All my life, it’s been drummed into my head that I’m talented. I write good stories, create beautiful music, and get decent grades. The older I got, the more I attached myself to my big web of achievements. Chorus concerts, piano recitals, creative writing awards–I performed, received praise, and shone with self-assurance. My talents were the building blocks of my very existence. But at the beginning of freshman year, all those things stopped being enough. I became an irrational perfectionist. It was my personal goal to get 100 percent on everything I did. Whenever I failed–which, in my own eyes, I did constantly–I felt completely worthless. I’d built an entire identity on actions and performance. Whenever my talents “fell short,” those building blocks of existence began to crumble. I was losing myself.
Sometime in the middle of this season of harsh, self-criticism, I had a conversation with a few people about feeling useless. They all became very sad when they heard how I felt about myself. “Abigail, you make the best art! Abigail, you write such wonderful poetry!” I was flattered, but what really cut to my core was this one, simple sentence:
“Abigail, you’re loved not just for what you do–but for who you are.”
Several miserable months later, I finally began to appreciate myself for what makes me Abigail. I’m kind, sensitive, and goodhearted. I realized that in this world, there’s so much value placed on actions. You make. You get. You do. You create. The focus is on what is put out rather than what lies within, so too many identities are constructed solely of talents and achievements, with self-esteems about as sturdy as a house of cards. But we are–you are–so much more than a report card or a trophy, so much deeper than a list of goals and successes. You are beautiful simply on your own.