6 Things You Can Do to Transform Your Self Love Journey
Dealing With Self Love Issues
In the course of my life, As sad as it is to say, I have spent more years hating myself than even liking myself. For me, the lack of self esteem came from a number of things. It was an area where I was constantly reminded of my differences from the people I called friends. I grew to hate all of the things that people had comments about — my wide nose, my developing body, especially my dark skin. Media strengthened this self hate, as I saw more people who didn’t look like me than those who did. My parents certainly did their best to instill self-love and pride in my blackness into me, but they were simply no match for the environment I spent more time in.
Perhaps more impactful than physical self hatred, I didn’t even like who I was. Insecurities overwhelmed. I grew up in a home where my sensitivity and emotional needs were treated more like a chore. I was young, growing up in an environment I couldn’t prepare for, without any tools to understand how I felt. By 13, I was seriously depressed. In high school I developed a severe eating disorder. I entered a relationship where I allowed someone to mistreat me, scare me, threaten and verbally abuse me. The lack of self-love I had made my life horrible. The way I looked at myself, the things I thought about myself… it affected my friendships, my romantic life, my relationship with my family and even affected how I treated others.
What’s worse, is that most people I talk to (mostly women and queer folks) feel the same. The way I hear people talk about themselves shows that self hatred is endemic. It breaks my heart to think of any human walking this earth with the thoughts I had running through my head at 13, or 18, or 21. I love myself. In a way that allows me to look in the mirror and SMILE.I feel good when I go outside. In a way that I can see someone I haven’t seen in years without fearing that they’ll judge some weight gain. It hat allows me to see myself naked without pointing out every stretch mark, blemish, or the body fat that insulates me. The process was not easy. I’m not even sure it’s done. But there are things that have been INSTRUMENTAL in my journey to self-love.
These 6 things are what have contributed the most to loving myself.
1. I Purged Negativity from My Feeds.
this was massively important. I found that scrolling through Instagram was an addiction that filled me with dread. We all spend a lot of time on social media, but I don’t think we need to have a horrible relationship with it. I was following a million “fitspo” pages. They really were a shrine to fast metabolisms, 1200 calorie “lifestyle changes” and 2 hour a day work outs. First, I unfollowed girls from high school who, despite being friendly, generally made me feel bad about myself. I went through a mass unfollowing, not all of it surrounding body image. I stopped consuming things that generally didn’t bring me anything. Many of us spend as much time as we do at work, on our phones. Making the choice to spend that time on things that don’t make us feel good DOES NOT LEAD TO GOOD FEELINGS.
2. I Was Conscious of What Media I Consumed.
: After purging my feed of the things that didn’t serve me, my feed was a bit dry. Over time, I built my feed back up. Initially, though, I searched “body positivity” Instagrams and followed a bunch of people. Sometimes, just one will do. From the Sarah Nicole of the Birds Papaya, I was introduced to so many other creators. We do not realize how much we consume media that looks the same. I followed so many skinny white girls. No shade, no tea, but I mean….I am not a skinny white girl. How would I feel like I wasn’t alone? Like I wasn’t the only one with insecurities?
This change was huge. Like…maybe the most important. It was a stepping stone for a lot that I have implemented, as the people who I followed lead me in the direction of self-love. I also followed accounts just pertaining to my interests. My account went from 1000+ celebrities, high school people I didn’t talk to, people I followed only to stalk etc. to interior design, funny astrology memes, black history facts, and a world outside of me. You can really change your reality through the choices you make, so I try to make the ones that serve me.
3. What They Say About Self-Care is True.
BUT it does not come in one size. You do not need to go to the spa or live bubble baths. Self care can be driving around for an extra 30 minutes because your favorite song sparked a moment. Take a 15 minute shower instead of 5 minutes. Eat a cupcake! Take yourself to lunch! This was inspired by a TikTok! I saw a creator (I cannot remember who) recorded herself doing everything they wanted for 24 hours.
I took the idea and realized how easy it was to do all the things I wanted! So, I factored some of that into my everyday life. And it worked! I do more every day of things that just feel good. Sleeping an hour late when I can, making a high quality breakfast, and yes, a bath bomb or two… it all feels good! And feeling good contributes to loving yourself. This one may be the easiest. Lean into what feels good. Little by little, show yourself love by doing things that make you feel good.
