“Love yourself first.” It’s easy to say, but incredibly difficult to do.
I’m here to tell you my story– to show you that even under the strongest doubts, it is possible to practice self love and forgiveness. With nearly four years of self-improvement under my belt, I can say I’ve made immense progress in my journey to self love. But I’ll never be perfect. Even now, I sometimes struggle to love myself all the time. But that is okay. That’s part of it.
I still look in the mirror with a critical eye sometimes. I still occasionally feel guilty when I eat one too many cookies. But the difference is that now I can step back, realize what’s really going on, and forgive myself.
In the past, I would labor over that cookie or that unflattering photo and create a storm of self-hate and disrespect.
Self-love is something to be cultivated, not perfected, and it’s possible for everyone.
My story began when I was in elementary school: a happy-go-lucky, carefree kid who loved cake and pushed the limits of Abercrombie’s sizes. Soon enough, though, the beauty standards of society became a reality surrounding me, and I was forced to face the fact that I was… different. My friends were all smaller than me, I couldn’t share clothes with anyone, and I compared myself with every other girl in the room.
Fast forward to high school, when fasting and cardio became my identity. I hated my body, I hated myself, and for some reason I thought that if I was skinny, that everything wrong in my life would suddenly turn right. I was so wrong in this assumption. I found “clean eating” but took it to an extreme; my orthorexic tendencies caused me to miss out on birthday parties, get togethers, and, to be honest, life.
After months, or really years, I got there. I was skinny.
But nothing else in my life changed. I still hated how I looked, I couldn’t stop comparing myself to other girls, and I was still incredibly unhappy. Sure, it was nice to hear the compliments, but that external validation only fed into my fears. I was so blind to the idea that there could be something other than this, that body positivity could be a reality or even attainable.
I guess I got tired. I guess I got fed up with counting every single calorie I ate and ensuring that everything I fed myself was “low-cal” or “clean”. I felt something inside of me that wanted more, that knew there was a different path for me– and that if I continued down my current one, I would just keep on searching for something that didn’t even exist.
Your body does nothing but work to keep you alive each and every day. It exists for you and cares for you in ways that nothing else can.
Each cell inside of you is there to serve a purpose, affirmed by you: either you can help your body grow and flourish, or you can hinder it. Sure, it’s easy to work against yourself, but there is absolutely no sense in fighting against the one thing that is all for you… So please don’t do it.
We all have stretch marks, we all have rolls when we sit down, and we certainly all have that little fat pocket between our arms. But you know what? That makes us human. It means we are alive and here, and that should be enough. Nobody’s judging you as hard as yourself but, on the flip side, nobody can love you as much as yourself.
How you treat yourself is extremely telling in how much you will tolerate from others. I used to punish myself and put myself down; I had the idea that I was undeserving of any kind of love or happiness. In return, I interpreted negativity from situations that aligned with my thinking.
Body image is woven into all other aspects of life– whether it be relationships, work, school, or well being. What you put out, you will get right back.
There’s no easy way to get past a negative self-image. I’m not saying there is any one path, but it’s important to recognize that there is a path. Start listening to your body and remember that balance is the key to sanity. While you should be nurturing your health nine times out of ten, it won’t be the end of the world if you slip up. That makes you human and serves as a reminder that you are trying, and I promise, even that is enough!
Once you free yourself from negative self-talk and restriction, the world opens up to you. You’ll be amazed at the situations and opportunities that begin to arise when you stop saying no and begin to say perhaps. Really, the world is yours to take and anything you could imagine is within reach. It just starts with self-acceptance. Before others can love and accept you, you must be able to sit alone with yourself and feel comfortable. It takes work and by no means is it a quick fix, but it is accessible for each and every one of us.
So, please, stop fighting your body. Put the weapons down and trade them in for love, gratitude, and self-care. Listen to your body and make sure that your head and your heart are in balance. Release the idea that you have to restrict yourself or look a certain way to be happy, because otherwise you will be chasing an ideal that cannot be reached. Love yo self, treat yo self, cherish yo self. Life opens up when you do, so make the step towards reaching your potential today by deciding to work with your body rather than against it.
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