Just Plain Me

By: Erin McGann

Unconditional love is a foreign concept to me. I’m not even sure what it entails. I have trouble understanding why people would love me at the end of the day or even at all. I am so far from perfect, so full of so many problems, why do people feel compelled to love me?

As a result, I run to things I can control: tasks I can complete for people, clubs I can run, events I can organize, academics I can thrive in, sports teams where I have a purpose and a place on the field.

I run to things that prove my value to people. I mistake value for love. I think “If I have no value to them at any point in the day, there’s a chance they won’t be inclined to love me anymore.”

I am so quick to perform acts of service to people so I feel appreciated, and mistake it for love.

I am so quick to run to leadership positions so I can serve people, and mistake their appreciation for love.

I am so quick to overextend myself so that other people’s loads are lighter, and mistake their gratitude for love.

I am so quick to brag on my knowledge, and mistake admiration for love.

I am so quick to be part of a play that scores a goal, and mistake my value in that play for love.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling valued. I don’t think it’s wrong to want to find a place where we benefit others and feel appreciated for the hard work we put in.

There is a problem when that becomes your whole life. When you run from sun up to sun down going to different activities, practices, and conversations with people and can’t be still for one second – all in fear of losing all feeling of being valuable, having worth, being loved.

Recently I went to college where doing a thousand things was impossible. I can hardly commit to three things and succeed, let alone the 16 clubs and activities I did in high school. It’s been hard. I don’t have anything to hide myself in. I can’t advertise myself as anything but myself.

And you know what.

I’m learning slowly, like really slowly, day by day, that myself is good enough.

Being myself isn’t a bad thing. Being “just plain me” doesn’t make me unworthy of love. In fact being “just plain me” is enough to deserve love. I don’t have to be everything for everyone.

I can do anything, but not everything.

People have come to love “just plain me.” I didn’t have to do anything to earn it. And you know what? Those people who love me now even love me when I’m not doing things for them. They still love me when I’m not perfect. They still love me when I’m struggling. And it’s the same. I still love them when they make mistakes. I still love them when they’re struggling. I still love them when they want to be by themselves for a night.

If I gain 10 pounds or lose my muscle definition, those people will still love me and I’ll still love them.

If I fail a test, those people will still love me and I’ll still love them.

If I answer a trivia question wrong during game night, those people will still love me and I’ll still love them.

If I accidentally let a goal in during a field hockey game, those people will still love me and I’ll still love them.

If I say “no” to an opportunity to organize an event for someone, those people will still love me and I’ll still love them.

I am not loved because I have to do things to keep it every day. That’s not what love is. Don’t confuse love with feelings of value or appreciation or admiration because then you’ll never be satisfied. Love does not have to be earned every day. It cannot be lost every day. It’s a constant in this weird, never still, always moving world.

I am not worth loving because of what I do. I am so worth loving simply because I am. On my best days I am me, on my worst days I’m still me. And me is what makes me so worth loving.

Kendall’s Story

When I was 12, someone told me I was hard to love. They told me I was at fault, and I’ve spent more than a decade punishing myself for the damage done at that person’s hands. A survivor of rape, and sexual and physical abuse, disordered eating has long been a coping strategy of mine, and for over 10 years I have fluctuated between severe anorexic and bulimic episodes to manage the impact of those experiences.

It was never about the food for me. It was about what the food distracted me from. It was about the punishment I thought I deserved. It was, and continues to be, something to give physical form to what is actually hurting. But, in saying that, my poor body image and obsession with the number on the scale is very real, and food is something I think about around the clock. Planning my next meal, and simultaneously calculating the subsequent exercise needed to remain in a deficit, or giving in to a binge and purge to escape the discomfort of anxiety; it’s relentless, and exhausting, and quite honestly a vicious cycle that only you can break.

What’s changed for me is that I am now in a place where I can recognize that the same shame and thoughts of being overweight were just as present when I’d starved my body into kidney failure as they are now. I held the same disgust and hatred of my body that I still struggle with today. Because, for me, weight isn’t the issue. Even as it decreases, I feel the same, because the truth to my actions is a pain that is buried deep within my core, and the eating disorder is simply a means of keeping that pain at a distance I can manage.

It takes a lot of effort to love what you want to destroy. To love a body that has been violated or one that has never felt like home. To have compassion for yourself despite the mistakes you’ve made, and under the burden of what you’ve lost in the process. It takes courage, and a willingness to go against all the ways you’ve learnt to live with your pain. It takes forgiveness, of yourself and others. It takes making the decision that you are up for something bigger, the choice to no longer remain in a space that doesn’t serve your evolution.

You have to stand up to that voice telling you that you’re not enough. And I’m writing this as much for myself as I am you, but nothing will change until you realize that you are so worth loving. Regardless of what has been, who you’ve been, how you made it through; you are worthy of love, especially that of your own. For all the years you felt love was lacking, love yourself tenfold. Tell that voice it’s wrong, time and time again. Because it’s your turn to be relentless. Love yourself through this. Choose to experience your body from a place of gratitude rather than criticism, one of love rather than hate. After all these years, you owe that to yourself.