Overexposed: A Self-Love Project.

Staying True To Yourself in a Transitional Phase.

I remember my temporary therapist asking me to describe myself in the weeks after ending a relationship in my life that made up my identity for the last decade. Well… uhm, I’m a writer. I graduated with my Master’s last year, and… uhm…

Who the hell was I? Was I only a person in other people’s shadows?

I was entering a new environment of people at a job that I got a couple of weeks ago. If I couldn’t even explain to my therapist who the hell I was, then how was I supposed to introduce myself to a group of people at my new job? Now that I reflect back on the time, did I ever truly introduce myself to my coworkers at the bookstore when I first started working there? I love to believe that I eventually was able to introduce myself properly, later on, during the time when I spent so much time on my own that I was finally existing as a standalone person, not just a shadow of someone else.

I was Liz. I was 26 years old and I just started my weight loss surgery journey. I had just gone on my first solo event to a K-pop concert; oh yeah, I was a big fan of K-pop and listened to all the 3rd-gen groups and started to introduce myself to 4th-gen idol groups. I was a K-pop collector; I bought and traded photocards to complete a collection. I was “SikLiz” in a community where people instantly knew my favorite K-pop idol was named Seungsik, and the group I loved the most was Victon. I followed new releases like I was 10 years old again listening to the Top 40 hits of the current week. I was Liz; a person who finally found a sense of identity on my own time.

When my therapist asked me to describe myself the other day during our session, I had to take a moment to think of an answer. Well, I work as a college assistant at my old college, I write fictional stories on my blog, I also write pen pal letters to those in the community, and I’m a K-pop fan. I also, uhm…

Who the hell am I?

Hi, my name is Liz, and I’m back in my “transitional” era. Phase.

When I talk about a transitional phase, I mean I’m in a space where I’m a little uncertain about who I am. A lot in my life has changed since I last had to ask myself who I was and what defines me as, well, me. It was a lot easier to define myself when I felt like I belonged in a community. I’m no stranger to being a part of a small community of people who shared the same interests and hobbies that also (in a way) defined them. I was a part of the community that lived solely on Twitter for The Killing, a true-crime drama that aired on television from 2011 – 2014. That community came together to fight for another season after the show got canceled after Season 3, in which a couple of months later Netflix picked up the show and gave fans a fourth and final season, closing (and answering) any lingering questions about the overall story and the characters involved. In 2020, I entered a community where I was able to connect with people that shared the same interest in Kpop and its collection aspect of it. Shortly after, I was introduced to the pen pal community, which not only gave me a creative outlet for crafting, but it allowed me to talk to new people in a low-stakes matter in ways I wouldn’t normally if done in person.

I don’t very much feel like I belong in any community right now. It doesn’t bother me that I feel that way but it has made me realize that for me, a huge element of identity comes from feeling like I fit in or belong to a community with an already established identity.

The problem with that is that being a part of a community is a temporary moment in life. You find the community when you’re interested in a particular thing, but it’s normal to leave it once you’re not interested in that particular thing anymore. Our interests and hobbies are constantly changing, and I’m realizing that I’ve allowed these communities to create this identity for me; I solely didn’t exist outside of these communities, so it’s been hard for me to stay true to myself as I transition out of these communities and discover my identity without any influence or belief that external things identify me.

I’m still trying to figure things out and I know that even this phase of my life will most likely change in the future as I get older. The thing about transitional phases is that they are constantly happening. You graduate college and have to figure out who you are outside of being a student after being one for the first 22 years of your life. You turn 26 and realize you are now closer to 30 than 20 and have to figure out what career path you desire to follow, where you want to take your social and romantic relationships, and pretty much have to decide where you want to be by the time you hit the next major milestone in your life. A lot of being in a transitional phase means that you start realizing the things that make up your identity are the intangible things; the things that you’re interested in and your hobbies are just the “DLC” to your identity.

So, hi! My name is Elizabeth, but I prefer to be called Liz because I feel like I identify as “Liz” more than my actual first name. I am experimental, but only because I now have the confidence to try things I was too afraid to try in the past. I am festive and colorful; my style is influenced by colors and patterns that were popular in the late 90s and early 2000s. My style has also been influenced by K-pop fashion, as I am a very avid K-pop listener and casual K-Pop collector. So yes, you will see me rocking platform Converse sneakers because every K-pop idol in every group has had them on at one point in their careers and I love them.

I very much embody self-love, even if people tend to see it as me being selfish. I am selfish, but I am selfish with myself. I am an empath, yet an assertive person; I listen and put myself in other people’s shoes in situations that I may not understand at first, but I will be honest and open about things if I feel like I am being talked down at or if I am not getting the same level of respect I give to people. I am loyal to my morals and beliefs, but I do not judge anyone else for contradicting ones to my own. I have social anxiety, but not the kind that is afraid of people or social gatherings; it’s the social anxiety of specific social situations like fearing what other people think of me because of my lack of social skills and how I come across when interacting with people. I also will say that a part of my social anxiety is that I avoid a lot of social situations due to my fear of confrontation and for the worst-case scenarios to happen.

On a lighter note, I am a writer. I feel like my words are the most coherent and impactful when they are written down in the form of a short poem on my phone, a blog post exposing myself in ways that I wouldn’t verbalize, in letters to pen pals, and in the form of original characters that have been created in my imagination. When everything else in my life has changed, writing has always been something that was an interest and hobby that was solely mine. I studied creative writing and writing studies when I was in school and became a first-time published scholar two years ago when I wrote an academic article about the importance of expressive writing in college classrooms.

I am self-aware, and I am constantly finding ways to better my mental and physical health as I realize by doing so, self-love and self-confidence begin to come to play. I realize that I do very much like the person I am, and I’m only trying to live my life as contact as possible because I know just how fast time flies as I get older. I am not perfect, and I know that I am still very much flawed and that I don’t make the best decisions because of those flaws. I’m growing and accepting the path of life I am currently on, and I am always wanting to learn whether it’s a new interest developing, going through a life lesson, or if it’s something that I never really knew about myself.

As long as I remember the things that truly make up me as a person, any transitional phase of life I’ll go through will be okay; it’s just another sequel of the book series waiting to be written.

I am currently writing it.

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