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Updated: Dec 4, 2019

A photo series discussing generational traditions and setbacks experienced on the path of a young person navigating adulthood. Realizing traumas passed on and recovering from the mistakes of a conditioned mind.

003: Jeremy

Were you taught to self-love? How do you feel this has affected coming into your own as an adult?

“Self-love had to be self taught for me. In a hyper religious household of 9, homosexuality was viewed as something we had to fight against and suppress in order to be our best self. My parents couldn’t go a night without fighting, finances were a struggle, and there always was something I was getting yelled at for. At 14, after a couple failed suicide attempts and self-harm, I was diagnosed with depression and ADHD, and was immediately given antidepressants and stimulants as a treatment, along with therapy twice a week. The antidepressants alleviated the symptoms slightly but the same issues were there, and a darkness hung over me for the years to come until I left home. Around the age of 16 I began escaping  my reality with drugs and alcohol, but upon leaving home, I felt the ability to walk, talk, and express myself in a way that felt natural to me for the first time. Through this, I grew to learn who I really was and no longer lived in fear. I grew to know and love myself only by being myself.“

Do you feel like your cultural upbringing in America hindered your ability to feel confidence?

”Growing up really took its toll on my confidence. As a young boy, all I wanted to do was paint my nails, color, dress-up, and play with dolls. I’d get yelled at and ostracized by my family for the way I expressed myself. I broke out my first pair of skinny jeans at 15 and was laughed at by my family. I felt terribly alone and misunderstood; like I wasn’t allowed to be happy. After years of urging, I was finally allowed to go to public school my junior year of high school, after being homeschooled and secluded on 18 acres prior. To my dismay, I felt like I didn’t fit in there, either. I was made fun of for the way I walked, talked, and dressed. Not until I entered the real world did I begin to see my value and worth and begin to gain some sort of confidence. So I guess I wasn’t able to accept myself until I felt I was accepted by those around me. I tried on difference masks and personalities, and turns out all I needed to be was myself.”

How has the expectation of growing up in a religious household affected how you interact with love interest?

“No sex before marriage! That’s how I was raised. I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 18 and had the intent of marrying and “courting” a woman. Homosexuality wasn’t allowed. My parents still will fast forward sex scenes, so things of this nature were unspeakable. There was such an air of fear around the topic. When I got older, my mother opened up to me about her sexual abuse and I think that was part of the reason she pretended it wasn’t a thing. I wasn’t able to truly let anyone in my life and see the whole me in any relationship, especially the intimate ones. I was too fearful. I was so used to hiding from my family I didn’t know how to be open. Once I came out, a lot of my fears of emotional and physical intimacy fell away, but I still have to consciously work on being honest and genuine to those I know have my best interest.“

Do you feel like past mistakes have any influence on some insecurities you may feel today? How did you recover from them?

“My household growing up was hypercritical and super judgemental. When we were reprimanded it wasn’t out of love, it was out of anger and frustration. That really impacted me as as child because all I wanted to do was make my parents happy. I feel like a big part of growing up and becoming an adult is unwinding the damage and neurotic programming done to us as children. We all have some trauma to deal with, but the best of us pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and live our lives. My self-talk was terrible and I’d call myself an idiot in my head. Today, I try to make something positive out of the negative, and in this instance, using my mistakes drives me to be better. I look less for recognition and instead focus on doing the best I can for myself. Even if I mess up I try not to beat myself up (which is usually my subconscious reaction to mistakes), and instead dwell on what I can do better next time. At a certain point, I was tired of feeling inadequate and beneath everyone. At some point I stopped pitying myself and realized people have gotten through a lot worse by simply believing they could.”

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