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“Danggg, that woman is beautiful. Almond eyes that don’t even need eyeliner, thick thighs that save lives, a quirky laugh that only makes you laugh more, and oh, wow, don’t get me started on the booty that won’t quit. Wait, what!? Girl’s got a brain and killer since of humor, too? I so wish I was her. Oh, what am I saying? I’m looking in the mirror.”
Have you ever had this conversation with yourself? Was the beginning of that conversation about you, or someone else you thought would be a more beautiful, likable replacement? As humans, we all feel some form of self-doubt, self-consciousness, jealousy, envy, and probably even disappointment in the person we’ve become at some point or another. What we don’t all practice enough is taking the time to learn about ourselves, build trust within ourselves, and overall, love ourselves... especially when it comes to our bodies and all their imperfections. As women, we seem to be the biggest offenders.
The Importance of Self-Love
I have a friend who is gorgeous: Great hourglass shape, killer legs, striking face, natural curls, and curves in ALL the right places. At the beginning of last year, she decided to get liposuction in her stomach and a little bit of her inner thighs. No judgement—we all have some features we wish were different, and it’s one’s own choice to tweak or change to their liking. But after surgery, this friend was still unhappy with her body. Still feeling unattractive, and sometimes feeling worse about the way she looked than before. I remember hearing at least once a week how she was embarrassed to wear a bikini in public, that I should be happy I look the way I do, and to wait until I have kids and see how it will destroy my body. So, not even six months later, she decided to get a tummy tuck from a different surgeon to “fix” what the previous had not.
What this friend of mine never accepted was the most important key: If you constantly beat yourself up and attempt to change your body before you learn to love yourself and your flaws, you’ll probably never be satisfied with the changes. Your opinion and value of yourself is the only one that truly matters... if you let it be. We live in a world where you will always be judged—by your looks, talent (or lack thereof), scent, personality, job, education, and what is being made more obvious every day: Your skin color, ethnicity, sexuality, and/or gender. You simply can’t rely on others to love you first.
The Battle Against Yourself and Society
Social media and the internet as a whole certainly have their benefits, but promoting self-love doesn’t seem to be one of them. When I was a kid, I got dressed by myself every morning before school. In the approximately 30 minutes it took to get dressed and walk to the bus stop, the only person that could judge me was me. My brothers were already off to school and my mom was usually trying to get as much sleep as she could in between her two jobs.
Today when kids or adults are getting ready for their day, they could be seen by hundreds of criticizing eyes before even stepping outside. With a smartphone in every hand, social media apps galore, and some kind of hypnotic obligation, we’re snapping and tweeting and posting in every waking hour. We’re so busy waiting for the next like, follow, or retweet to confirm another's approval of ourselves, we stop taking the time to self-appreciate. And without taking that time to smile at yourself in the mirror—without taking a selfie or starting an Instagram live feed—or giving yourself that “damn, girl, you cute” before you leave, you open the door to allowing others to bend and break that image of yourself. You allow other opinions of you to become bigger and more relevant than your own. You allow your self-perspective to be blurred by the pitiful trolls of the world, giving them power every time you acknowledge their comments.
Think about that for a minute. Say it out loud: “I give others more power over my self-perception than I give myself.” You may be shaking your head or giving this article the finger while you click on to the next attention-grabber. But it’s the truth—and not just for you, but for most of us. We’ve grown to needing a filter over every picture to like it. We’ve adapted to frowning at our own pictures while liking and favoriting someone else’s. We’ve been tricked into thinking it’s "conceded" or "arrogant" to openly call yourself beautiful or strut with pride and confidence down the street. We’ve turned on ourselves.
The Trick to Loving Yourself
In all honesty, there is no trick. It takes some serious effort to put down the phone, ignore the likes, shares, and comments, (and stares, remarks, and stank faces) and make it a point to give yourself that love and attention. What takes even more strong will and practice is letting that opinion—YOUR opinion—be enough. It’s so easy to fall back into the trap of disliking yourself when you notice you’ve gained a few extra pounds, your clothes don’t fit the same, you feel like you receive less compliments or flirting from strangers than you used to, or maybe, you’re just in a funk. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or another mental illness, that burdening trap may feel like a sinkhole the size of Texas.
I’m guilty of scrolling through Instagram, or lately LinkedIn, and comparing myself to other’s success. I’m frequently peeling away at all of the hard work I’ve done to love myself by thinking things like, “Wow, they used to cheat off of me in school and now they’re making double my salary,” or the worst, naïve thought to have, “They look so happy and successful… I’m not that happy.” Those thoughts will EAT YOU ALIVE if you let them. Losing your friends and finding yourself mostly alone can be a real kick in the rear, too, making you feel like something must be wrong with you. But, sometimes, being alone is exactly what you need to pull back the curtain and truly see yourself. And in the end, learn to truly know yourself, love yourself, and become the person you want to be.
Let’s all take a page from the book of Lillian Bustle. In her Jersey City TED Talk, she explains the importance of not being afraid of describing yourself as you are:
“I’m 5 foot 3, so I call myself short. I’m married, so I call myself a wife. I weigh 240 pounds, so I call myself fat. And I am beautiful, so I call myself beautiful. And I am all of those things at once.”
As much as we compare ourselves to others and believe we should be someone we’re not, we are who we are. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. So look deep into yourself. Hash out everything about yourself—your likes, your flaws, your fantasies, your disappointments and regrets, your happiness, your freaky side, and your assets—and learn to accept it all. Better yet, learn to own and love it all. And in the words of my sweet, but blunt, mother, "f-ck ‘em and do you!"