Self Love Isn't Linear: 5 Self-Love Tools To Start Using In Your Life

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Hi Lovely Readers,

I spent some time contemplating whether or not I would write about following one's dreams or about learning to love yourself.

And I will admit, I was quite lost at first.

But then a kind friend pointed out that self love is a necessary ingredient for us to be able to believe in ourselves enough to pursue our dreams. 

That being said, I want to write honestly about my journey of failures and success when it comes to practicing self-love, as well as provide you with 5 tools I continue to utilize to build a better my relationship with myself.

But first, let's get personal about self-love..

Like many girls, I struggled a lot with self-confidence growing up. I tend to be a people-pleaser in general, so I am prone to placing a high importance on others' opinions, perhaps to a fault at times. When I was younger, I was convinced there was only one acceptable form of beauty. I would singe my hair with a flat iron before school, growing to despise its natural, Irish curl for no reason other than it wasn't what I saw in magazines. I dreaded summer due to my fair skin, anxiously anticipating the flood of comments girls and boys would make about me being a ghost (or a lobster if I forgot sunscreen).

I remember avoiding pool parties, and even missing opportunities to make new friends out of the fear of being judged. This is something I can now easily recognize as ridiculous and honestly sad, but when we are young these minor setbacks feel like the world is collapsing around us. When we haven't yet gained the perspective of just how small we are in comparison to the rest of the world. And as I mature, I often find myself wanting to go back and hug the girl I once was, protecting her from the judgmental voice within her own head. 

As I went through high school, my struggles with disordered eating started. Weight was something I had never concerned myself with until it was met with criticism when pursuing a few modeling opportunities. I had always thought I was enough, until suddenly I wasn't enough for someone else. Someone else with the credentials to make me believe I was truly flawed. And as a people-pleaser, this need for validation triggered a toxic spiral.  

And as I mature, I often find myself wanting to go back and hug the girl I once was.

 

Being an extremely type A, overachiever, I thought this was something I could fix. I thought it was like school--that I just needed to study harder, and I would earn better grades. I applied that mindset to eating, thinking that if I had enough self-control around food, that I would finally be skinny enough for other people, and consequently for my goals. I was no longer able to enjoy food, restricting myself to minuscule portions of things I deemed 'safe' to eat. I became afraid of meals, because to me indulging in nutrition meant I was failing myself. That I wasn't working hard enough for my goals.

My battles with food truly backfired the year before I was set to graduate high school, when my lack of proper nutrients allowed antibiotics to wipe out my digestive immune system. I developed horrible digestive issues and became intolerant to most foods for a period of several years, struggling to reintroduce everything into my diet. Many foods I used to love growing up, I can now never eat again. This further damaged my self-esteem, leading to feelings of deep shame and failure. In college, I tried to find a compromise with my body by eating, but later purging to get rid of the guilt. It wasn't until my hair started thinning again and I had to get teeth filled from enamel damage, that I realized I couldn't go on living that way.

Eating disorders usually are not isolated, and they often coincide with feelings of anxiety or depression. It was not until I took the leap and saw a counselor at college, that I faced the realities of what I was experiencing. Talking to a professional helped remedy a lot of pain. Simply speaking with someone who listened and validated my feelings as something real was healing. Something more than growing pains or millennial vanity. 

To say that I am happy every single day would be misleading. There are still mornings that I wake up and fixate on the tiniest details. I can still walk in front of a mirror and pick apart the things I don't like about my face, or pinch my stomach in a fitting room when I have had a bad day. However, things have significantly improved overtime, and I wish it didn't take health complications for me to realize the way I was treating my body and myself was not right. There are five main mantras and tools I use to understand self-love and apply to help improve my own, which are:

 

1. Self-esteem is not linear

Self esteem is not an upward sloping graph. We are not born into this Earth with no confidence only to slowly attain it over time. In fact sometimes it can appear to seem the opposite. As if we are born with no self-hatred, and it is learned as we grow up. But I don't entirely see it that way either. To me, self esteem is a squiggly line--there are highs and lows. We will not always feel our best, and the times that we feel vibrant can seem fleeting. But know this- when you feel low, you won't feel that way forever. You know that you have felt something wonderful in the past, and you will have those feelings again. It is all a matter of time, but I hope you can rest easier knowing that you are not stuck in a bottomless pit--that there is a way up and out.

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2. There are things you do like about yourself--perhaps even love

This may sound absurd, but more often than not we have some quality we like about ourselves. For instance, I may struggle with feelings regarding my weight or the color of my skin, but the one thing I love about myself is my eyes. Find or recognize the characteristics that you love about yourself and focus in on them. Use them to build up the feelings you have about yourself. It is also important to note that these qualities do not just have to be physical. They can be skills or personality characteristics. Maybe you are a wonderful dancer, or can bake a cake Martha Stewart would envy. Those qualities are there inside of you, but you need to take a magnifying glass to your soul to pull them out before your eyes.

3. Different is not only good, Different is GREAT

It is so easy to compare yourself to others. We see people we think are beautiful or qualities people condition us to believe are beautiful, and if we do not fit this formula then we ask ourselves, 'Why don't I have that quality?' or 'Whats wrong with me?'

I'm here to tell you that there is so much meaning and beauty in your differences. They are what catches the eye, what draws people to you like a moth to a flame. There is enough love to go around in this world, that someone else's beauty does not disqualify your own. Different body types are beautiful, different eyes, different skin colors alike are all beautiful. Different does not signify less than. Take the word at face value: different only means different. 

4. Find a role model that looks like you

This tip is mostly for those who struggle with their physical self-esteem. It is easy to get lost idealizing people who are beautiful, but who are significantly different from you. One of the things that helped me tremendously was to find a public figure (perhaps a celebrity) with similar qualities. For example, I could feel so low looking through Instagram and comparing myself to models with olive skin and light blonde hair. Instead I look at people I respect who have the same body type as me, or the same fair skin, and I use them as beauty inspiration and role models at times when I feel insecure.

5. Fill up your cup by aiding others

One of the best strategies to distract yourself when you are caught up in negative thinking is to perform an act of service for someone else. Not only does this get your mind out of the gutter, and expand your perspective, but it makes you feel good deep down. I find it to be so fulfilling to help others, that in lifting their burden, I remove the weight of some of my own negative feelings. Furthermore, I have found it to be much easier to fixate on my insecurities when I am not doing something I find meaningful. 

In college, I volunteered as a reading mentor, working with young students every week to improve their comprehension skills. Helping these kids build a vital skill and witnessing some claim me as their own role model really made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Sometimes it takes a seven year old to point out the qualities that you have failed to see in yourself. I should probably just add Hang out with Kids More Often as its own tip, because most of the time they make you feel like a Disney Princess. That is to say, when they aren't asking you why you aren't married at 21.

I hope these guidelines can offer your some feelings of peace or help you learn to love yourself a little more each day. I hope that if you can relate to even a piece of my story, that you can feel better knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And if you have any questions or concerns don't hesitate to leave a comment or message me on instagram (@Bellejarpoetry) or send me an email (bellejarpoetry@gmail.com).

Additionally if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek help from a trusted friend or family member. More resources are available at:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline

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Sending you all my love.

Until next time,

Belle