Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was just trying to figure life out. It wasn’t easy–She was shy, compassionate, awkward, curvy, competitive and a deep thinker who had no idea what to think about some of life’s more complex issues. You know, like how to bring peace to the world, create the most happiness in her family, and how to mimic the cool girls in any way she could. For, though she grew up proud of being strong and kind, when she got older, she realized things like being strong and kind weren’t important to society. Being strong and kind didn’t make you cool. The cool girls in her world had other qualities, things like saying what they wanted when they wanted, not caring so much about other’s feelings, being skinny and therefore beautiful and most of all–fitting into those awful low-rise jeans and Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts that were EVERYTHING in the mid 2000’s. Anyway, this girl was none of those things. As a result, and only obvious solution to her predicament, she set out on a quest to do everything in her power to change all that she perceived wrong about herself and morph into a plastic clone. She stopped focusing on all her good qualities and focused on everything she despised about herself. All the clothes that looked great on her were worthless because they were not the clothes the other girls wore, and all the clothes she would try on at the mall would stay there if they weren’t in a size she deemed “acceptable.” She worried about every calorie that went into her body–including toothpaste, and only felt like she was succeeding on her quest if she was hungry–being full was failure. The calories that did make it into her body were burned off by 2x or 3x as much as she ate by hours spent on the treadmill. Yet, her body refused to change. The moments between her and her mirror and their self-loathing internal conversation ceased as she was eventually unable to even look at the mirror without welling up with hateful tears. She failed in her quest to look like the cool girls, but succeeded in being the worst and saddest version of herself she had ever been. Sad story right?
As I’m sure you guessed, it’s mine! And fortunately, my story is very much a different one now.
Being a Female is hard. It just is. We have society constantly shoving images in our face of what we are supposed to look like in order to be sexy, acceptable and wanted. When I was growing up, the ideal body was stick thin with a tan and pin-straight hair. For young women growing up today, it’s being really curvy at a young age and having a Kardashian butt with a face full of makeup fit for an Instagram star. See, society always changes what they want from women, but one thing never changes: women always suffer with self-image as a result of unattainable standards. This is certainly something I struggled with for many years, but I did finally learn how to love myself–flaws and all–and I want to share with you guys today how my sad story turned into a much better one.
Here are a list of steps I took–not necessarily in order–of how I ended the vicious cycle of negative self-image and changed my perspective on myself.
- Fake-it-till-you-make-it. I know, I know, not the ideal strategy, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary. See, after years of hating what you see in mirror and so many negative words spoken, the negative feelings just don’t go away as soon as you want them to. It takes time, intentionality, and yeah, a lot of faking it at first. For example, when I would look at myself in the mirror, I still hated it. And my first thoughts were to start self-loathing. However, I knew I had to change, so at first, I would just avoid the whole routine of waking up in the morning, walking over to the mirror, and start my internal conversation of how worthless I was. I would look down, and walk by. Then, as time went on, I would make myself look in the mirror and say nice things about myself–even though I didn’t believe them. I started saying “thank you” when people complimented me, instead of instantly disagreeing with them as I normally used to do. Eventually, I started believing some of the things I was faking, and they became real.
- Change your body language. It’s strange, but the way you carry yourself not only affects the view others have of you–but the view you have of yourself. If you constantly walk around with your shoulders slouched, head down, hands in your pockets and shuffled steps, your body language will affect the way you actually feel about yourself. Conversely, if you force yourself to walk around with your head up, making eye contact with those you pass, taking confident steps, arms at your sides and not in your pockets, etc., you will not only fool others, but eventually yourself. Science is funny!
- Focus on the things you do like about yourself. This may take time, and maybe you’re currently at a place where you hate everything about yourself. That’s where I was at. Maybe you don’t have a Kardashian butt or the slightest idea how to contour and highlight without looking like an Oompa-Loompa, but that’s okay! You have your own great qualities, and though it will take time and intention to see them, it is very much worth the effort.
- Know who you are apart from your appearance. Who are you? Really? No, not where do you work. Not where do you live. Not who you’re married to–or who you aren’t married to. Who are you at your core? See, careers, friends, abilities, houses, appearances, these all change. If you don’t want your confidence to shift every time your situations do, you have to discover who you really are. For me, who I really am apart from anything else is this: a child of God. I had to know, REALLY believe this and understand what that means for me in order to have real confidence. You’ll never be happy with who you are on the outside if you’re unhappy with who you are on the inside. (I have a Disney reference bouncing about in my head that I HAVE to write down or else it will never let me rest–but I’m currently thinking about my favorite Disney princess, Moana. Before she was able to succeed at her goal and in order to face the challenges and set backs her journey brought to her, she had to remember who she was! She even helped people see who they were along the way because of that. Anyway, don’t judge me, I love my Disney movies…) So knowing who you are apart from everything else–probably the most important factor.
- Don’t compare–be inspired! Learn the difference between these two. When you see someone beautiful, be intentional with your thoughts. If you are comparing yourself–stop! Instead, let them inspire you. Do you love their makeup? Determine to try out a similar look tomorrow. Admire their biceps? Add in a few more arm workouts to your routine. When you choose to be inspired rather than compare, you become a better version of yourself, rather than becoming a clone.