4. I Had to Stop Negative Self-Talk…All of It.
Seriously.: I read somewhere that in some persons journey to self-love, they realized all the little ways the talked down on themselves. I struggled for years with not thinking negatively when I just looked in the mirror. I’d tear myself apart, honestly. I thought, “alright, I’m here” once I really recovered and felt better about myself. But then I started to hear it. “I’m such an idiot” when I forget to bring a pen. Squeezing my sides and asking my boyfriend “isn’t that disgusting?” It’s horrible to think about now, worse because I know a lot of people still do talk that way about themselves. I was passively reinforcing negative thoughts I had for myself, for other people. From telling them I talked too much before I spoke to straight calling myself ugly.
Daily self affirmations are very useful, but for some people it’s unbearable to stare in the mirror and “lie” to yourself. I know how that feels. In the meantime, take your negative thoughts and really explain them to yourself. Imagine this: you drop a glass in front of some people. You’re feeling a little too seen and your instinct is to say or think “I’m such an idiot.” When you say it or think that, follow it up with “well, actually I’m not. I just dropped a glass.” Sometimes I even say it out loud! It may sound silly but I had to reprogram myself to give myself the grace I’d give any other person. I don’t criticize people constantly. I don’t even jokingly rag on my friends as much as I did myself. It’s not easy, but it’s really changed me.
5. I Had to Heal My Relationship with Movement.
It is becoming more known that diet culture, honestly, is bullshit. I spent so much time feeling like I had to hustle to the gym. In high school, I played an intense sport. I was used to high intensity workouts, 2 hours long, 5 days a week and a race on the weekend! I’d learned how to push myself in a way that churned out results. The issue with impossibly high standards is that they are generally hard to upkeep. I felt so much guilt when I’d skip a work out. Eventually, I thought I healed my relationship but still realized I was always exercising to maximize calorie burn. Why? Why, if I was telling my self that I was exercising for “all the benefits,” did I only care about maximizing fat loss. What was the real reason getting smaller always my ultimate goal?
So I stopped working out all together. Seriously. And you know what? Nothing happened.
If I gained weight I didn’t know. I didn’t have to earn my food through movement either! I had some periods where I ate a bit crazy, but I learned to stop using bloating as a reason for me to get back in the gym. Luckily, I knew the things that made me feel sick and when I stopped eating them, my bloating wasn’t so bad. That is for me, who has lactose and gluten intolerances. That may not be the best for you but I encourage you to question why you move, however you move. Did I run to best myself, to increase endurance, because wanted to love to, or because you read that cardio was the best fat burner. Why do you feel anxious when you miss a day?
Don’t get me wrong, daily movement can feel so good and missing a day can feel off. But when I questioned the motives behind my movement it helped. When I found movement that I loved, it helped. I love weights and lifting and even some cardio, but I’m less likely to move the recommended daily amount if I only do that. I’m also likely to overdo it and kill myself for a workout every time. It didn’t feel good. When I started talking daily walks, doing yoga, going on hikes…that was the movement I could do happily. It stopped feeling like a chore. I felt better about myself, and again, it stopped me from thinking negatively about myself when it came to exercise. It shifted my whole way of thinking, for real.
6. I Wrote Down the Things I DID do:
I always feel like I’m not doing enough. The restlessness we want to call a go-getter attitude or perfectionism, is often laced with discomfort when not excelling. When you’re just living, you aren’t always being judged. I judged myself constantly. Comparison drove me crazy– I looked at what other people did and thought I was lazy. I felt bad that I didn’t work out enough. I would sit, watching TV or reading for school, thinking of all I wasn’t doing. It was another way I was lowering my subconscious thought about myself. One day, I made breakfast, took my dog for a walk and responded to an email. I wrote it down in my notebook, just because. I realized I did do something that day. And everyday!
I was giving myself zero credit. If my friend was in the pits of depression and told me they were feeling low because they don’t do enough, I would list all the things they did do. I’d tell them to please give themselves some grace. I’d say, try to see yourself how I see you, or how you see me. You wouldn’t talk to me like that, why talk to yourself that way? Well, I applied that logic to my own life. I cannot feel good if I cannot allow myself to be human. When I was critical and wanted to change everything about me, I didn’t really love me. I was being my own bully. Through focusing on what I did do, I was focusing on achievement instead of failure. Doing that was a small step into thinking of myself positively.