By Isabelle Walker
A common observation in late teenagers and younger, is that they have a hard time loving themselves. Certainly, if they're like me, they give out much love to others, but can barely give themselves the time of day. Social media and our current society make it really hard for us to look in the mirror without pointing out flaws. People sometimes find themselves acting in a certain way because that's the only way you think you will be accepted; if you don’t look, talk, and act a certain way then you’re considered unattractive and weird.
Although I have always hated this way of thinking, I used to scrutinize every detail of my outward persona because I was afraid of what people might think of me. I started comparing myself to others and wanting to change myself to potentially fit in better. Throughout high school, I wouldn’t talk to anyone because I thought they’d judge me and wouldn't accept me for who I was. I thought that the friends I made wouldn’t like me if they knew the real me. Nonetheless, I would help everyone with their problems, whether they had had a bad day, if they were going through a break up, or if they just needed to get something off their chest. I was there for them but I would never let anyone be there for me. I told myself that my problems aren’t as bad as theirs; I felt like I didn’t need to saddle anyone else with my issues. I told myself that I could deal with it on my own, and never went to anyone for help. This soon became a standard in my life, because I didn’t accept myself for who I was, and because I didn’t love myself like I should have.
Often, people don’t realize that not accepting and loving yourself can hurt you substantially more than others ever could. To clarify, I’m not saying that other people hurting you doesn’t affect you in any way. I’m specifying that if you don’t love yourself, then you start believing everything the bullies are saying and you become your own worst enemy. Personally, if someone mentioned any of my “flaws” then I’d start thinking that it was a flaw and I needed to get rid of it. Interestingly enough, before they had said anything, I never thought that particular feature was a flaw or something that I needed to get rid of it. I had never thought that it was bad or unattractive, but then they picked something and second thoughts dug into my brain. I started doubting myself and it created an unhealthy mindset. You can only listen to so much, before you start bringing that negativity into your life.
I had to fight hard to get where I am today. It started pretty slow, with just looking at myself in the mirror and saying that I looked nice today. Progressively, after a couple months, I wanted to start dressing up more, and not just wearing black and grey. I started dressing more out of my comfort zone. At first, it was a little difficult to go out in public but after a couple of days, I really started to enjoy it. This was my way of escaping, and once I finally started to wear what I liked without caring about what others thought, I started to actually accept myself. Day by day, I started to love myself again.
I went for so long, in a finite mindset, thinking that I wasn’t enough. Although I wish it didn’t take as long as it did, I’m really happy with the person I am today. Even if I still have some work, I know that in the end, everything is going to work out. People tend to have this perspective that life is one big journey from point A to point B, but you will dig yourself into a hole if you think like that. You can’t always expect to be the best version of yourself; that is something people continuously work on their entire lives. We aren’t statues that have to be beautiful, we’re complex beings that change over time. As we age we keep finding out more and more about ourselves which is the joy, and journey, of life. I’m telling you my story because I thought that I could maybe help someone start their journey to loving themselves again. It's difficult and sometimes it takes a lot of really hard work. You’ll have a long road ahead of you, but the outcome makes it really worth it.
We need to treat ourselves with love like the precious lives we are. You have to remember that, at the end of the day, you only have yourself. You have to value your self-care over everybody else, because if you’re not loving yourself then how can you put the commitment and love into other people? This world is cruel and heartless at the best of times, which is why it’s so much more important that you’re not a contributor to that kind of world. So as long as you are happy and you know your worth, then who cares what people think about you? This doesn’t mean you’re being selfish or narcissistic, you are loving yourself. You are already enough: you don’t and should not have to change for anyone if you love who you are.