotely mature.

I didn’t publicly respond to either one, and after the second one, it became clear he was no friend of mine, so I blocked him. On a side-note, I mentioned to them how I wanted to lose 10 pounds or so over the summer but mentioned that I wasn’t overweight. To them, however, just the words ‘wanting to lose weight’ made them assume that was obese, that I weigh far more than I do, so insults based on my weight became very commonplace, as did calling me a fat cunt, tubby, bitch…the list goes on (and much darker) from there.

Every single conversation we had, he had to find a reason to be upset with me. If we were Skyping, if my phone went off, his immediate reply was “Who are you messaging!?” in the imaginary, panicky voice you can probably imagine. He wanted me to be exclusively his. I made my anon account to meet people, and talk to people. Almost every Skype session was ‘Oh, Jesse just said that you’ve been saying…’ and he went into something I was supposedly doing or saying about him that wasn’t true, I had to work to calm him down, the cycle repeated itself night after night. It was never something he was doing, it was always “Why are you trying to make me mad?” I was always the one at fault in his eyes.

I found myself making excuses not to Skype with him, because I knew what the conversation would degrade to. I was as patient with him as I could be. I never insulted him, I never tried to sound annoyed, but still, something always set him off with me. “People like you deserve to be cheated on,” “You deserve to be single,” and so on, but I did my best to brush it off.

He told me the story of a girl named Amanda Todd, who succumbed to cyberbullying and committed suicide. During one of his more volatile nights, he sent, among other lovely messages, the following:

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There were threats to make my life a living hell, to get my account suspended to get me to lose followers (the last one I cared about the least). So much anger and hostility at completely unexpected times, and yet, I still chose to talk to him.

One of the last things he revealed to me is that he has autism.

I’ve never, in my memory, dealt with someone with autism before. I do feel bad for him, of course, as he explained that that’s where his violent reactions and outbursts come from. I stressed to him the importance of him being patient and calm and realizing there’s two sides to every story. He, however, viewed his disability as a roadblock, and told me it was very hard for him to do that and made no effort at all to be patient with me. Just the day after, some of his followers had supposedly learned he had autism, and I was the only one who knew of it, the only one he told, and I didn’t tell anyone at that point, contrary to his assumptions.

Every thing I posted, every person I talked to, there was always an assumption. I always had to give an explanation for why I said this or who this person was. I continually had to reassure him that, no, I hadn’t gotten anyone else’s phone number, Skype, etc. I always had this feeling like I couldn’t be myself. Someone over a thousand miles away was controlling my online life.

May 10th rolled around. I tweeted to the same home-wrecking guy from before he had warned me about, and we launched into a conversation about sushi. He later messaged me telling me to just text him instead and gave me his number. I began talking to him and venting my frustrations about my friendship with Jay, and he began to be harassed by anonymous questions through ask.fm, through Jay of all people. He sent a tweet to him, and I received some messages from Jay:

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It was at this point that I finally called it quits. I gave up. My patience ran out. I needed to get out of this relationship, so I threw in the towel and blocked him. The last I heard from him were 2 ask.fm submissions, one saying he had blocked me too, my mom was ugly, and hoping I die from cancer, the other saying ‘karma is a bitch, you better watch your back.’

The following morning, as calmly as possible, I released some subtweets aimed at his direction. Nothing nasty, just things I thought would do well to help him along the way, if he ever hoped of finding a boyfriend who could actually stay with him, which I believe that, unless he makes some serious changes, that chance is very small.

Never have I been subjected to treatment by anyone like that, in my life. Ever. I’ve never received threats like that, or been around someone who is that paranoid over who I talk to or what I’m doing when I’m single, and that is ridiculous.

If he was more patient, if his anger issues weren’t a problem, would I still be friends with him? Yes, I would. But now? Absolutely not.

I refuse to let anyone bully me, or dictate who I talk to or what I do because, quite simply, it’s MY life and MY choices. If something’s not right or doesn’t feel right to me, I need to get out. I shouldn’t have to tolerate anyone’s negativity toward me or listen to someone spew nothing but hatred at my direction.”

The pictures I included were synced to my MacBook, amongst others that I haven’t deleted.

