I used to imagine myself living as a black silhouette against a vast blue backdrop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of blue you’d see in the sky. It was sad and dull and was a color that would come in a paint can labeled ‘Melancholy Blue’, which I voluntarily let someone spill all over my walls. Every inch of the space around me engulfed me in the blues of my worries and anxieties.
Sometime later, I started to paint my walls in black. To me, a black backdrop felt like the greatest idea because it would camouflage my fears, my flaws, and my failures into an expanse of nothingness. And honestly, it did a great job at hiding them.
The countless layers of black paint that I vowed to surround myself with helped the mistake-making human being that I was, quite a lot. I have flaws ranging from A to Z—a list long enough that I could write a poem about them all while drinking some alphabet soup. I could write endless aisles of books about my flaws, with, of course, a section of horribly written ones about my constant struggle with writer’s block. I painted black over everything around me as I began the monologue of how I’ve got a long list of extraordinary imperfections. “I am afraid of a lot of things. I always try my best to be brave, but the constant reminders that I have to give myself to be brave just come back to me as a note of how fear always seems to win in my head. I am anxious about human interaction and socializing because I think I’ll mess up, and lose my chance at a lifetime of happiness. At this point, I should also mention that my love for jumping to conclusions is the lead singer of the band in my head called ‘I Have Flaws’. And so, goes on their latest melancholy tune. I overthink and endlessly over analyze, which also leaves me a lifetime supply of indecisiveness. My to-do lists are endless, always taking on too much. Impossibility and impracticality seem to disappear from my lexicon when I plan what I have to do each day, and I think it’s a perfectly good idea to do everything at once. I don’t have a defined sense of fashion which makes it seem like everyone I lay my eyes on is the most beautiful person on earth. This also make me feel like a potato whenever I look into the mirror. I am scared of public speaking because it takes me less than a moment to forget everything I had rehearsed, sending my brain into a downward spiral of nervousness and panic. My extreme introversion sometimes makes me feel like I’m missing out on living the life of a college student, and doing rebellious things that would leave me with photographs that I could post with hashtags YOLO. Oh, and before I forget, I am very forgetful and have a hard time remembering everything from my scary lecture notes, and the even scarier birthdates of loved ones.”
Not even half done with listing everything that I thought was wrong with me, I realized that I was finished with all the painting already. I was now surrounded by a totally dark backdrop which would keep everyone oblivious to my flaws and everything wrong with me. However, taking a step back, it dawned on me that in an attempt at hiding my flaws from the world, I had blended myself into my insecurities, making myself and my identity invisible to the world.
In the middle of a sudden surge of panic of how my plan had backfired, I remembered the one and only flaw I had that was strangely more self-reflective than self-destructive. It was just one but I believed it was truly powerful. This flaw of mine was how I always wished to stay on familiar, comfortable grounds where I felt most powerful, capable and sure of myself. To my surprise, I felt most comfortable when I was with myself. Now, it seemed a little odd to me that if I enjoyed being with myself so much, I could possibly enjoy being myself too. This little ray of hope that I had, suddenly illuminated my way out of the pitch darkness. I went out into the world, found myself some white color instead, and painted it over every bit of the darkness in my past. It was a revelation to me how free my mind felt in this new white space, that seemed infinite, and was truly accepting of every one of my shortcomings and proud of my little victories. It was an open canvas just for me to paint in rainbow colors of accepting my flaws. This discovery reminded me that self-love wasn’t just black or white. Self-love was a spectrum of hardships, failing, falling, feeling strongly about giving up, just before turning everything around, and coming back stronger and braver than ever before. I doodled on a little orange Band-Aid of healing, and happy green leaves of growing right next to the colorful rainbow to remind myself that when I was not growing, I was healing, and that maybe growing and healing were the same thing in a beautiful way.
Effortlessly, a few shades of colors taught me to reinvent how I thought of happiness. I now knew that I should never feel like I am entitled to being sad. Neither should I try to hopelessly hide all my flaws or let them define me. I learned to accept my flaws, to open myself up to taking on challenges, and to be kind to myself. All thanks to a little bit of paint and self-love.