How I Learned to Like Myself

imageIf I were given even a small amount of money each time someone I know told me something that they hated about themselves, I would be a very rich woman. With the apparent pressure on each individual to look perfect, according to defined aesthetics, many of us have issues with our own appearance, and of the appearance of those around us.

I did a post over a year ago, inspired by Tina Fey, that focused on accepting the flaws and imperfections within our bodies. It had a good response, and still remains one of my favourites, but I have a minor confession to make. At the time of publishing, I was desperately unhappy, not just with how I looked, but myself in general. There was little that I deemed to be positive about who I was – I was hugely stressed out and depressed, comfort eating, smoking more than I should and, while it was certainly never an issue, I was drinking more than usual too. I lived in an almost permanent state of anger at the poor treatment that I had received from others, and started to believe that it was because I deserved it. I was grumpy more often than not, I didn’t enjoy being around others as I felt that I had become sullen and boring, and I had developed this increasingly paranoid feeling that whenever I walked into a room, the people who were already in there either had just been talking about me and/or disliked being in my company. My close family and friends noticed, but most of the time I hid it with a forced smile.

There was a turning point where I hit what I would consider to be rock bottom. A friend of mine who lived down the road was clearing out wardrobe of old clothes. She works in fashion and is the same size as my sister, so I went round to see if there was anything that my sister may like. It was late in the evening, so I was wearing my sweatpants and a large coat that I refer to as my ‘sleeping bag,’ my hair was slicked back, I had no make-up on. At that point I was the heaviest I’ve ever been.

After I had selected the clothes that I wanted, I said bye and my friend took a picture of me by her gate. By the time I had returned home, she’d shared it on Facebook.

I think that it’s worth pointing out here that this was not done maliciously. She’s one of my oldest friends, and had no idea how I was feeling at the time. However, when I saw the image I was heartbroken. This was not me – I knew that I had let myself go, but what I saw staring back at me was far worse than I even imagined, and for some rather strange reason it seemed to validate everything that I had been telling myself for a long time: I was ugly, unlovable, stupid.

I decided at that very moment that things had to change. I realised that the only person who’s opinion of me that mattered was my own, and in the words of the great RuPaul:

If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?

It’s been a long and slow process, but I can now look at myself in the mirror at the end of each day and at least like what I see. This is what I did:

I asked myself a series of questions:
Do I deliberately do things to hurt other people? No.
Do I help others when asked? Yes.
Do I help others, just because? Yes.
Do I expect anything in return? No.
Am I a nice person? Generally, yes.
I decided that my answers should be the starting point of changing my opinion of myself. I’m not nasty, or unkind. I have family, The Bloke and genuine friends. There was no reason to hate myself. This became something that I would regularly remind myself of (and still do) on down days.

I let it go. This has indeed had the biggest impact on my personal sense of self-worth. It took a while, but eventually I realised that what others had done to me in the past was a reflection of their character, not my own, and carrying animosity around with me would only affect my life in the present – it certainly wouldn’t change anything that had happened before. I reconnected with people that I had been estranged from for a number of years, and while I will never forget, I realised that it was more important to accept and move on.

I got rid of toxic people. Being around a narcissist (or in my case, two of them) is never good for the self-esteem.

I started running. I used to be incredibly fit and healthy, and one of the reasons why I disliked myself was the amount of weight I had put on. I cut down on the smoking and started training several times a week with friends. In October, I completed all thirteen miles of the Birmingham half-marathon. At the beginning of 2016, I set myself a personal weight loss challenge, which was to lose 1lb. a week. To date, I’m about a stone lighter.

I stopped being paranoid. Whenever I walked into a room, particularly at work, I made a point of saying hello and asking how everyone was. I ignored the little nagging thoughts in my head about their potential opinions, reminding myself that I had done nothing wrong and that I was there for the same reasons as them. After a while, it started to work, and although there are still occasional minor relapses, I do my best to carry on as normal.

I started to make more of an effort with others. If I was invited out somewhere, I’d go, even if I didn’t feel like it (and of the time, I ended up really enjoying myself). I rang and text people more often, for no other reason just to find out how they were. I tried harder to remember birthdays, and send cards. Doing something nice for others made me feel good about myself.

