Learning How to Love Myself

Needy. Selfish. Self-centered. Demanding. Attention whore.

These are all words I have used to describe myself—most of them multiple times in the last week alone. Sometimes it’s with more than a little guilt. Sometimes it’s coming from deep in the pit of self-loathing. Often, it’s said with a laugh or in an attempt at self-deprecating humor.

But somewhere along the way, it stopped being funny.

Somewhere along the way, those words became how I defined myself—above other words like passionate or friendly or warm or kind or good.

I take more than I give. I ask for too much. I need too much.

I am too much.

That’s a common refrain for me when I feel myself wanting to ask for help on a bad day, when I feel the gnawing emptiness in my chest that says I’m having a hard time and could use some love, and even when someone who loves me shows me they do and the guilt settles in because I’m not supposed to need that. I’m supposed to be stronger than that.

I’m supposed to love myself enough that I don’t need to ask other people to help me with that.

I’m supposed to get enough satisfaction out of showing other people that I love them that I’m not supposed to need other people to show me they love me too.

But I do need it.

And I need it in different ways than most people I know.

I’m an extrovert who loves words and hugs—whose primary love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. And I am surrounded by a beautiful group of introverts whose primary love language is typically acts of service—and who are very good at never asking for anything in return.

I have spent a long time wishing I was more like them. I know that the ways I most clearly and confidently show love and feel loved are things that make a lot of people uncomfortable to even think about. Not everyone likes cuddles. A lot of people get shy when it comes to compliments. So I have told myself that I should never ask for these things from other people—because that’s the selfless thing to do. But most of the time, I fail. I fish for compliments or ask for reassurance or hug whoever will give me even the tiniest glimpse of not hating the physical contact.

And then the guilt sinks in. And then the words come.

Needy. Selfish. Self-centered. Demanding. Attention whore.

They’re words I would never think about saying to someone I care about if they asked me to do something for them or to spend time with them or if they told me they were feeling bad and needed a little love in any of the ways they believe it most assuredly.

Other people deserve to have their needs met—and to not feel ashamed or afraid or guilty for asking that they be met sometimes in a way that makes them feel happiest. That’s something I believe with every piece of me.

But why is it so hard for me to believe that about myself?

I’ll let the boys of BTS explain it:

Loving myself might be harder
Than loving someone else
Let’s admit it
The standards you made are more strict for yourself…

The first time I saw the lyrics to “Answer: Love Myself,” those were the ones that immediately jumped out at me because they’re so painfully true. Loving other people has always felt easy to me. But loving myself has always been a struggle.

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Right in the Feels: “Magic Shop” by BTS

Sometimes a song is more than a song.

Sometimes a song reminds you of who you are and what you can be. Sometimes a song holds your hand and gently brings you out of the darkness and into the light. Sometimes a song gives you the words you’ve been searching your whole life to find to help you make sense of all the things you want and need and hope for.

Sometimes a song saves you.

Sometimes a song helps you save yourself.

I spent a really long part of this last year hating myself.

I didn’t want to admit it then, but I was depressed—in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever really experienced before. I had days when I just laid in bed and thought the absolute worst, meanest things about myself; days when I looked in the mirror and couldn’t find one good thing about the person looking back; days when I would cry for hours and then frantically push the heels of my hands against my eyes until they hurt when I heard the door click and knew someone was coming home and would see me because I didn’t want them to see how bad it was.

It was bad. I felt bad. And I felt so guilty for feeling so bad. Because I had my job, my health, a healthy family that I got to see every day. Compared to so many, I was so lucky.

And that just made me hate myself even more.

I focused a lot of that self-loathing on two things: my extroverted personality and my writing. Those were two things that I used to cherish—they were two things that I’d always believed made me special. But depression takes your view of yourself and distorts it like a funhouse mirror. It takes the stuff that makes you special and convinces you that it actually just makes you weird and hard to love. It makes you focus on the things people said 10 years ago about you being “exhausting” to be around or that gift you gave when someone was sad being “too much” or your writing having “no real point.” It brings out the worst in you—in my case, that’s my perfectionism, my belief that if people don’t say I’m the best at something, then I shouldn’t be doing it at all. Because what’s the point?

