I open my eyes to the sunlight. It’s already 8 a.m. I slept through two alarms.
Am I lazy? People are already at work, and I’m still in bed.
I open my phone and load Instagram. Scroll through photos. Check for messages. Re-watch the story I posted last night.
Why did I share that? Do I just want validation? If so, from who? And why?
My heart races. Stomach clenches. Like I’m guilty of a heinous crime.
Am I not already content with the people in my life? Do I really need someone else to care about me? To accept me?
I sit up. Wipe the sweat off my forehead. Open my messages, wanting to confide in someone who understands.
Am I looking for sympathy? Is that a guy I’m about to text? What does that say about me? Do I enjoy their attention?
Thoughts pelt me from every direction. My head pounds.
I want to cry.
I want to sleep.
I want to escape.
Who even am I?
Welcome to my typical day. The first few minutes, at least.
Living life in the spotlight
I sense eyes on me every moment. Watching me. Judging me. I live life like it’s a movie, walk around like I’m in some dramatic music video. They ask, “Who are you when no one is watching?”
I’ll never know. Because, technically, someone always is.
Since I could remember, I’ve always been brutally self-aware. Maybe it’s because I have OCD, which is rooted in guilt and doubt. Maybe it’s simply part of my personality. Maybe it doesn’t really matter why I am this way. Maybe I just am.
Self-awareness can feel overwhelming at times. Like you’re not on your own team, and those who are must be fooled. They can’t possibly know you, the real you, because you don’t even know yourself.
Your mind magnifies every mistake, every flaw, until they’re all you can think about, all you can see. You can’t walk into a room without feeling others’ eyes burning your skin. Can’t carry a conversation without over-analyzing every word you say or expression you make. Can’t simply enjoy life without questioning your intentions.
You only feel yourself when you’re filled with guilt, shame, and anxiety. You lack identity, your mind a black hole.
And that’s tormenting, because how can you love yourself, how can someone else love you, when you’re not even sure what defines you — what makes you, you?
Embracing your gift
We self-aware individuals thrive off labels and crave meaning in our lives. But the truth is, no one person can be simply defined.
Perhaps we lack identity because we’re constantly changing, constantly improving, our awareness acting as a conduit to a better self.
Reality is, we’re all only human. Many of our perceived “faults” are actually quite “normal.” Everyone has them; everyone experiences them. The difference is that we obsess over them until they feel like an issue, while others barely notice these tendencies exist.
Our crippling self-awareness is just an indication that we care. And is that such a bad thing? It breeds empathy, kindness, and compassion toward others — qualities more people should have today.
So, instead of viewing ourselves in a negative light, instead of attacking our own characters, we should be channeling our emotional intelligence in other ways. Letting people know they aren’t alone in their thoughts and feelings. Being a shoulder to cry on. Lighting the way for those left in the dark.
And, most importantly, being easier on ourselves. In a world dominated by filtered photos and shallow conversations, it’s okay to be different — it’s okay to be real.