Whether you are 13, 25, or 59 years old, I think we are all always experiencing the push and pull between self-love and self-deprecation. I’m not sure that ever really goes away…but I do know that, as of late, I’m on the winning end of that tug-a-war way more often than I was at 16. So that’s why I’ll be writing this blog post from the perspective of a [relatively] confident and self-assured 27 year old woman, talking to her younger high school self, and every other almost twenty something out there who struggles like I did with self acceptance, and even harder with self-love (and yes, they are different).
I felt the need to add “relatively” before my earlier descriptions because everything definitely is all relative. When I declare myself a confident and self-assured woman, what I mean is that I am more confident and self-assured than I have ever been in my life, but I know there is still a lot of growth to be made there. When it comes down to it though, I am so much further ahead than where I used to be, and that’s all anyone can really ask for right? Because self-love is a constant journey, and there will be leaps forward in progress and steps back too, but you have to keep making a conscious effort every day to get to that place where your soul really shines.
The truth of the matter is that there are so many factors at play when it comes to loving your whole self. Because, just the same, there are so many things for all of us—but women in particular—to be insecure about. (Now let me pause for a second and say that I’m not going to make this blog post a gender vs. gender thing, but the reality is that women are held to a higher standard than men regarding their appearance, so take that as you will.)
Just for fun (she said sarcastically), let’s name a few of the different physical traits women can have insecurities about:
- Maybe it’s her weight—does she feel too fat for the “normal” beauty standard? Or is she self-conscious of her body because it’s genetically very thin and people make snap judgements about her eating habits?
- Maybe it’s her skin—has her life been a constant struggle with acne? or maybe her skin color is too dark or too pale for “some people’s” definition of beautiful.
- Maybe it’s her height—she’s too tall for a woman, but wait she’s too short to be taken seriously.
- Or maybe it’s her hair texture, or her butt or breast size, or her eye shape, or her lips or nose, or even her freaking “kankles” (okay that one might just be mine).
My point is that we can always find “flaws” in ourselves if we are looking for them, but who actually said there was such a thing as “flawless”? (Seriously, I’d like to meet them).
And that’s just on appearance. Let’s not forget all of the other things that can weigh our confidence down, like how much money we make, or how intelligent we are, or how well we can cook (because women are just “supposed” to be good at that, right?) And this is not me calling out men in any way; women are not great at supporting other women either, society even has a habit of pining us against each other in certain ways. The trick here is that it’s not up to anyone else to make us feel beautiful or successful—that is internal work we have to do all on our own.
I do think, slowly but surely, the traditional beauty standard is being redefined in many ways, and so many women already have and continue to break the glass ceilings, and I hope that progress continues. But it’s more important that you work within yourself to define YOUR OWN standards of worth. Also remembering that self-love is all encompassing. It’s not solely about liking the way you look; it’s about being confident in who you are and knowing the value you bring to the table every day.
Now I know that when you are young (and honestly even long after), it’s really easy to get caught up in the outer appearances of things and compare yourself to everyone around you. Believe me, that is the main reason I struggled with self-acceptance for so long. Growing up, all of my friends were short and petite…and not only was I 5″11 by age 14, I also had a naturally thick build to my body, especially in my lower half. And while now I’m in love with my curves and the shape of my figure, when I was younger I could never understand why I was just built differently than everyone else. I wanted to wear the same clothes my girl friends wore, and my mom would try to tell me that those styles didn’t look good on me. I thought to myself, but if it looked good on them, why couldn’t I pull it off too? And it took me a long time to come into my own. But as I got older, I found the right clothes for my body, my once chubby face naturally thinned out, and I just stopped comparing myself so much to everyone else because nothing good ever came of that.
I’m not sure there’s a legitimate path mapped out for how you get to that secure place inside yourself. The one where you walk out the door everyday confident to your core in who you are internally, and how you feel about yourself externally. For me, maybe it was discovering blonde highlights or establishing a healthy routine with exercise; maybe it was just plain old puberty and growing up (placing my bets on that one). Honestly, I think as soon as I gave myself permission to just be okay with the cellulite and imperfect teeth, that self-acceptance I found for things I couldn’t change eventually developed into genuine self-love…love for myself as an imperfect, but never-the-less whole person.
And when that happened, I actually felt something inside me completely shift. I welcomed this newfound peace of mind—a sort of liberation if you will from all the negative and, frankly unproductive, thoughts of self-doubt. That freedom then translated to an outward confidence and overall positive energy that just makes life more fun to live. Not dragged down by a constant obsession of always saying the right thing and wearing the right clothes, just to meet this unattainable expectation of who you think you should be and how you think you should look. Especially when the honest to god truth is that no one is thinking about you as much as they are thinking about themselves! So remember that next time you go somewhere in public worried about the rip in your tights or that one stubborn strand of hair that didn’t curl like the rest…everybody around you is really just wondering if YOU are going to notice what’s wrong with THEM. Because we’re all just self-obsessed human beings shackled by our own insecurities, and the only way we break free of those restraints is by recognizing that none of it really matters as much as we think it does. At the end of the day, what people really remember is how you made them feel. So love yourself first, and then be the person that everyone else loves to be around. Because on those off-days when your confidence is down, it’s the people that love you who help fill that void and remind you how truly amazing you really are.