We’ve all experienced it before: you look into the mirror and – for one reason or another – just aren’t happy with the person looking back at you. Maybe it’s the fact that your eyes are farther apart than you’d like. Maybe you’re disappointed that you recently let down a friend. Maybe you’d like to drop a few pounds.
I’m no different. My first instinct has always been to critique, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned the importance of appreciating and loving the person looking back at me in the mirror unconditionally.
A lot of our self-deprecation stems from a culture of comparison. All throughout the media, we see beautiful models, actresses and athletes. It’s only natural that our Darwinian instincts would tell us to compare ourselves in an effort to compete. But this isn’t a healthy competition; it takes a toll over time.
Let me be clear about something, loving yourself doesn’t mean that you’re closed off to personal growth. If you did something mean-spirited, by all means work to improve the situation and retain your core values. If you’ve always wanted to go blonde and think that would boost your self-esteem, go do it!
Just be careful of criticizing yourself too much. In the story of your life, people come in and out. Ideally, people are there for you and support you, but sometimes they let you down. The only person who you know for a fact will be with you forever is yourself. That might sound scary, but it can also be freeing. If you do right by yourself and love yourself, there will always be someone there for you: You.
You might be thinking: easier said than done! And you’re right, of course. It is an ongoing process, and one that takes a long time. So how do you begin a journey of self-love? Here are a few jump-start tips:
1. Rather than looking for flaws, look for features you like. Have you always hated that your ears stick out? Don’t focus on that! How about the dimple on your chin that you’ve always loved? Smile about that! I have a friend who really struggled with self-hate and comparing herself to others. I once asked her what feature about herself she liked, and she literally could not think of a single thing. She is a beautiful girl, but there was nothing about her appearance she liked. If you find yourself with this mentality, work on growing to change that. You are beautiful; it’s just about learning to understand that. You may not find yourself conventionally attractive, but you are in the body that you are in, and there’s no use hating it!
2. Get to know yourself. In all likelihood, you are a great person! But maybe you’ve lost touch with that. One of the best ways I’ve found to learn about myself is through journaling. When you let your thoughts flow uncensored, you learn a lot about what’s important to you. It can also be liberating to know that you trust yourself with your own thoughts and secrets.
3. Treat yo self! It’s important to treat yourself sometimes. Buy a nice piece of chocolate, take a warm bath, do something that makes you happy. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast paced speed of school, family, and life in general, but remember that it’s okay to take a breather and do something that makes you content because you deserve it.
Growing to love yourself isn’t an overnight process, and it may take longer depending on where you start. Go at your own pace, but remember that wishing you were someone else isn’t going to get you anywhere – you are you, and I hope that with time you can learn to embrace and celebrate that!