#SelfLoveSeries feat. Some Beautiful People
(Excerpt from the series' Intro post) Self-love is so important to me. In a time where the media heavily influences how we're suppose to act, how we're suppose to dress, and how we're suppose to feel about aspects of ourselves we can't always change, it can be pretty tough loving yourself when it seems like the people in the world don't.
For the month of February, I'm going to touch on vulnerable points in my life when I had trouble loving who I am and what I do to stay happy with myself. I'll also be interviewing my friends who have volunteered to open up about their love life with themselves.
What do you find is your biggest flaw and how have you come to accept it?
"Being a girl, your physical 'flaws' are pointed out everyday. Social media is not shy, in fact it is ruthless - just by opening Instagram, it's so easy to compare yourself to other people as well as for other people to target you, bring you down, and be overwhelmingly negative about you when you're just trying to show the world your best. I'd never been particularly self-conscious about my body until grade 9 when a few girls highlighted that boys only liked hot girls with a cup size bigger than B, and that my confidence was therefore ironic. I then suddenly had issues with my body. I constantly compared myself to all the people I thought were the world's most beautiful people and felt like I needed to accept I'd just never be on their 'level'. I put myself in a place that felt uncomfortable. I knew I wasn't 'ugly' but apparently I wasn't 'hot' either. I was just 'mediocre', and that just wasn't good enough for me or what I thought were the world's expectations. I opened up to my stepmom about it, who is seriously one of the most beautiful people, and she said that I just needed to listen. I only heard what those few girls said about me, and ignored what my good friends told me: I am beautiful. I completely disengaged with positivity because all I heard were a few negative comments. Now, I am happy with who I am and the genes I have because beyond the petty tiers of beauty that our society has created, it truly is just about listening. You have the choice to feel beautiful. When you're not in the place to look for assurance within, you just have to listen to genuine people because you are beautiful."
Was there a moment in your life where you've had a hard time accepting who you are? How did you overcome it?
"Growing up with the morals and norms that my family placed upon me, I've always had a hard time accepting who I truly was. I was always known as that ideal kid that everyone thought was so perfect, yet I always hated the part no one ever saw; the part I never let anyone see. Being that kid that always listened to his parents, I always thought, 'Don't let them down and don't disappoint them,' so I pushed away who I was, believing that as their ideal child, that's what I had to do. At some point I began to believe that it was a phase and that I'd get over it, so I continued to force that belief upon myself. This continued throughout all of elementary school and even throughout high school. I always thought that this 'phase' would just disappear, yet it never did. When anyone ever accused me of being that specific way I always had to defend myself and say, 'No I'm not!' as if it was a bad thing. Every time I did that, I could feel a sharp pain within myself, eating away at the part that made me, me. At some point I realized that it wasn't a phase and that I would no longer be my parents ideal child; instead, I would be known as a disgrace. I was stuck with that mindset for sometime, forcing myself to close off, even though at the time it may not have seemed like it. Even though I didn't want anyone else to know about this 'flaw' that made me who I was, I decided to tell my best friend about all of this, and what was going on with me. She told me to love yourself because something like that will never make me or the other people in my life love you any less. I didn't believe her at first, but I slowly began talking about it with the closest people in my life and gradually I began to realize that this little flaw of mine, the one thing I thought was horrible,was actually one of the most beautiful parts about me."
What was a time in your life where the love you had for yourself was at its lowest?
"A year ago, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It was one of the hardest, scariest times of my life because I was so confused by what was happening to me and how my life was changing. I felt so depressed and down about myself because I could no longer do basic things by myself. My friends would walk me to all my classes and carried all of my bags. My parents weren't much of a help as well, and it made me feel really worthless. I felt so bad about myself because every time I looked in the mirror, I didn't see a girl who had endeared the worst and still finished grade 12. I saw a girl that was 'crippled' and incapable of getting out of bed without help because she was sick. I saw someone who wasn't beautiful because her forehead was covered in acne due to the medication she was on. I saw a girl who wasn't motivated to do her homework because she didn't see a positive future for herself. My mind was clouded by the disease that had become my life. I didn't love myself, because I didn't feel like I was myself anymore. I didn't see the same person when I looked in the mirror. It changed everything, it changed me. Of course this feeling didn't last forever. After I graduated and moved out, I started feeling better and my condition improved as I got my arthritis under control. I also found that having a change of scenery helped me. It gave me the chance to make new friends, and become who I want to be in life. It has taken a lot of time for me to love myself, but marking one year from my diagnosis, I have learned that no matter if my body isn't at its best, I still put a smile on my face and make the best out of the day."
Are sacrifices worth making in order to take care of yourself?
"I feel that sacrifices are absolutely necessary for self-care when need be.
I believe that we live in a world where we are constantly making sacrifices - whether that be sacrificing the consumption of one good for another or sacrificing your investment of time of one activity for another.
Now if you really value your health and love for yourself, I believe that it is crucial to sacrifice some limiting beliefs for empowering ones. Sacrifice some junk food for healthy food that gives you energy and drive. Sacrifice some time-wasting activities for sleep. Sacrifice some pride for humility. Sacrifice hate for love... and the list goes on.
Basically, in order to be healthy, happy, and live a wonderful life, you have to invest in YOU... and sacrifice what's not needed for what you do need to live a life of passion and excellence."
Are there physical attributes that you don't like about yourself? What have you done to overcome these insecurities?
