How to love yourself

Perhaps one of the hardest things in my journey is learning to love myself. There’s no handbook, guide, or script for loving yourself. The most important first step is learning to at least like yourself. It can be hard, especially when the world around us gives us so many reasons not to. In my experience, self-confidence has always seemed like the people who tread upon me when I was younger – I didn’t realize they were hurting me because they were also insecure. So, looking in the mirror and saying “I’m pretty” was never something I felt I could do, without becoming the people who put me down. If they thought I was ugly, surely they thought they were pretty, right? So if feeling pretty meant being a horrible person, I wanted nothing of it.

Now that I am older and know a lot more about the world, I understand that the people who criticize me fall into one of two categories – A) people who are insecure themselves, or B) people who are genuinely concerned for my health and well-being. I am still learning how to deal with the former, and may never truly understand their need to harm others to boost their own ego. I have never thought much of myself, and also never felt the need to put down or berate others to make myself feel better. When some of my friends would do this – laugh at the girl with a speech impediment, or mock the guy with the inch thick glasses – I would put my head down and try not to be a part of their ridicule. I never thought my friends were bad people, and perhaps the difference between my friends and the people who were nasty to me, was that my friends did not ever insult people to their faces. I could see for them it was more just fun, to poke at other people and giggle, but never to actually confront somebody and insult them for no reason.

So, I am taking steps to like myself – love is somewhere down the foggy path, but in order to make progress, I first need to *like* myself.

Step 1 – Look in the mirror every day and say “I’m pretty” – even if I don’t believe it. Now, as a pretty honest person, I feel like lying is not good practice, so lying to myself would be pretty horrible. That is where my snag comes in – if I say “I’m pretty,” I feel like I’m telling a lie. At this point, I can either choose to stop lying (and therefore stop saying it) *or* I can stop believing it is a lie. I can stop cringing every time I say it, and just accept it. When it comes down to it, regardless of my face, my body, and physical features – I know I am a good person. I have a good heart, and lots of love to give to those around me. So by saying “I’m pretty” even if the physical doesn’t click for me right away, eventually that won’t matter.

Step 2 – Reconnect with people who have been a positive influence in my past. Likewise, remove negative influences. This step is still in progress. Because I’ve been extremely reserved and suffer from social anxiety, this step is really hard. I work from home, because the over-stimulation sends all of my physical and emotional triggers into full swing. However, I do have some pretty amazing friends out there in the world – people who don’t judge, who love me for who I am, and who wish to see me succeed.

Step 3 – Move Every Day. This is something even more important than it may be for others – I work at home, so it’s easy to fall into a pattern of sliding my rump from one computer chair into the couch, or yet another computer chair. For me, “Move every day” means that I must do something outside of the house, even if it is just to check the mail, every single day this year. Obviously checking the mail does not seem like very much, but when you’ve been sedentary and depressed as long as I have, it makes a big difference doing this one small thing. I used to fall into the trap of calling it “baby steps” but if you never take bigger steps, you never make any progress. If checking the mail is the only habit I can get into, it’s better than doing nothing on some days and trying to push myself too hard on other days, to make up for the loss. My hope is by the end of the year, I will at least be able to walk to the end of the street and back without collapsing upon return.

Step 4 – Make my meals matter. What this means is simply to nurture my body, rather than torture it. I saw a nutritionist awhile back who was trying to teach me to hate food – she said by associating the foods I love in a negative manner (i.e. eat until I’m full and then eat something I enjoy, which would then MAKE ME SICK) I would stop eating the things that are bad for me. While I understand the concept, I think she poorly explained and suggested something that doesn’t make sense to most people. Food should not be something we hate, in any manner – we simply need to learn to control our cravings and have well-balanced meals. Being diabetic, this also means being very careful with sugar and other simple carbs. I have tried her trick of “eat it until you get sick” because I have done that many times in the past. From experience, I can say this does not work. It may make me tired of something for a while, but it doesn’t ever truly put it out of my mind. Furthermore, I never want to hate pizza – there is so much about pizza to love! And made with the right ingredients, pizza can be a healthy and balanced meal. Pizza was always a family tradition at gatherings. My dad made his own dough, and made this giant pizzas on industrial sized pans, loaded with all kinds of goodies. The moral of the story is, don’t starve yourself of the things you love – find a way to make them work around a balanced meal plan. Put food into my body that nurtures my body, mind, and soul. Make everything I eat serve the purpose food is designed to serve – energy, happiness and health. Experimenting with recipes I already love is a great way to expand my palate and find new ways to enjoy foods I already love.

Step 5 – Last but not least, create new steps along the way. There are always things to learn, whether it be a new recipe, or a new exercise fad that might be something my body can handle. I have to not be afraid to modify my plan as I go along. Nothing is ever as easy as following a list or set of steps. Nothing is perfect or precise. But we can always learn to adapt, and when one thing doesn’t work out, there’s always something else to try. As long as I keep an open mind, I believe I have what it takes to make a “new” me.

While these steps are preliminary and subject to change, I think they are a good start. I have to be accountable to myself – I’m the main person I let down by not doing so. If I say I’m going to do something, whether I say it to myself, my husband, my mom, or the entire internet, I need to be willing to follow through. I am always open for encouragement from all of you – but when it doesn’t come at the times I need it, I should be willing and able to rely on myself to get things done.

Well, I think that’s all for now. I started writing this post a few days ago and finally finished this up. I guess I’m a bit of a rambler at times, but it definitely helps me to get my thoughts out in the open. I know I am strong enough, brave enough, and beautiful enough – I just have to fight for it. I hope you’ll all fight right along with me. J

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