For the longest time and still at times now, I defined my self worth by my physical appearance. By my weight. Skinny but not skinny enough. My skin. Picked apart for hours in the mirror based on a flaw I had literally imagined. My hair. A mix of curls I could not love or accept until college because everyone seemed to have beautiful straight hair they could run their fingers through. How I did not fit the definition of what I deemed pretty. Or what I thought ‘men’ my age would want from me, because for a long time they didn’t. I’ve come to realize that I cannot begin to love myself if I still let the opinions of others consume my own opinion of myself. That the opinion of a person who does not value me beyond my body or my appearance is not worthy of my thoughts, my emotions or of the way I feel. While I obviously still care what people think of me - as it’s very much so in my nature - I now care much more so about the way in which the people I love think of me.
For an even longer time, my self worth has been defined by my productivity. That came in the form of my grades; if it wasn’t a 4.0, it wasn’t good, if it wasn’t an A, it wasn’t good. It came in the form of my extracurriculars: how many clubs I could join, how many leadership positions I could take on without drowning under the weight. In high school, it was getting to school at 7 am and leaving at 7 pm after practice. In college, it’s scheduling all my classes in one day and then over-scheduling myself after the fact. I struggle heavily with time for myself. If I’m not overscheduled, I have time to think, time to process what I could be doing, what I’ve done wrong. Free time for me has always meant time to reflect on my own flaws and wrongdoings rather than my own success. I’ve come to realize - certainly not on my own and over a long period of time - that I am so much happier and so much healthier when I have time to allow myself the opportunity for growth and for my own well-being. To read. To listen to music that makes me feel good. To make myself food that fuels me rather than makes me feel guilty.
Let it be known, it is much easier said than done and sometimes it’s simply not done at all. I still have to practice self affirmation, and if you’ve ever heard the line from The Help, “you is smart, you is kind, you is important”, that’s pretty damn much what it sounds like. If you notice, none of these affirmations come in the form of physical praise, but rather in the form of one’s goodness, the way in which one treats others (which are invariably more important). However, it is hard not to measure your value on the way you look as well. Given this, my affirmations generally respond to both insecurities, physical and emotional. “You are loved”, “you are kind”, “you are beautiful”, “your worth is not your weight”, “your skin is not a reflection of you”, “no one is looking at you the way you look at yourself”, etc. They are little reminders and are definitely not cures to a bigger problem. But they are a start and a start is better than nothing. Anxieties and insecurities are normal; it would be naive of us to think they are unavoidable. However, they can be addressed positively. Respond to yourself in the same way you would respond to someone you love.