Every single day we see memes all over social media telling us that we need to love ourselves but at the same time faced with marketing messages telling us that we will only be happy if we change ourselves, if we lose weight, if we buy a certain outfit… the list is endless and so so unhelpful. Because of this, the messages begin to change. You can love yourself if XYZ happen, you can love yourself if you have this new brand. As if we are allowing something or someone else to choose whether we are good enough to love who we are.
I grew up feeling so self-conscious. I hated my body, I hated my clothes and I spent so much of my childhood trying to hide who I was. I hid my body in big baggy clothes, I hid my personality constantly making myself smaller than I was. I thought perhaps this was the best way to live life. Perhaps this was the only way.
I ended up shrinking myself so much that I became so inwardly focussed.
Something that added to my self-hatred was the development of anorexia when I was 13 years old. The anorexia was not caused by bad body image but it all became so wrapped up in it. The anorexia gave me this sense of control and purpose over life. It helped me to switch off from emotions and also gave me a sense of self-worth. At the time, I didn’t realise how dangerous what I was doing was but was instead sucked in to this weird love affair with the illness. At the age of 17 my heart was failing and I had no choice but to be admitted to a mental health hospital where I then spent the next year in a state of recovery. I had to learn within this year how to love myself, but also how to care for myself in a loving way. But how do we do this when we are told we have to be a certain size? Or when we feel like everyone looks more perfect than us?
It is hard and I am not going to sit here and tell you it is easy and that I have one hundred percent cracked it. But sometimes we need to make the choice to find a way to not let it impact us quite as much. Next time you walk down the streets and you find your mind being nasty and comparing, or when you are sitting in your bedroom scrolling, remember that you have the power to stop that thought taking hold of you.
It is a work in progress and these things take time so be kind to yourself and seek help if there are more hard days than good!
I certainly don’t have all the answers but here are some of the things I do which help:
Stop comparing; easier said than done right! But start to actively stop your brain doing this.
Curate your feed; go through your social media and unfollow all those accounts that make you feel rubbish, or sad. The ones that have a negative impact on you. I know sometimes it feels like an okay thing to do, to look at these accounts even though they give us such a mixture of feelings, but trust me it really doesn’t help!
Practice self-love; this for me is always hard. I always feel a bit silly standing in front of the mirror and saying something nice to myself, so instead I do things to make me feel nice whether painting my nails or moisturising. Cheap little things that don’t take ages always help.
Keep your hygiene up; from washing your hair to getting dressed!
Have some “easy to wear” clothes; for me this is for those really hard days. Days where I just hate what I see. On these days I go to a section of my wardrobe where I have easy to wear clothes. These are clothes that I know I feel okay in and know I look okay in!
Move for enjoyment! I spent a lot my life exercising and moving to punish myself for having something. As my relationship with exercise changed and became more positive I was able to move for enjoyment. Not only did I actually enjoy it, but it also helped increased my confidence in my body!
Don’t restrict or diet as this won’t help anyone! 97% of all diets fail, and if that isn’t enough reason not to, then remember that the wider impacts of dieting include self-esteem issues and body image issues. Something I learnt was being skinnier never actually made me happy and I can’t hate myself enough to change and then to love myself – there is so much more work that needed to be done If you are concerned about your weight and your shape, how about speaking to your GP?
Remember that you can’t really tell what is going on with someone from the outside; so even when you are comparing yourself to others you never really know!