Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Monster in Your Mind; Self Love #2


Last month I began talking about my own personal self love journey by showing you guys some photos from high school and talking about being named best dressed. I mentioned at the end of the post that though I had a lot of confidence in my style in my teenage years, underneath it all trouble was brewing.

Maybe it was all of the fashion magazines I was consuming, perhaps the runway shows I ogled over online, or the general mood of society and its pressures on young women, but whatever the cause, at age 17 I thought I was too "fat" to be considered pretty. I was a size 6/8 my senior year of high school, and after a rough first year of college I was an 8/10. I felt awful. I was really truly miserable in my own skin by the beginning of my freshman year of college. I thought there was really only one way to be considered beautiful, and that since I didn't fit that ideal, something was wrong with me. It wasn't about how other people viewed me on an individual level, it was my awareness that seemingly only thin girls made it to the top and that's where I wanted to be. I never compared myself to other girls or celebrities, I compared myself to the invisible perfect version of myself in my head. If only I could lose 30 pounds, then I could really be "somebody".

I was angry with myself for having too little self control, if I only stuck to my diet, or learned to love exercise, I could be where I wanted to be (or rather, look how I wanted to look). I started hating my favorite holiday Halloween because I felt I couldn't wear cute or sexy costumes, feeling myself too overweight to pull them off. Then I hated all holidays, even my birthday, because they represented milestones of "another year I didn't get my shit together" and "another year where I was still fat". I felt disgusting, and my inner monologue was terribly mean. No one else had ever been as mean to me, as demeaning about my body, as I was to myself. I thought that if I couldn't look like the "dream me", the thin version of myself who had it all figured out, there wasn't much point in anything at all. If I couldn't be great, thin, successful, why bother being at all?

These are damaging thoughts. Thank goodness I had other things going on to distract me from how much I was beginning to hate myself.  I had school, which was a two fold distraction in that it also gave me a fake deadline for me to "get my act together" and get thin. I had to lose the weight before junior year, then before I left for study abroad, then before senior year. Cycles of telling myself "you are not good enough". At least I was kind enough to believe I had potential, under many many conditions I could perhaps love myself again.

This was no way to live, constantly punishing myself for being human. I would never have allowed someone else to speak to me the way I did to myself. Eventually, after years of hating my body, after years of never letting anyone take pictures of me, after regular nights of crying myself to sleep, I had enough. I couldn't go on hating myself forever, something had to change.


It was a combination of things that made me snap out of the destructive cycle of hurtful thoughts. For one, I was finally beginning to understand that perhaps I would move through this life and never become noteworthy or famous for anything and that was okay. I think I had absorbed some of America's media fueled idea that you have to be really successful, as young as possible, and be "somebody" worth remembering. I thought I could never do that in the body I hated. It is a common existential crisis, wanting to be remembered, to make a mark on the world at large. The problem is, even if we remember how beautiful and kind Audrey Hepburn was still today, one day (millions of years from now I grant you) the world will end and no one will be alive to remember Audrey Hepburn. There is no such thing as forever, and realizing that it didn't matter whether or not I ever reached that level of success (so I should stop beating myself up about it) was helpful for me moving forward.





Another part of breaking free was just maturing, I went from 17 to 21 hating my body and in turn, often myself. Once I entered my twenties I had been through a lot of different things, bad roommates in college that made my life hell, moving across the country and back, living in a different country altogether on my own for five months. I had grown stronger and was ready to tell the part of me that was being so awful to shut the hell up.

The summer I turned 21, I was alone in Paris on my birthday. I was in the middle of some study abroad classes (all in French!) and I had been away from home for six months at that point. It was another birthday where I was feeling like a failure. I had failed myself another year. I was sitting alone in my hotel room (instead of going out any enjoying Paris!) feeling sorry for myself. I quickly decided it was the last year I would feel that way.


There are a few things that really helped me break out of the cycle of being horrible to myself. A major help, as odd as it may be, was starting to watch the Vlogbrothers on YouTube. For those of you who don't know, the Vlogbrothers is a YouTube channel run by John and Hank Green. They started making video blogs to keep in touch with one another and accidentally started a huge following and community on YouTube. For some reason, their videos, and especially John's own struggle with wanting to be remembered, really helped me realize that my mind mattered so much more than what size I was. Its hard to say just how, I can't seem to really articulate it. I watched the huge backlog of their videos over the next year while I was finishing college.

