Today I want to talk about self-love.
I haven’t been feeling very confident in myself lately. Whenever people Snapchat me, I take a picture of what I’m looking at instead of taking a selfie (otherwise it takes me far too long to find an angle that doesn’t make me feel horrible about myself). I have entirely too many days where I change two dozen times before I finally settle on wearing something that I still don’t feel entirely confident in. And it’s totally ridiculous that I should feel this way. I’m beautiful. I know that — to an extent. But sometimes it’s just so easy to fall back into my old habits.
I’ve always been ahead of the curve for my age, size-wise. No big deal. Always had a little bit of extra pudge too — nothing that I minded, until I started comparing myself to others. And once I did, I found that I fell short of beautiful. I wasn’t skinny enough or pretty enough. When I was eight years old, I drew a picture of two stick figures, labeled “before” and “after.” The “before” stick figure had a circle for a torso, while the “after” stick figure was just a normal one. I showed the picture to my dad and told him that I wanted to lose 40 pounds. He was quick to assure me that I didn’t need to lose that much weight, but that if I did want to lose weight, then I should exercise more.
Later that year, I was reading a book that (for some reason) mentioned liposuction. Somehow I got it in my head that this was a procedure that I needed. As a child (and, admittedly, now) my room was on the messy side, and every so often my parents would help me clean it — basically meaning they’d just get fed up enough to do it for me. To me, liposuction was the same sort of thing. Sure, I could lose weight naturally, but it’s so much easier to keep a clean room clean than it is to get it clean in the first place. I don’t think I ever brought up wanting liposuction to my parents (the girl in the book I read had not been allowed to have the procedure until she was 14), but it was something I thought about often.
In middle school, things got a lot worse. I was actually bullied outright for being fat. One incident stands out from the others. We were in class watching a video and another girl asked if she could put her feet up on my chair. I told her she could, then went back to watching the movie. A few minutes later, she nudged the side of my stomach with her foot. I ignored it, but then she kept doing it, and she and her friend started laughing and whispering. I can’t remember all of the details now, but I think I started crying — at one point I was leaving the classroom, and I knocked over a bin of colored pencils, which made the whole experience that much more embarrassing. The teacher made them apologize to me, but you can imagine how sincere they actually were. Now, at my school, we were divided up into “teams” of students based on grade and academic ability. Our team had five teachers and probably around 60-80 students. By the end of the day, almost all of them had heard what had happened–it was mortifying. I heard someone recounting that “I had a huge bag of fat hanging out.” I’m pretty sure I faked sick to get out of school for a few days after that.
In middle school, I was also very self-conscious about my height. I’ve always been on the tall side — I’m 5’10 — and while this doesn’t really bother me too much now, I used to hate being so tall. I especially hated being taller than boys, partially because they didn’t like that I was taller than them. I used to slouch and stand with my feet more than shoulder width apart so that I could seem shorter than I was. I don’t think I was ever bullied outright for how tall I was, but it certainly made me insecure, and I was glad when I got to high school and found that I was no longer abnormally tall in comparison to the other students.
In high school, I was so obsessed with my weight that I developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I wouldn’t eat more than a few bites at meals, and I would binge eat snacks late at night when I was too hungry to stand it. I would set completely unrealistic goals for how much I wanted to weigh, saying that I wanted to weigh 100 pounds. Let me put this into perspective by saying that Taylor Swift is also 5’10, and (according to Google) she weighs 133 pounds. I found an Ana buddy online — basically someone to hold me accountable to do whatever possible to reach my goal. I eventually stopped doing this, mainly because it wasn’t really working and I kind of outgrew it once I started dual enrolling, but it threw my eating habits off and they’re still messed up. Granted, I am in college, but still.
Being at Brenau and in Tri Delta has helped me gain confidence tenfold. When I joined Tri Delta, I was introduced to the Body Image 3D program. Body Image 3D promotes self-love by stressing the importance of prioritizing the health of your mind, body and spirit. It’s one of my favorite parts about Tri Delta because the manifesto stresses that my healthy might look different from yours, and that’s totally OK. It is important to not compare yourself to anyone, but to do what it takes to keep yourself happy.
I read Amy Poehler’s book “Yes Please,” and she has a motto that I have worked to adopt: Good for her, not for me. Basically, this means that you recognize that just because someone else approaches life one way, it doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. If it’s not hurting anyone, it doesn’t matter. Why do I care if so-and-so dyed their armpit hair green? Good for her, not for me. I wouldn’t do it, but her decision doesn’t impact me or my self-worth in any way. In the same way, just because someone else judges me for my decisions, doesn’t mean I am wrong for making them. I like to wear heels occasionally. Sure, a lot of girls my height wouldn’t be caught dead in heels, but that doesn’t make me look any less bomb when I wear them (though I’ll admit that I can’t walk in them for a prolonged period of time). Those are just a few examples.
Once I applied and was accepted as a Body Image Ambassador, I learned so much more. I learned that my self-worth is not determined by how many likes my selfie gets (although I won’t lie–I do sometimes get a little obsessive about numbers). I learned that I do not have to let my inner critic (that little voice at the back of my head that tells me I really need my eyebrows done) get the best of me. I learned that other people’s pre-judgments of me say a lot more about them than they do about me. And I learned that even though I am an advocate for self-love, I am still going to have hard days where I don’t really love myself very much at all, and that’s okay. This too shall pass. Self-love is not typically just as easy as deciding to love yourself. It’s a process, one that I expect may never end. At the end of the day, what matters is that you tried.
So I try. I try to be mindful of how I speak about myself, because negative self talk is a cycle and a web. I try not to prejudge others, because sometimes I catch myself falling back into a rhetoric where I pinpoint others’ perceived flaws in an attempt to put my own insecurities to rest. I try to actively love myself, even on the days when I don’t want to. And because of this, my confidence grows each day.
I hope that yours does, too.
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As seen here on Odyssey