In our world today, where magazines and tabloids are plastered with pictures of Kylie Jenner, Candice Swanepoel, Gigi Hadid, and the like, self-love is hard to achieve. These celebrities, with their dazzling smiles, unblemished skin, and ultra-fit bodies, are seemingly perfect, and unfortunately serve as benchmarks for the innocent, impressionable youth.
Teens are constantly blinded by beauty standards set by media. In effect, they cease to recognize their beauty, which leads to struggles with self-love. Accompanied with the obstacles they face growing up (that is, finding themselves, and discovering their true friends) make it harder for the youth to realize the beauty within them, that leads to other issues, such as anxiety, pessimism, and many more.
It is evident that the lack of self-love within a person is toxic and needs to be addressed. The youth needs to know that they are beautiful, worthy, and important, and that the idea of perfection is simply that — an idea. Perfection is unattainable, but that is okay, because we are beautiful just as we are. It is important for them to know this as they may carry this notion as they grow older.
I had the pleasure of interviewing someone about their journey to self-love, and she fortunately granted me permission to share it with you all (with the request that she remain anonymous), hoping that her story can serve as inspiration.
Here is her story.
How did you struggle with self-love?
Ever since I was younger, my worst habit was comparing myself to others. I always felt the need to be the best, and berated myself if I wasn’t. As I got older, I could never seem to get rid of this incessant need, and social media didn’t help either. I was constantly comparing myself to people I thought I had to be like from looking at photos on Instagram to watching the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, everyone around me possessed something I didn’t have, and I craved it. I could blame my mother for influencing me, as she constantly compared me to my peers, and occasionally to herself. But the root cause of it all was how I let all these outside factors affect the way I perceived myself.
In 7th grade, I became friends with several toxic people. I knew about the things being said behind my back, and grew conscious of people’s opinions of me. In an attempt to fit into this group, I tried my best to get skinny. I longed for outside affirmation; someone needed to tell me about how great my body was, how they wanted my height, etc. It was habitual for me to skip meals, and my diet consisted of mostly soup and bread. Food gave me anxiety; every time I ate I could feel my heart pumping and my throat close up. Everything I put into my mouth, I felt like puking back out, as I developed acid reflux. It got to the point wherein I starved not by choice, but due to the consequences of my actions, which had eventually caught up to me.
How did you transcend your struggles?
It took a conscious effort for me to attain the self-love I severely lacked. I left the circle of friends that reinforced my insecurities, and surrounded myself with more positive people; people I knew loved me for who I was, and encouraged me to learn to love myself. I snapped out of my previous mindset. While I can’t recall the precise moment wherein my perspective shifted, as I began to eat a sufficient amount of food for my body, and work towards becoming healthy and not just skinny, I discovered that all the reassurance I yearned for had to come from within. I taught myself to shut out the words of others that did not serve me well. If the criticism isn’t constructive, then it wasn’t worth listening to. I realized that while I have no control about what others are saying about me, I had control over how it made me feel. I began to take care of my body for me, not for other people’s opinions.
Where are you now?
Today, I can say I’m proud of who I am. I dictate my self-worth, instead of leaving it in the hands of others, and thus, I am capable of truly loving myself. There are days when I’m tempted to compare myself to my friends, especially since college is around the corner, and everyone is trying to be their best selves. In moments like these, I remind myself of how unfair it is to compare. Not just to me, but to the person I’m comparing myself to. I work with myself instead of against myself, as there is no one that knows the kind of love I need more than I do.
From her story, we can attest that self-love is a journey. It is not obtained overnight; one does not suddenly wake up with so much understanding and appreciation for themselves than they had the night before. Instead, self-love is a continual process of reminding oneself of their worth and beauty. Yes, it is hard to love yourself when there is always someone who is seemingly better, but remember this: someone is always going to be better than you. Someone is always going to be smarter, prettier, or more talented, but that is okay; you are doing fine. As hard as it is, we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and focus on ourselves. Once you focus on solely yourself, only then you will be able to recognize your strengths and beauty.
In line with this, we can attest that self-love is a journey within. We can see how she compared herself to others, and how the opinions of others mattered to her, but then she realized how all this was inconsequential. As her story progressed, we can see how she discovered that self-love comes from within and how only she can dictate her self-worth.
However, we can also see how the lack of self-love is influenced by external factors. May it be comparing ourselves to others (possibly to celebrities, or our peers), following an impossible beauty standard, or yearning for others’ approval, we can see how the lack of self-love is majorly affected by external factors. Still, the lack of self-love is an adversary we need to grapple with within.
To whoever is reading this, please know that although the lack of self-love (or potentially self-loathing) might seem like an insurmountable demon in your head, you can defeat it. Please believe that you can defeat it. With the right mindset — believing that you are beautiful, worthy, and important — you will defeat it. It is not going to be easy, but you can do it. We all can.
I hope that you learn to love yourself unconditionally. To love yourself unconditionally is to love yourself despite your shortcomings and imperfections, and yes, I know. It is hard. I, myself, struggle with this. But from the bottom of my heart, I hope that you learn to do this because when you do, you will shine so brilliantly. Learning to love yourself will make you happy, motivated, and confident; how can you not shine?
About the Author
Kirsten is a high school junior with a strong advocacy for mental health. As one of Talang Dalisay’s correspondents, she aims to spread the word on pressing matters revolving the subject matter and hopes to create an impactful change through her words and people’s insightful stories.