Erika here! When asked to write about self love (self acceptance, self confidence, or whichever term you like best), I honestly wasn’t sure which way to approach it. Much like anything in our lives, what works for one person may not work for others. But what I do know is that sharing our own experiences can help others by opening up conversation and guiding them through their own thought processes. So here is a bit of my story!
My personal journey to self love did not happen overnight – and is still happening today as I sit in bed writing this blog post in my PJs midday. Growing up I was a dancer of all sorts: tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet – you name it, I did it! During the winter, I competed as a downhill Alpine ski racer as well. I was always told how strong I was. Words like “powerful” were thrown around about my body structure and I was always really proud to be who I was. I never really saw my muscular body and frame as an issue until I hit grade 9, when things like puberty, social media, and high school came into play.
My “journey” towards a body-obsessed life started early in my grade 9 year. My dance teacher stopped including me in the competitive numbers that I was supposed to be in and so my parents pulled me out of that studio. I became depressed and slept a lot, and I was eating out on lunches more than I would like to admit. I quickly gained a lot of weight. That same year, my first ever personal trainer told me “Boys don’t date fat girls” on my very first day. I went through most of my high school years participating in occasional yo-yo “diet/exercise” regimes and embarrassed about my body. Despite this, I got back into dance but I heavily believed that happiness/confidence/self love came from how you looked, not how you actually felt about all the aspects of your life.
Since then, my journey to self love has come from roughly 8 years of hard work and self discovery. I have compiled a list of things that helped me in the process of loving myself and hopefully these will give you some guidance towards your own journey to self love!
Just like cheese and wine, age can make things so much better! I went through years and years of not loving who I was, being told I was “too much”, too big, too loud, etc. Once I was out of my teen years, I started to feel less pressure to be or look a certain way and was able to start doing things for myself. High school is so hard, but take comfort in knowing that as you age, the things that you thought mattered (i.e. your appearance) will become less important to you as you learn more about yourself and the world. Every step of the way is part of the process to a rewarding outcome. As the famous quote says, Rome wasn’t built in a day! It does get better.
Loving yourself means accepting yourself for exactly who you are – flaws and all! Social media always has a way of making me feel like I am “not enough”- not fit enough, not working hard enough towards my goals, not anything special, really! This is very hard to overcome but I have realized that even the people who we think have it all feel the same way about themselves – not enough! Everyone has their own insecurities even if they don’t seem like someone who would. I learned quickly to change jealousy or doubt into admiration and motivation. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do better for yourself, as long as it is coming from a place of self-love and not comparison to others (i.e. “I like _____ about myself and I really want to set a goal and work towards improving ____ ” instead of “I hate myself, I wish I was____ just like ____”). No matter what, you must make sure you love yourself where you are today. For example, don’t hate yourself because you work full time at the mall just because it’s not the end goal of starting your own business. APPRECIATE where you are now, ACCEPT your circumstances and what is feasible right now, but STRIVE for becoming better and working towards your goal!
When I fell in love with the present moment as it was I found myself more excited and focused for the future!
3. TRIAL AND ERROR
In my younger years, I thought that I would start to love myself if I went to the gym every single day, ate tons of crazy healthy foods, and did everything that all my friends were doing. But instead I ended up having really extreme highs and lows in my life (no, not blood sugars but I’m pretty sure those were out of whack also!!). As I grew older, I got tired of being so unhappy with the way I was living my life and I started doing things that I love – I became a zumba instructor, got my NLS (National Lifeguarding) certificate even though I had never swam a lap in my life, started traveling by myself (sorry mom and dad), and I craft almost every single day of the week. Even in the past few months, I have started doing yoga and find it to be a great outlet for my thoughts and energy. Through the process of trail and error, I have found the things that make me feel good both mentally and physically, and those are what I put my energy into.
4. SELFLESS/ SELFISH
I have learned that sometimes you have to be a bit selfless and selfish! Being selfless and giving back can help make you feel good about yourself and the energy you are putting back into this world! On the other hand though, don’t be afraid to be “selfish” and take care of yourself first. At the end of the day, you really only have yourself (this may sound dramatic but it is what I have to say to remind myself to take care of myself sometimes). If you aren’t in your best state possible, nothing will work out the way you want it to. Taking care of ourselves, even if that means selfishly putting ourselves first, is important. It helps reconnect our mind to our body and soul, and also gives us time to self reflect, think about what matters most to us, and get comfortable with ourselves. Take the time to treat yourself to a day off, an afternoon at the spa, or something that you have been wanting for a while! Say no to friends or your boss, cancel or reschedule plans if you aren’t “feeling it” that day, and most importantly, don’t apologize for it. You are important too!
5. GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING YOURSELF.
This is perhaps my most important piece of advice.
Be comfortable with who you are and what you are experiencing. Don’t be afraid to feel the emotions that you are feeling. If you are sad, BE SAD. Be okay with that. But make sure to take the time to think about what is making you feel that way. Is it a person? Are you upset about something at work or at school? Are you feeling run down? I spent years and years thinking I needed tons of friends and a relationship to make me happy when in reality I needed 30 minutes with a pen and paper and my own thoughts. Sometimes the things that are bothering us and making us feel crappy about ourselves aren’t things we can even control and its important to be aware of this!
It has taken me countless years to be completely happy with who I am; to recognize that I am unique and have worked hard to become the person I am. Self love/self confidence/self acceptance is an ongoing journey and there will always be days or months that are better than others. The best way to stay on track is to keep in touch with your mind, body, and soul and remember to “ground yourself” every once in a while, whether it’s through journaling, reflection, or whatever activity works for you.
Remember that life isn’t a straight and upward path, and loving ourselves is an ongoing process! Take a deep breath, smile, and do what you need to do in order to get through. Some days are tougher than others but always remember to challenge yourself, listen to your body, and enjoy the journey that life has in store for us all!