To the very few people I shared my struggles with, I described it as feeling like the good things about me had atrophied during the pandemic. I felt so guilty for feeling so bad that once the dark days of winter settled in, I’d stopped feeling much of anything. And for someone whose entire personality is based on feeling things deeply and strongly, that was the worst part of it all.

I was afraid I was never going to be really happy again. That I was never going to be me again.

Then, I saw a Korean boy band perform on the Grammys.

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You Got Me, I Got You: Nine Years of NGN

Today, Nerdy Girl Notes turns nine years old.

Nine years. Almost a decade.

So much has changed in those nine years—the kind of writing I do here, the number of posts I write, and the version of me who’s writing those posts.

But today, I’m not really thinking about what’s changed.

I’m thinking about what hasn’t.

And that’s you—my friends, my fellow fangirls (and fanboys), my NGN Family.

No matter how long I go between posts, no matter what crazy new obsession I try to drag all of you into, no matter how much I overshare, you’re still here.

And this year, more than any other, that knowledge saved me.

I have made no secret of the fact that this year has been one of the hardest—if not the hardest—years of my life. And for a long part of it, I actively stayed away from NGN, despite the extra time I had and the fandoms I could have written about. I stayed away because I was afraid that I would come back to this place and it wouldn’t feel the same. I was afraid that this would become just another online space where I was screaming into the void. I was afraid that this little corner of the internet that had been my most fulfilling source of connection for so many years wouldn’t be that anymore at a time when I needed connection more than I’d ever needed it before.

I was so afraid.

But then I did something that’s really hard for me to do when I’m scared—I stopped running away. I wrote one thing and then another (and another…). I opened my eyes after keeping them shut for so long because I was afraid that I’d see that even this—my safe space for the last nine years—had changed in a year that felt like it had changed everything else.

But when I opened my eyes, there you were.

And I knew—even though things still felt bad and I was still scared and every post was an exercise in trusting that I wasn’t going to chase all of you away with my vulnerability and obvious clinginess—I knew things were going to be OK.

Because I have you.

Because I came home.

Home means different things to different people, but to me, home has always meant safety.

That’s what NGN has become for me over the last nine years. It’s the place where I feel safe enough to be myself, to share hard things, and to trust that I’m not alone in whatever I’m feeling.

And that’s what I hope it is for you too.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week: BTS, The GRAMMYs, and That Fangirl Feeling

Every fangirl knows that feeling.

You’re watching a TV show and two characters share a look, and you know they’re going to be the next fictional couple to keep you up at night writing fanfic in your head. You’re scrolling through Tumblr, and you see a GIF of an actor, and you know that you’re going to be looking up their entire filmography on IMDb. You’re watching a movie trailer, and you know this is going to be the only movie you want to talk about for the next 6 months.

You’re watching a band perform at the GRAMMYs, and you know that you’re going to be headed down a YouTube rabbit hole of every version of that song and every staging of that choreography.

Before Sunday night, it had been a long time since I’d felt that feeling. It’s that little spark in your fangirl soul that a lifetime of bouncing from one obsession to another tells you is going to grow into a fire that’s bright and warm and all-consuming. And I’d started to genuinely worry that I’d lost the ability to feel that spark—that this year had taken away the part of me that can throw herself into a new fandom with reckless abandon, happy tears, and lots of capslock.

I feel the most like me when I’m deep in that feeling (and usually when I’m dragging other people into it with me—or enabling the ones already there), and without it, I didn’t feel like me anymore.

Who knew all it would take to bring back the best version of me was 7 guys from Korea dancing on top of a building in snazzy suits?

Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m obsessed with BTS.

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