Throughout that whole ordeal, I was torn between wanting to be there for him. He constantly reminded me how much he needed me and repeatedly made me promise not to leave him, and those promises changed from a simple yes, to an ‘I’ll be as patient as possible.’ I know what it’s like being on the outside, and here was someone who had been on the outside for the vast majority of his life, and my heart broke for him.

On the sharp contrary, however, he was completely unwilling to open his heart to anybody, including me. He is probably the most defensive person I’ve encountered. I will never forget how far he went to attempt to bring me down, to ruin me and drag my name through the mud. He wanted to utterly destroy me at times, and I refused to let him. I refused to walk away too, because I didn’t want to go back on all the constant times I promised him I wouldn’t leave him.

That, right there, was one of the most morally challenging decisions I think I’ve ever made: Being with someone who needed me, but at the same time, had an extremely aggressive side and refused to trust me at all, or go against my multiple promises to him and free myself from the toxic relationship and make myself happy.

Do I regret that decision? On some days, yes. If he was more patient, and more trusting, then yeah, maybe we would still be friends at that point. But a relationship that toxic was not doing me any favors, and I ultimately had to look out for myself. My little brother, Sin City Gay Boy, told me I deserve better than him. And I do. I deserve to be around people who support me, not constantly try to find ways to tear me down.

The one thing that was repeatedly brought up was the ‘issue’ of my weight. Ever since I mentioned to them I planned to do some running with my dog over the summer to lose a few pounds, they immediately thought I was overweight. I can say that I’m not, though I’m not perfectly stick-thin either. They constantly attempted to use that to get to me, to make me feel bad or imperfect and self-conscious. They brought up the common stereotype that most gay guys like guys who are thin and muscular, “not chubby like you.”

And at times, sure, it got to me, but I reminded myself that I, and I alone, am in control of how I feel about myself, and how happy I am with every part of me. I know that not every guy, much less every person, has the same set of standards. I knew that despite their “nobody would want to be with you” reminders, I wasn’t counting myself out.

Essentially, I rose above their negative criticism about my body weight, because I know I’m better than that.

Every single person I’ve met or have talked to has expressed interest in changing some aspect of their physical appearance. And yes, some of these are good and logical, like perhaps losing a couple pounds, working out more, maybe an eyebrow wax, the list goes on. But if you’re not careful, your imperfections can easily consume you. When you begin to think about changing too much of yourself, you can forget to love yourself exactly as you are.

It doesn’t matter if you have a skin condition, or a couple bumps near your eyebrows, or maybe your hands aren’t as perfect as you’d like them to be. But you don’t have to, nor should have to, try to impress someone with how perfect your nails are clipped or how thin your stomach is.

What matters most is whether or not you’re happy with yourself, because as soon as you can be happy with yourself, you can be happy with someone else, and how they see you, and focus more on loving them as much as you also appreciate yourself.

It’s good to strive for improvement. But not everything that’s imperfect needs fixing.

In today’s society, social media plays a drastically huge role in that, particularly on Twitter. So many people place a value on their self-worth based on their follower count, or, especially, the number of favorites they get on a picslip.

And here’s the truth: You are worth more than a number. Of any kind. How important or good or attractive of a person you are is never, nor should ever be, based on a number. Complete strangers do not have to swoon over your eyes or your beautifully-aligned teeth to make you feel good about yourself. You’re in control over your happiness, and the best thing you can do is keep that control to yourself. Getting a lot of favorites and retweets feels nice, but whether you get 2 or 200, you are worth more than that.

Don’t fall into the self-conscious trap of feeling like you’re not good enough, or thin enough, or tall enough, or smart enough, or whatever, because if someone truly loves you, they won’t care what you look like. The only thing that’ll matter, and should matter, is how you treat them as a person, as a friend, as a boyfriend, as whatever. An attractive body image will only be able to carry you so far.

Are there things I’d like to change about myself? Of course. But am I extremely worried about it at this point? Honestly, no. I’m focused on enjoying my life while I can, while I’m in college, while I can have fun. Going the diet pill route will, in all likely instances, earn me a one-way ticket to the hospital, and my health, much less my future, isn’t worth the risk.

For as challenging as it may be at times, I have gradually learned to love myself exactly as I am.

The sooner you appreciate the people who do appreciate inner beauty, and what’s on the inside more than what’s on the outside, the more happy you will be with yourself and your life.

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