Trigger warning: Disordered eating
Self-love is difficult in today’s society. It’s hard to not be influenced by everything we see on social media, whether it’s the Instagram photos with the often photoshopped “perfect” bodies that make us self conscious of our own or the tens of hundreds of Linkedin posts from people who we may not even know announcing their new jobs at some big company that make us doubt our own successes among everybody else’s. Subconsciously, we develop this mindset that we want and need to be perfect, and when we deem ourselves anything less than what we see or believe to be ideal, we resort to feeling sad, insecure, and at times, even worthless in our own eyes.
It’s a difficult journey to become someone who is proud of who they are and to not be intimidated by the success of those around us. It’s also difficult to realize that we always view ourselves with a harsher eye than others do, and the things that we hate so much about ourselves are often negligible in front of others.
I struggled with the whole idea of having to be perfect for most of my life, dealing with body image issues and feeling as if I would never be good enough to meet whatever standards I believed I had to uphold myself to. Even just half a year ago, I was counting calories and tracking my macros every single day, convinced that I had to eat less than 1,400 calories daily or I would “get fat” and be judged for how I looked. I even made myself look at photos of “perfect” bodies as a way to remind myself to eat just enough to keep my stomach from growling so that I could achieve what I thought was perfection. Everytime I ate a cookie, or even just took a bite of any sugary snack, I would become angry at myself for ruining my progress and “wasting” my workout. The result was an unhealthy relationship with food and a slowed metabolism, which was the opposite of what I actually wanted. Even when I was told I was making progress, I was blinded by the imperfections that others did not see, and being on social media didn’t help at all.
On top of that, my social circles were, and still are, composed of smart, hardworking, and successful people. It wasn’t rare to hear or see a post about someone who got an offer from Facebook, Google, or some other large tech company that many people wish to work at. Hearing these things before I had secured my first full time offer out of college really took a toll on my mental health; I cried countless times and wished that I could just be a tiny bit smarter so that I could be as successful as those around me, adding on to the body image problems I was simultaneously dealing with at the time. If I couldn’t be smart and successful, I had to at least look good, right?
However, one day it finally occurred to me that moping around and feeling sorry for myself by comparing myself to others was not what I needed to get to where I want to be. Your thoughts truly have the power to change the direction of your life, even if it’s something as small as waking up and telling yourself that you’re going to have a great day and conquer a miniscule part of your goal. I began to set goals daily instead of trying to expect major changes within a short period of time. I meditated every night to clear out any negative thoughts so that I could sleep peacefully and wake up fully recharged the next day. Little by little, I grew more confident and learned to love myself, and I saw it reflected in the way I interviewed for jobs, the eagerness I started to have for working out, and the lessened anger at myself when I would have a cheat meal. Reaching the goals I set for myself no longer felt like chores, but rather things I looked forward to because I now knew that I wasn’t doing this for anyone but myself. Focusing on myself helped me grow and become someone I would always be happy to be.
Confidence and a positive mindset really work wonders, and they have the power to positively change your life if you really believe it. Believing in and loving myself the way I am has brought me to where I am today. Although there are still days where I don’t feel my best, I can no doubt say that who I am now is so different from who I was just a year ago, and I am proud of who I am today. Change and growth don’t happen quickly, but baby steps, one day at a time, add up and lead you to your destination. All you need to do is give yourself a little love and focus on just you.