You couldn’t write a more cliche character than me in high school. Not only was I was obnoxious, desperate for attention, always fighting with my parents, and trying way too hard to be edgy, but I was painfully insecure. And because I was once such a hot mess (and am still a hot mess, but a much more stable one) I have an in depth understanding of what self loathing, self pity and need for validation can do to a person.
We all know a girl that cares way too much about Instagram. She spends hours trying to get the right photo, meticulously editing, and constantly refreshing her phone, watching with the anxious anticipation of an addict as the likes pour in. No matter what she tells the world or herself about her choice of presentation and its implications, she knows just as well as the rest of us that she isn’t half to three quarters naked in a full face of makeup and extensions at all times for her health or comfort. And it’s a tragic.
But we also all know a girl that derives the entirety of her self worth from a false sense of superiority to “other girls.” The ones that feel the need to constantly remind us that they don’t need drugs or alcohol to have fun, and that they actually prefer a quiet night in over a wild night out. As much as they may like to pretend not to be judgmental so that people with social lives talk to them, they can’t help but feel superior to girls that dress provocatively. They take pride in the fact that they “don’t need to show skin to feel confident,” but forget that not every tight dress is a cry for attention, and not every single person that makes different choices is doing so because they lack something internally. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that both esteems are founded on entirely false premises and equally pathetic.
I’m reminded of a roommate I had in college that never drank or partied, and would roll her eyes, mumble under her breath and scoff at my other roommates and me as we would throw on our thot gear and break out our bottles every weekend. This roommate applied a narrative to us that made her feel better about herself and her choices. This same roommate also exclusively met guys online. Like, that’s all she did. We’re not just talking Tinder & Bumble, we’re talking aggressively online dating. We’re talking Plenty Of Fish/basically any service she didn’t have to pay for.
And in theory, there’s nothing wrong with that. Because with all of the apps available, who knows which one bae could be on? But she would get completely wrapped up in these guys after talking to them for a day, invite them over and end up hooking up with them almost immediately. And that’s not because she was a sex positive feminist that wouldn’t be defined by patriarchal social norms, but because she was naive, delusional and had no self control.
I’m not the kind of person to judge someone or assign value to them based on how many people they’ve slept with (within reason), but she was. And she was shocked to learn that she had slept with significantly more people than I had. And of course that didn’t make me better than her, but it conflicted with the stereotype she had ascribed to me and my friends. She was forced to confront the fact that she wasn’t quite the angel she thought she was and I wasn’t quite the whore she thought I was.
When you form your opinions of yourself based on what you perceive as others’ shortcomings, you’re already operating at a disadvantage because you’re setting yourself up on a hamster wheel of a superiority complex that will inevitably collapse, as well as under the false assumption that another person’s faults somehow create value for you. It dramatically lowers your standards for achievement and excellence, and convinces you that being “not her” is an accomplishment. It’s like comparing yourself to the aspiring rappers and party promoters from your high school to make yourself feel better when at the end of the day, their failures don’t change the fact that you’re a 28 year old full time cashier at Ann Taylor with no plan for your future.
All of this to say that when you depend on other people to establish your sense of self worth whether that’s via likes and followers or comparison, you cheat yourself. Be amazing because you’re amazing, not because strangers on the Internet said you were or because other people aren’t amazing.