- Learn that just because somebody else is beautiful doesn’t mean you aren’t. This is so important! It’s so easy when we see someone we find attractive to compare ourselves, and if we don’t have the same qualities they do, we therefore consider ourselves unattractive. Don’t make beauty synonymous to someone else’s individual qualities. They have their own aspects that make them beautiful, but so do you! Be YOUR OWN beautiful. Example: You love her radiant skin and warm smile. She is beautiful. You love your naturally curly hair and defined quads. You are beautiful.
- Serve others more. The perspective it gives you is life changing. On a practical level, it gets your mind off yourself and onto the bigger issues in life. You’ll find you spend far less time feeling self conscious or self loathing when you are busy helping others out. When it really comes down to it, when you are focusing on how much you don’t like your body, you are focusing on self. So, in a way, it’s a form of selfishness. And that’s of course not to say that anybody who has body confidence issues is trying to be selfish. We are all human, and all working on ourselves, but this is really what it comes down to. That’s why it’s so helpful to focus on serving and helping others! It retrains our thinking and readjusts our outlook on life, therefore making us more selfless people. The result of this doesn’t only benefit other people, but ourselves in the process.
- Don’t worry so much about how others perceive you. Because honestly, who cares? Worry about how you perceive yourself! That’s what really matters. Who cares if they think you’re hot. Do you think you’re hot? The bottom line is this: If you base your confidence level off of people’s love OR people’s hate for you– it will destroy you. Be confident in yourself apart from what other people think. And I totally understand that is hard to do, especially in today’s culture that barely exists apart from social media. So many people’s self-worth is based on how many “likes” they get on social media. If you find that is affecting your own perception of yourself too much–just unplug for a while. Take a break from social media–I promise you, you’ll survive!These are all tips that I followed and helped me tremendously in my journey to body confidence. I hope I’ve inspired or encouraged some of you with this post, it’s something that is close to my heart and something I think everyone needs to hear! Body confidence isn’t about sculpting the perfect body, creating the strongest body, or even learning how to focus on loving your body more. It’s not about showing the most skin in order to prove your confidence, nor is it about showing “just the right amount” to prove you are confident without showing anything. Confidence in who you are doesn’t come from always eating the healthiest foods, always giving 100% at the gym, or spending every morning meditating. Body confidence is about knowing who you are inside and letting that radiate through. It’s about understanding and accepting that you’re not perfect, and that’s just fine. Life isn’t about you, and life will go on no matter what your body looks like. It’s about knowing you were created by God and it is GOOD, no matter what society tries to tell you. Body confidence is about knowing you are beautiful because of who you are, not because of what you look like. I think we all want to be beautiful, not just on the inside but on the out too! I think that is normal and human and good, but, I believe we can never truly feel beautiful and have lasting confidence unless we know who we are. When I look individually at things like my thick waist, calloused hands, weird broken pinky, blotchy sunburn scar on my back, short toes, wide feet, extra back fat, uneven eyebrows, stretch marks on my boobs or “unladylike” biceps, I don’t say, “WOW, that’s beautiful,” because I think each of those things is the most eye appealing, sexy, or even generally “above average.” All of these things are just parts that make up the whole. When I look at parts of my body that aren’t society’s definition of beautiful, I no longer am filled with disgust or discouragement. I just see it as a body–an imperfect body–just like we all have. I see a body performing exactly as it was meant to: Hands that can help others, feet that are able to run to adventure after adventure, legs strong enough to “Sparta kick” any who dares to mess with me, eyes that try to see the best in others, biceps that enable me to carry ALL the groceries in one trip and thighs that can catch anything I ever drop. When I look at myself, I think, “WOW, I am beautiful,” and not just in a forced, cheesy way, but REALLY believe it, because what is inside radiating out, because I’ve learned who I am and I remember it no matter how rocky or inconstant life becomes, and because NOBODY on this earth can tell me otherwise. I know I’m beautiful because I am valued and loved by my Creator, and because I know life is bigger than how my body looks or even how my body feels. I know I’m beautiful because when I look at myself I don’t see a conglomerate of imperfect parts, but a being who has purpose and is fully loved and fully valued, and through truth and consistency I’ve learned how to see myself that way.See, society will tell me a thick waist isn’t sexy, that my jawline is too wide and that big muscles on a female is something no man will ever want. They will say I have less value because I have one too many tummy rolls, that I should consider getting my pudgy nose done and I should start putting more of an effort into my hair. But here’s the thing. Society can’t tell me what to do, and nobody can tell me I’m any less valuable for not following a made up set of unreasonable and unattainable rules that frankly I think women are getting real sick of hearing about. Who is ANYBODY to tell you that you have any less OR more worth or value in this world because of what your body looks like? Let’s stop basing our confidence level off of how well we think our body fits into society’s current idea of beautiful, let’s stop caring so much about how people perceive us, lets’ stop letting others speak lies into our lives and let’s START by speaking truths into our own lives. Let’s remember who we are and why we have value so that no person, life circumstance or changing of our body can tell us otherwise. Let’s stop picking apart our bodies and judging their goodness off of each individual part. Let’s remember that in the end we are far more than just what we can see in the mirror, and that all-in-all, the whole picture is beautiful.
It’s my sincere wish that every woman, and every man, will be able to look in the mirror and know WHO they are, how VALUED they are, how LOVED they are and therefore how BEAUTIFUL they are. I hope that confidence changes you in the best of ways, gives you fresh and hopeful perspective and effects not just your view of your body but of every aspect of your life.
*In spirit of body positivity, no shots have been edited or conformed to society’s standards. ✌️