The night was lush; the air was still. My eyes reflected the beaming city lights shining below. Vibrant hues illuminated streets flowing with traffic, while faint sounds of life reverberated from the valley. I was standing still in a familiar environment, yet removed.
A position I realized my life had become. Present, but absent. Seemingly full, yet unbearably hollow.
I ignored the signs until my body made them physically clear. I neglected taking care of myself because I believed I was working toward a justified, larger purpose. Overcommitting, taking on a multitude of roles – I thrived on being known for success. Though, when examining the root of my situation, I discovered an integral issue.
I was living with a case of “It Girl” Syndrome.
My choices and actions, while rooted in good, were also fueled by an innate desire to be loved. My insecurity of wanting acceptance evolved into an irrational quest for validation. I was combatting something larger. Pieces of my life I desperately wanted to escape from. For years, I was the girl who was… simply there. The middle of the pack, not necessarily holding merit or value. I was often overlooked. The contender, but never the winner. I constantly compared myself to others in all areas. Dance, academics, lifestyle…I simply wanted to be somebody.
So, I became infatuated with redefining my image. Instead of taking time to be proud of my accomplishments, I always rushed toward the “next big thing”. How will I out-do myself this time around? How can I prove my worth? I justified my unhealthy behavior. The concept of hard work eventually became misconstrued by unrealistic, self-made expectations.
I was so consumed in making people SEE me, I lost sight of myself…. I sacrificed my time, happiness, and wellbeing to be an“It” girl and it took its toll. I was physically deprived, mentally exhausted, and emotionally drained. My identity slowly disintegrated like paper burning. Eventually, the pristine illusion of being the ultimate girl was shattered by the truth of reality. There is nothing attractive about working to the point of physical harm. Losing contact with family and friends for months because you’re “so busy” is not endearing. Missing out on being present at the moment to plan a post for Instagram is completely unnecessary.
I wholeheartedly believe in being an individual and having a personal brand. However, I now believe in examining the cost. More importantly, pausing to examine the purpose behind my actions. My health is not worth an extra pat on the back. My time is not worth a few extra likes. I would rather be phenomenal at a few things than stressed and overwhelmed trying to be known for many.
Yes, I will continuously put my best foot forward. I will always have big goals and aspirations. I do believe I have the potential to achieve greatness. BUT at the root of it all, I am a human. With one body and mind. So what if I’m not the “It Girl”? Who cares if I’m not the girl everyone aspires to be? It’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of my reality. I am not defined by social media. I am not defined by my resume. I am Shelby. A girl who desires to be defined by her character, passion for others, and good nature. All of which are things I lost touch with over the years.
If you are reading/ identify with any of this, I’m telling you at this moment: Stop and have a deep, personal reflection. Examine your priorities and see how they align with the overall state of your life. Stop compromising your well-being for recognition. Learn how and when to say enough is enough. Avoid becoming so wrapped up in fueling an image, you lose a grasp on reality. Take time to congratulate yourself on achievements, rather than always seeking outside validation. Not winning an award should not make you feel like years of hard work were in vain. Not being invited places or included in the “in crowd”, should not make you feel like less of a person. Don’t boast a grand exterior yet hear internal echoes from the absence of your soul. It took my body shutting down to bring about this realization, but I want to help you see this before it reaches that level.
You are brilliant in your own way. Recognize and understand your value first. If you fail to do so, you will always be caught in an endless chase. Because the sooner you stop portraying a fulfilling life:
You can actually start living one.