It was not an overnight change. I couldn't go from hating myself to suddenly being alright. I gradually learned to value myself for more than whatever a size tag sewn into a garment said about me. I learned to celebrate my successes again, to look at what I had achieved and not what I had failed at.

Why am I telling you all this? Because someone out there might still be in the cycle of being horribly mean to themselves on a daily basis. You are your one confirmed ally out there in the world, or at least you should be. Be kind to yourself! Be kind to yourself! Seriously, you would never say such rude and awful things to someone else, don't say them to yourself! Have your own back out there in the world, it is hard enough wading through without adding to the madness.

It isn't always easy, but recognizing that you are doing it is a good place to start. Next time you are beating yourself up about not resisting that chocolate chip cookie in the break-room, or saying something awkward, or skipping the gym, remember to be kind to yourself. You have to break down that toxic environment in your mind, to start replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Self love is certainly a journey, and I still have bad days sometimes editing outfit photos and trying to unsee what I still view as faults. The fact that I can even take outfit photos now is a huge (HUGE) step forward for me from where I was a few years ago. I used to hate photos of myself, and banned everyone around me from taking any. I have learned to stop hating the girl I saw in photos, and in the mirror. I hope others out there can too.

And....I'm done being sappy for the day, happy Wednesday everyone!

For a lighthearted video of tips about starting to love yourself again, check out this super great video from awesome lady Lex Croucher on YouTube.


6 comments:

  1. This is a wonderfully written piece about a very important subject. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You make a very good point when you say we would never let anyone say the mean things to us that we say to ourselves constantly. I am still working on breaking this cycle, I tell myself everyday to be kind to myself.

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    1. Thank you Kate, it really is a constant journey, but being kind is always a good start.

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  2. Sweet dear, this is so honest and beautiful in the sense of that you've been able to reach a much more positive point in your perception of yourself and the kindness you bestow on yourself. I've struggled with body image issues literally my whole life (seriously, I have vivid memories of loathing my appearance, even though I was a totally average, if rather short, sized child), in part because of seeds that were planted by (incredibly rude/cruel) relatives, in part because of being teased and bullied in school, and in part because I never felt pretty, let alone beautiful as a child in general almost regardless of what was said to me.

    I loathed having my photo taken and had to consciously, massively work at it in my late twenties to reach a place where I could. Interestingly, my vintage wardrobe helped me out there a fair bit because I so dearly wanted to share more photos of it with my readers, especially since I so often enjoyed seeing what they were wearing and wanted to swap like for like, so to speak.

    I don't think I'll ever get over all of my self-esteem and body issues and doubt I'll ever look at myself and think that I look beautiful (at least not in the way that modern western society deems a woman beautiful), but even getting to the point (no joke) where I can look at myself in the mirror and be photographed were massive leaps forward and in the process I've grown much kinder on myself and found a lot more inner peace, which are worth infinitely more than whether or not society sees me as beautiful or not.

    I could talk on this subject until I was blue in the face, but I don't want to pen a book here, so I'll conclude by saying that I truly understand where you're coming from and that I think you are an absolutely, flat out gorgeous woman with a killer body!

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Thank you Jessica, I definitely understand the struggle. I too wanted to start posting outfit photos and that desire meant I had to get over my no photos policy. I'm not sure if any of us can truly ever erase our self esteem or body image issues entirely, but progress is always good. It is just so much easier to face life's other curveballs if you aren't constantly bringing yourself down from within too.

      You too are a beautifully woman, inside and out! <3

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  3. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your personal story. It's sad that you had such a low period in your life in terms of self-love, but it is wonderful that you have worked your way to a better place. I suppose we all have body issues, and I am a part of that group too. I think that considering what we are saying, and the fact we would never say it to someone else, or let someone say it to our friends, is an important way to remind us how mean we are being to ourselves.

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    1. Thank you Tanith. I think I am rather lucky in the sense that I was able to snap out of it before the problem got worse instead of better. It can be good to have a reminder to treat ourselves as we would treat others, in addition to the old adage treat others as you would want to be treated.

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