“…At the moment, I am currently struggling to balance my life and everything that is going on around me and personally as well. I feel that every day brings a new challenge (whether that be with mean girls, depression or just life in general) and I am really battling to get back to being myself during these times. I am going into the big wide world next year and am incredibly scared because I have no idea what it will entail. I was wondering if you have any advice on how to stay true to yourself even though it feels like you're lost in a busy world of future plans and current struggles?”
Today on the blog, I want to talk about growing pains. It feels like becoming an adult has been one of the harder transitions in my life, a pain made much worse because I spent many years running from myself. Growing up is usually a gradual process, one where you learn to navigate the world as needed, and typically leave the safety of your parent’s nest and hometown slowly. Being thrown into the modeling world at 14 meant that I did not get a gradual growth process. I was alone, in an adult and alien world. I subsequently developed the ability to check out at an age where it is integral to learn to check in, and stand your ground. It took me until my mid twenties to face my past, and endure the dismantling that therapy requires. So the above passage in an email really caught my heart when I read it.
It feels like only yesterday that I was headed into the big wide world on my own for the first time. I graduated high school when I was 16, and was on a plane, moving to New York a month after that. Growing up I always felt like I was on the outside looking in – like everyone else on the planet had a guidebook on how to be a human except for me. Working as a model just cemented the belief that I was in fact, completely different, from the fashionable people around me, and from everyone I pass in the street. The other models seemed to have their finger on the pulse. Their beauty was effortless, and their social graces easy. They didn’t seem to be plagued by anxiety over what to do with their hands, or whether their voices were the right volume, or whether they had a right to be doing this shoot.
I was very disassociated in the early days of my modeling career. It often felt like I was watching myself be a human, I was so stressed. And so I learned to distance myself from the pain, by delving into starvation, and seeking refuge in alcohol and anti-anxiety medication.
Every day that passed felt harder than the next. I was either numb and empty, or filled with terror over what people around me expected from me. I had no idea who I was, what I was or what I wanted. Whilst I would be granted temporary refuge from the pain through my bad habits, the comedown was always awful. Truthfully, the best advice I can give to Bridget from those days, would be to stop running.
And so I feel this is the best way to assimilate growing pains. Life transitions can stir up a huge amount of energy that needs to be dealt with. If you run, and push this energy down, it will grow fangs and come at you in a much harder way. It will force you to pay attention to the parts of you that you would rather keep hidden.
So begin this process now. I always recommend speaking to a therapist – someone who can help guide you through. The amount I have learned from the therapeutic relationship has been quite literally life changing. If they recommend you to get on an antidepressant, then try it out. I get quite angry at the stigma around medication. I am on an SSRI, and it has given me the space to begin to combat my fear. It has not taken anything away from me, except that I can see the forest for the trees when those old damaged parts of me begin to hurt. They get me out of bed, and through the door of my therapists office. Which is the beginning of recovery.
I have found that with the confidence that self-awareness brings, comes action that builds a sense of self, along with the development of self-esteem. For every person this will look different, but speaking personally, there are a few things I do regularly that bring me back to my ground. Every day I try to meditate, which is key to separating myself from my fears. Next I try to exercise, to quiet my mind and body and to give me a nice endorphin rush.
But by far, the most important is an attitude of service. To me, this means that I am aiming to improve the lives of others who may need it. This does not come at a cost to my own health, but as a way to see myself as an integral part of doing better. It feels really wonderful to be in a stressful situation, and choose to act in a way that helps rather than hinders. I take this attitude onto sets, into my relationships, and into my work outside modeling. I of course mess up regularly. I am a human being with an ego. But mess ups are a great learning experience, they give you a nice little insight to the parts of you that need a little more attention.
Doing the above pulls you out of future tripping and into the present. Night will follow day. There’s not a lot to be done about it – all that we can focus on is how we react in this situation. Will we be a part of the solution, or will we just cause more trouble? I am a master future tripper – it is the leading cause of my anxiety attacks. But I am improving. I am learning to pull myself back to the present through meditation, exercise, therapy and service.
Finally, I am so sorry you are dealing with mean girls. I am beyond grateful to say that I was never bullied in high school, I had a lovely year group of girls and remain very close to them all. However, mean girls do exist beyond high school. I have had to learn how to deal with people and situations that are triggering my instinctual reflex. My knee jerk reaction is to distance and disengage. Which can be a very helpful reaction – if a bit self defeating and petulant. I would recommend you do disengage from girls who are bullying you though. Are there any other groups you can be friends with, thereby taking you out of the line of fire? Use your self reflection practice to figure out all possible courses of actions, and then choose the one that protects you the most.
In my experience, the people who cause the most pain are typically the most insecure and afraid. This in no way gives them the right to abuse you – but it does give you the chance to understand them, and to rewrite your own narrative and their role in it.
The only thing you can do in every second is exist in it. Future/past tripping, and running from the present are easy to do, and can be very seductive. But learning to square up, face the moment and choose the behavior that best reflects your moral code, is the biggest favor you can do to yourself.
From this behavior, I have found a Bridget who has evolved into someone I know and like most of the time. And when I begin to act in a way I do not like or understand, I know I have the tools to check in and edit my course.
I hope this helps – thank you for writing in!