A Journey Towards Being Nicer to Myself

When I was five or six, I remember thinking I had a round tummy. At the time, that really meant nothing other than exactly what it was and the thought had no negative connotations. Around eight or nine, I remember realizing I was a bit chunkier than my other friends, but my confidence was not completely knocked, I was just aware of my differences. By 12, I continued the comparison to my friends added with the comparison to celebrities, but in my mind, I was now fat, less pretty and less worthy: so began the self-hatred. These thoughts led me to only eating a bag of chips at lunch to blend in with my skinner friends, which meant that I was starving all day and once I was in the privacy of my home, I ate all of the food I could get my hands on. They also left me crying to my mother in countless dressing rooms about the way I looked in clothing and the sizes which would not fit me. By 15, I had already tried Weight Watchers and forced myself into diet culture and unhealthy back and forth habits of trying to lose weight and giving up. This mentality and behavior continued through high school. At 18, as a freshman in college, I committed to eating healthy and going to the gym for around two months. I limited the types of foods I ate and worked out five days a week. I lost a decent amount of weight, which boosted my confidence, but the way I went about it was unsustainable and mentally unhealthy for the long-term, and I gained all of the weight back, pushing my self-confidence right back down. Now, at 20, I am working hard to really sort out the problems I have with myself and how I can solve them in more healthy, self-loving ways. 

While weight has always been a thing I have beat myself up about, over the years, I have found countless things to pick apart. Really, I have found a way to dislike almost everything about my appearance at some time or another. Though it is natural to be my own toughest critic, there is a line that should not be crossed and I crossed it long ago when I stopped being kind to myself. Unfortunately, I know my story is not special, and whether it be weight or some other beauty standard pushed onto women, most of us have allowed the voice in our head to convince us we are not good enough in some way or another. So the verdict I came to was “I need to be nicer to me.” 

I have acted on the verdict in a few ways, the first being, committing to healthier eating. This doesn’t mean I can’t have carbs or cheese or sugar, it just means less of these things. I am making conscious healthier eating decisions when I can. I am cooking for myself more, choosing to stock my fridge with fresh healthy food and indulging when the moment arises, whether that means going out to eat with my friends, eating a cookie or both. The most important part is my focus on having a healthy relationship with food. No food is evil or off-limits and when I do eat less "healthy" options, I’m learning to not beat myself up for it. I do have goals of losing some weight, but I know this time, it will be a slow process, because I am making more realistic long-term health goals for myself. This approach doesn’t lead to quick results, but in the end, it will bring me closer to where I want to be physically while not wearing me out mentally. More importantly, this way of going about my eating habits simply feels better altogether and nourishes my body so much more efficiently, making me feel happier and healthier on the inside as well. 

Another important step I have taken is reframing the way I think. This is a tough one because it requires me to keep myself in check and monitor my own thoughts. When I start to have negative thoughts about an aspect of myself, I try to reframe the negative thought into a positive one. For example, if I am thinking about my legs being big, I switch that to a thought about how wonderful it is that I have two working legs and how much easier that makes my everyday life. This step is really all about being grateful and putting things in perspective. My body, my mind and who I am as a person make me individual and beautiful in my own way. Each aspect contributes to the quality of life I have been blessed with. Reframing my thinking also includes editing what I say to myself. No longer am I ugly or fat or less than, but I am a work in progress, I am unique and beautiful in my own way and I am worthy of feeling accepted and happy. This approach doesn’t work every day, but the point is I am trying, and the more I try, the easier it gets to have a positive image of myself. You know what they say, practice makes perfect. 

Finally is the concept of confidence. For many years, I have been a member of the self-deprecating humor club. Oh boy, am I good at making cruel jokes about me. I have realized, however, that though I call them jokes, and I say them with a laugh, I have really just been explicitly stating my flaws. This really gets kind of dark and sad, but I have always thought that if I had confidence in myself people would take this as me not realizing my faults and therefore talk about how clueless I am that I am less pretty, or less cool. It’s a hard thought to explain, but ultimately, my mindset was that being self-deprecating was how I could state my flaws before anyone else could. As I have progressed through some of my very early adult years, I have realized how wrong I was to choose that way of thinking. Confidence is what draws people in and what makes an individual feel strong and empowered. I don’t have to think I am the best person in the room to be confident, I just have to be content with who I am and what I stand for, understanding I am worthy of respect and happiness. Self-doubt and self-deprecation are not the kind of qualities others want to be surrounded by, and they surely aren’t the qualities I want to force myself to live with constantly in my mind. So, building my confidence every day is another way I have shown kindness to myself.     

Altogether, I know the journey I am on is forever long, but I am so happy I started it sooner rather than later. Through the changes I am making, I have felt such a calmness take over in my mind. The softening of my inner voice is such a victory, and I have learned something so important: no one pays attention to me. This is meant in the best way possible because while I have always picked myself apart for how I am perceived by the world, the people that surround me are not nearly as concerned. In fact, they probably aren’t concerned at all with the flaws that have haunted me every day. The more I can learn to treat myself with kindness, the better my life will be for it, and the improvements have already begun.