February 2, 2023

Pinoy Trekker

Pinoy Trekker – We go anywhere

The one thought that killed my paralyzing fear of what other people would think

“Don’t worry if someone doesn’t like you. Most people struggle to like themselves.” ~Unknown

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been scared to death of what other people think of me.

I remember looking at all the other girls in third grade and wondering why I didn’t have a flat stomach like them. I was ashamed of my body and didn’t want others to look at me. This is not a thought a ten year old girl should have, but unfortunately it is all too common.

Every single woman I know has voiced the same struggle. That other people’s opinion carries too much weight in their lives and is something to be afraid of. For most of us women, there is nothing worse than having someone else judge our looks.

After this fear first came to me in third grade, I carried it every day through high school, college, and into my 20s. This led me to try every diet imaginable and go through cycles of restriction and binge eating. I just wanted to lose those pesky fifteen pounds so I could finally feel better and not be afraid of attention.

There was no better feeling than getting a new diet book in the mail and swearing I would start the next day. Follow each rule perfectly and never deviate from the list of acceptable foods. I stopped going to restaurants and eating with friends because I wouldn’t know the exact calorie count.

All of this chasing of new diets and rigorous workouts stemmed from a simple thought that I had carried with me for years. I just assumed that if I lost weight, everyone would judge my body and like me more. I was constantly comparing my body to every other woman around me.

This fear of what other people thought also caused me to have a complicated relationship with alcohol in my late teens and early twenties. At my core, I’m naturally sensitive, alert, even-tempered, and at times calm. But I didn’t like that about myself; I wanted to be the outgoing party girl who takes center stage.

When I first got drunk in high school, I realized that this could be my one-way ticket to achieving my desired personality. With alcohol, I was carefree, fun, and spontaneous, and I loved that I could get endless attention. I was the life of the party, after all, and no one could take it from me.

I wanted everyone to think that the party girl self was the real me, not the sensitive and loving person I was trying desperately to hide. Classmates were actually quite shocked when they saw me at a party because I was so different from what I looked like at school. It was exciting to reveal this personality to every new person I met.

But the thing about diets and alcohol was that that sense of freedom was temporary. When the alcohol wore off or the excitement about the new diet wore off, I started having the same feelings again. In fact, I found I cared even more about what people thought of me when the diet wasn’t working or the alcohol wasn’t as strong. I was afraid that they would discover the real me.

The irony was that after the alcohol left my system, every time I drank I felt worse. I felt physically and mentally ill from the poison I was putting into my body. I was often embarrassed, not remembering the night before, or fearing I had said something I shouldn’t have said. It was a nightmare of a roller coaster ride that I no longer wanted to be a part of.

In my mid-twenties, I decided that alcohol would no longer have any hold over me. That I wouldn’t rely on it to feel confident and instead would work on loving the real me. I decided to quit alcohol and put it on the back burner. I was moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone, so I figured this would be a good time to start fresh.

As I moved and began my new life, the same familiar fears and shame resurfaced. If I wasn’t the loud party girl, who would I be? What would people think of me if I stayed home and read instead of partying? I wasn’t sure of my authentic self yet and was desperate for a new personality to embrace. So I turned to a trusted friend for help: dieting.

In five years I’ve tried all the popular diets: paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, macro and calorie counting, you name it. I devoted all my free time to absorbing all the information I could get to further perfect my diet. At one point I ate chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes for every single meal. My body was screaming at me for nutrients, but I kept ignoring it.

Then one day I reached that illustrious number on the scale and finally felt happy. Well, I assumed I would feel happy, but I was far from it. I felt absolutely crappy. My hair was falling out, I was having trouble sleeping for the first time in my life, my digestion was ruined and I had a debilitating fatigue. I finally lost the fifteen pounds, but my health was the worst it had ever been.

I felt cheated. The scale was where I wanted it, but I wasn’t happy. I was more aware of my body than ever before. I didn’t want people to look at me and notice my weight loss. That little girl who cared what people thought still ruled my life. I had to change something, and I had to start loving the girl in the mirror no matter what I looked like. My life depended on it.

It was on one of those nights when I felt so confused and lost that I stumbled into the world of self-development. I bought my very first journal and the first sentence I wrote was, “Self love, what does it mean and how do I find it?” I vowed to turn inward and get to know the real me for the first time in my life.

This new journey felt uncomfortable and scary and took me completely out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t just hide behind external sources like I could with alcohol and strict diets. I needed to meet the authentic Annie and show the world who she is.

It was on this journey that I discovered my love for writing and inspiring people. I decided to follow my dreams, get certified as a Life Coach, and finally make my writing public. But when I hit publish on my first post, the same fear rose.

This time I was scared to death of what my colleagues and friends would think. You would see the real me, the sensitive soul that had deep feelings and wanted to inspire other people. This fear caused me to deny who I was for far too long again.

I’ve been hesitant to share my lyrics for years because that fear kept me from doing it. But this time I didn’t want to let him take control of me anymore. One day this thought popped into my head and stopped me. It was a tremendous realization that I could not ignore. The thought was:

When I am eighty years old and look back on my life, what do I want to remember? That I followed the same path as everyone else or that I followed my heart?

When that thought hit me, it was like a slap on the head. For the first time in my life I understood. I realized that if I continued to live my life in fear of other people’s opinions, I wasn’t really living my own life.

Every human being is here to be unique and to fulfill their own purpose, not just to blindly follow the crowd. I couldn’t live my destiny if I wanted to hide.

Self-acceptance and self-love come from knowing and respecting all parts of myself. It comes from acknowledging my downsides and still putting myself out there regardless of opinions. It comes from pursuing big and scary goals while having fun. Because the absolute truth is: In a year, other people’s opinions will no longer matter. In five minutes they won’t matter anymore.

Now I want you to ask yourself the same question: what do you most want to remember at the end of your life?

About Annie Das

Annie is a life coach and author who inspires millennial women to build confidence and find happiness. You can find her blog at anniedascoaching.com/blog, where she writes weekly articles. Join her community here and get instant access to her free eBook on how to build confidence and attract love.

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