"For me, my biggest insecurity has been my smile. I got my front teeth pulled super young and I remember being so embarrassed about the big gap that was now at the front of my mouth. Coincidentally, I got them pulled around Christmas time and I had to sing 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth' in front of my entire grade - talk about traumatizing. *laughs* No but really, after getting those teeth pulled, eventually my adult ones came in and they weren't straight. It was really hard to smile growing up because I always felt like that was all people would see about me - crooked teeth. You know how people always say 'Smiles make a first impression' or something like that? That honestly haunted me for the majority of my life. Smiling was hard.
Fast forward to my senior year in high school, I realized how small of a problem having an overlapping smile really was. What had actually helped me learn how to accept my teeth was the understanding that they were a quirk of mine. They were something that made me unique and to be upset about something that made me, me... just felt wrong. Obviously, I still have moments where I feel insecure about my smile, but in the grand scheme of things, when people think of me, they will think of qualities I possess and features that I have... and I guess because I realized that my smile was a part of me, I was able to love that attribute rather than hide it and feel insecure."
Vulnerability is a social norm that is not typically associated with men. Knowing that every man possesses that side of them, how do you move past that stereotype?
"Since the early beginnings of my childhood, I was always exposed to many situations that revealed how weak I truly was. Whether it be people excluding me from their friend groups or not having any friend to talk to, in these times I’ve felt like I was all by myself. I felt vulnerable. Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep thinking 'Why… Why me?!' and then calming myself down saying, 'It’s just a phase, man up…'. Little did I know that all throughout my life to the present day I would face the same feeling. Disappointing test, cry. Terrible family issues, cry. Countless heartbreaks, that’s right, cry. All leading back to the same question 'Why me? I’m a man', and as I kept questioning repeatedly after every experience, I started to embrace my vulnerability. Though things never would work the way I wanted them to, I realized that if I needed to cry myself asleep, it was okay, if I needed to talk to my problems to someone, it was okay. And slowly but surely, I started to cope with my sensitivity/vulnerability and started being honest with myself because I knew this is how I was made and it’s okay."
What does self-love mean to you?
"To me self-love means to care for yourself because you, in fact, want to. Accepting is not the same as loving, nor is it the same as caring. We've been told to 'accept who we are' because we're all beautiful inside and out but that doesn't truly encompass how love to ourselves. Acceptance isn't the same as love. I don't love the hate propaganda spreading or the millions of horrible things happening in the world but I accept that it's there, that it's happening.
But to truly love yourself is to care for yourself because it means that you want to be better, you want to strive and continue with life. You have to care for all your mind, body, and soul because they all work in harmony together. Now, I may sound hippy-dippy here, but stay with me. Mental well-being is just as, if not more, important as your physical well-being, because burn out is incredibly real even if you don't have a mental illness. Also, your body needs enough nutrition and exercise to be healthy as we've all experienced how exhausted we feel when our body isn't taken care of. Finally, soul is your drive in life - your motto, your mantra, your passion. It's your reason for living so to say. Whether it's your spirituality or religion, or your dream and goals, or family and friends, it's the core of your being that makes you, you. So do what makes you happy, because it gives you strength. This is how you care for yourself and you cannot neglect any one part because they are all crucial. Since you can care without loving but you cannot love without caring."
Everyone falls into the trap of comparison. When you find yourself in that trap, what do you do to get yourself out of it?
"The way I view self-comparison is always for self-improvement. I think you should never compare yourself to another person in spite, but instead to see how you can build and improve upon yourself. When I'm comparing myself to others, it's always because I want to improve, to maybe/hopefully achieve what they have achieved; whether it's an athlete, a singer, friends, or anyone in general. For instance, I've started to invest more of my time into music and I have met people that I now look up to in order to get better at music. I take what they are doing (right or wrong) and try to learn from it, while applying my own twist. So in my opinion, comparison isn't really a trap, because it's impossible to avoid. There's always gonna be someone out there that's better than you in some sort of way. The trick is to appreciate what they've achieved, learn from it, and apply it while still keeping your art 'you'."
How does it make you feel seeing that society's ideal body for a woman is something that isn't attainable for most?
"Every morning, I would wake up and browse through my phone like any other teenager. During those first few minutes of my day, I would gravitate towards social media where I would be bombarded with images of people whom society deemed to be beautiful. Eccentric features, proportionate bodies, symmetrical faces; everything a 12-year-old Veronica would’ve ever wanted. But I never really understood why I wanted to meet that criteria so desperately. I don’t think I’ve ever hated my own skin. There were just things I wish I could adjust or touch up, so I could be that much closer to those other beautiful girls that were so prominent everywhere else. I wanted to be that girl everyone found beautiful. I wanted to fit the mold I developed in my mind that encompassed everything I thought was needed for me to be beautiful. After a while, I realized I could never really fit into that mold. I looked to move past these physical insecurities by accepting I wasn’t beautiful and instead focusing on the internal factors that defined me. Although this allowed me to gain confidence in my own capabilities and values, I never allowed myself to believe I was physically beautiful. I have only recently begun to view myself as beautiful. It no longer feels like a shameful indulgence to call myself beautiful, because I’ve come to understand that I don’t need to justify myself to the rest of society.
This 'ideal' body is so heavily advertised in our world, it’s become second nature to use this physical standard as a metric to measure ourselves against. Now when that 'ideal' body consists of features that only apply to a select portion of the population, it’s easy to disvalue your own beauty. It’s easy to label yourself as ugly or mediocre. But these self-assigned labels don’t hold value if they’re developed with a preconceived mold of what society defines as beautiful. It is hard to acknowledge your own beauty, especially if there are details that contradict society’s ideals. But we aren’t defined by these social standards. We have the power to define and acknowledge our own beauty."
Thank you to all of my beautiful volunteers for going past their boundaries and answering these questions about self-love. <3