Three years ago, I was a woman who was daily disappointed with her body. I had been disappointed with it ever since high school, when I quit seasonal sports in favor of theater; I never quite realized how effective those daily practices were, and I had gained weight steadily ever since. Self-love was not in my vocabulary: I hated my stomach, I hated my lumpy hips, I hated my nonexistent jawline, I hated my nose, I hated my under-eye circles, I hated my flat, fine hair.
Three years ago, and for years before that, my general happiness and satisfaction with my existence were pretty dependent on whether I was losing weight or gaining weight. My life revolved around obsessions with food, with weight loss, with the number on the scale, with the constant back-and-forth between eating whatever I wanted and then punishing myself for it. I was always looking for a new way to lose weight, absolutely sure I would find "the thing" that worked for me, and I always felt guilty for eating something I "shouldn't".
Three years ago, I thought I was one of the least interesting people I knew. [Husband and I had a running joke —based on experience — that whenever we joined a group conversation, the group pretty quickly disintegrated because we were boring, uninteresting people who had nothing to say.] I cared immensely about what other people thought of me. I put pressure on myself to be the person that gets along with everyone, so I would say the things I thought people wanted me to say, altering my answers to questions based on who was asking them. I wouldn't show my goofy side to people until they'd known me for months. I didn't know how to make conversation because I was so uncomfortable and aware of my awkwardness.
Three years ago, I started a journey. I was tired of hating myself. I was tired of being uncomfortable around people. I was tired of the constant obsessions with my body and what I put in it. I was tired of feeling guilty and shameful about who I was & the choices I made. I was tired of mistreating myself, of speaking such negative words to myself every day, and of tearing myself down.
Three years later, I am a happy, heavy, well-adjusted woman without fear of food or people or myself. I don't hate my body, I don't hate my personality, I'm not boring, I'm heavier than I've ever been, and I totally love myself. It took a lot of work and a lot of patience to get here, and I want to share with you some of the essential tools I needed — and that I believe everyone needs — for self-love.
Five Essential Tools for Self-Love
1. An open mind that's willing to be changed
When I realized that I needed to make a change in the way I saw myself, I had to believe that I could make a change. As someone who always believes she's right (who doesn't?), it was hard for me to accept that there are other ways to do things from the way I was doing them. It's easy to say, "Well this is just who I am," but to create a change in yourself, you have to be willing to believe that a world exists in which you can feel and naturally think differently from the way you do now.
There are a lot of things that are a result of our chemical & biological makeup as individual human beings, things that we were born with & can't change, but what we think (and the resulting feelings from those thoughts) is not one of them. What we think is a result of our society and the people surrounding us.
You weren't born hating yourself, and you weren't born feeling guilty about food, and you weren't born thinking skinny is beautiful and fat is ugly. You grew up watching TV and movies, reading magazines, and seeing commercials in which the ideal person was a very specific type of beautiful, thin, well-rounded person. Had you grown up with the image & message that 200 lbs is the ideal weight for a woman, and all the models and actresses on TV and in movies had been 200 lbs, that's likely what you would think is beautiful.
So one of the most essential tools you can have is an open mind that is willing to be changed, because what you're about to do is take control of it. You're about to shut out the media's messages that are being pounded into you and form an opinion of your own. And that opinion can be whatever you want it to be.
Shut out the media's messages that are being pounded into you and form an opinion of your own — whatever you want it to be. [Tweet this]
2. Patience & forgiveness for yourself
Changing years-old habits is a long and difficult process — not an item on a checklist. It takes time, and you will stumble over and over again. I wanted to change how I saw myself, and what that meant was paying attention to what I thought when I looked in the mirror and trying to change it — but there were so many days that I just couldn't find it in me to think anything loving about my body. It didn't mean that I had failed, it meant that I was human.
Resisting the temptation to berate or punish yourself for not being immediately successful at changing your thoughts is essential to success. You are not perfect, and you can't be expected to just flip a switch and think differently! Forgiving yourself for these small setbacks will actually help foster these new, loving thoughts you are trying to create. It's another way to show yourself love.
3. A malleable definition of love-worthiness
This is directly related to having an open mind that's willing to be changed. Most people have a clear definition in their heads of what's beautiful, for example, and they see it as black and white. Something is beautiful, or it isn't. What they don't realize is that's just their own perception of beauty, and that can be changed.
Similarly, on the road to self-love, your definition of what is worthy of love must expand to include things it didn't before (like yourself). Most people are pretty hard on themselves, thinking they are unloveable or that certain parts of them are unloveable, even though in many cases they would be willing to love those things in someone else. What you must do is be open to loving things you might have previously thought unloveable. The goal is to change your definition of love-worthiness.
Bonus: you'll probably find you have a bigger heart for those around you, too!
4. Strong & supportive people in your life
The truth is that no matter how hard you try to tell yourself that you're worthy of love, it's not a message you'll believe if the people around you are communicating the opposite. This could be as small as someone making masked comments about your body ("That dress would look great on you! It looks very forgiving in the middle." or "Try this — it's too big for me, but it might fit you.") or as straightforward as someone telling you you're stupid or fat or ugly or boring — even if they claim they're joking.
Nobody deserves to hear those messages under any circumstances. It's important that you surround yourself with people who love, support, and encourage you. In the meantime, it's important that you put those unloving, unsupportive, discouraging people in their place — or get rid of them altogether. You deserve to be lifted up, not broken down.
5. A caring heart for those around you
The thing we can't forget is that everybody is fighting an uphill battle. Nobody is free from the self-deprecating thoughts and comments that come so naturally to us. It's easy to believe that someone you think is in a better position than you are (skinner, funnier, more interesting, more financially stable) must be happier, or must have it all together, or must have a fantastic life, but those people have their own demons.
At the risk of sounding majorly cheesy, we are all in this fight for self-love together. Someone half my size could have the same problems with food that I've had, and it doesn't make mine worse just because I'm "fatter." Treat everything and everyone with love, and it will shock you how fast you'll start to love yourself. Nothing comes from bitterness and negativity; all good things come from love, support, and encouragement.
Nothing comes from bitterness and negativity; all good things come from love, support, and encouragement. [Tweet this]
It's taken me three years to get to where I am, and it didn't require weight loss or dieting or a crazy exercise regimen. The truth is that if I had gone through all of that, I probably still wouldn't be happy, because I was in a habit of tearing myself down. Self-love doesn't require that you change yourself to be worthy of love, but that you change your mind to love who you are.
I've made you some downloadable affirmations to put up around your house, or wherever you'll see them and be reminded to think positively. For me, the best places to put them are on mirrors or in my car. Affirmations may sound a little cheesy, but sometimes it really helps to have some words ready on the days when you feel like you can't come up with them yourself!
You are wonderful and beautiful!
Sometimes you just need help telling yourself that. Join the Band of Beauties and get instant, full, free access to the Beauty Resource Library — including a collection of self-love affirmations!
I want you to know that I'm here for you. Whatever you're struggling with, whatever you hate about yourself, whatever you want to love about yourself, I understand you and I know what you're going through. If you need someone to talk to about it, I am here with open ears and an open heart. You're not alone!