I started to take a little more pride and care in my appearance, for nobody else and to boost my own self-esteem. I took some advice from my previous post and focused on something that I liked about myself – in this case it was my eyes – so I started watching YouTube tutorials to learn how to make the best of them. This unwittingly led to an obsession with make-up in general, which I thoroughly enjoy (although The Bloke has commented that I have so much it is now beginning to take over our room) and now I take great pleasure in doing myself up for nights out. The compliments and comments that I have received about it has done wonders for my confidence.

It’s still a work in progress, but I’m so glad that I’m at least trying. And for those of you who don’t know where to start, remember this:

If you can’t say something nice to yourself, practice.

What about you guys? Is there anything that you do to feel more confident about yourself?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page, my Pinterest page and my Instagram page

124 thoughts on “How I Learned to Like Myself

  1. A friend of mine used to ask me if something was wrong if I was ever silent for over a minute. At the time, he said it was because I was usually so talkative. But one day, years upon years later, I realized that was no longer how someone meeting me for the first time would describe me. I had started internalizing everything; not only my frustrations, which took root and grew but my joys as well and unfortunately, joy doesn’t thrive quite as well in the darkness. So I started writing. First for me, for purely cathartic purposes, but then as a way to remind myself not to minimize all the little things that made me happy as they can add up. Especially when listed in black and white.

  2. Hi Suzie, sorry to hear you were feeling that way last year. You are right that self love if really important to overall confidence levels. And when you don’t love yourself, it has a tendency to spill out into the rest of your life, poisoning everything.

    I’m glad you are in a better spot now.

  3. A beautifully honest post, Suzie. I think sometimes it does take something drastic to shake us out of ourselves, and what we do next can make all the difference. Sounds as though it’s been quite a journey.

  4. If ever a little niggle of self doubt worms it’s way in again, just take a look at you blog. Check out the number of people who like you then ask yourself why. They can’t all be wrong can they.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  5. Yay you!!! This is a perfectly timed post for me (check out what I wrote this morning about self-esteem and self-image issues currently rearing their ugly heads, again)….I need to work on tuning out the mean voices inside myself, and practice saying nice things.
    I am a runner…running regularly, exercising regularly makes me feel stronger, better. Dressing well, especially wearing high heels, gives me confidence.
    Take care of you. Thanks for writing this.

    • Thanks so much! I have to admit – I hate running while I’m doing it, but I always feel so much better afterwards! I’ll check the post out – thanks!

  6. Love this post and some great suggestions! I’m working on this issue too. Especially always being sure I know what others are thinking about me… (I’m prob wrong more than half of the time)

  7. I have found that the old phrase “Fake it til you make it” works best for me. My pretending to be something I’m not (confident, happy, friendly, what have you), I trick myself into being just that. That pissy little voice still whispers in my ear, but (fortunately) my hearing is getting worse……or maybe the other voices are getting louder πŸ˜‰

  8. And good for you! Coming up with an action plan is a wonderful idea that I cannot quite seem to get around to doing. Maybe I should create an action plan for creating an action plan….

  9. One thing that makes me feel more confident & generally improves my morale is when I try something new, or when I’m being my active self. The active sporty girl is more me than any of my other personas. I throughly enjoy forms of exercise that don’t feel like exercise at all (i.e. Zumba, hoop dancing, circus aerials, swimming at the beach…) When I’m out and about, I dig into the side of me that I love and sometimes miss. It makes me happier in general, which helps me to like myself. Sometimes it feels funny busting a hoop out in public, but once I start, everyone and everything melts away. What I’m going through may not have changed, but I change… and I think that’s what makes all the difference.

    This made me want to write a post! Do you allow pingbacks?

  10. You inspire me so much Suzi, to be more myself and be more kind to myself….awesome post xx

  11. Wow! My favorite post of yours, Suzie. It takes a ton of courage to write by opening your heart. I didn’t realize you harbored such negative feelings about your self worth though I could tell you were not pleased about some things. You’ve accomplished even more than I realized. Congratulations on making yourself into the person you want to be, though I’ve always found you to be thoughtful, sincere, compassionate, and a great role model. I’m trying to redo myself as well, and I’m going to say something nice about myself, no matter how hard it is. Thank you for this article, the best to you as you go forward.

  12. Thanks for sharing, it’s a great (and gentle) reminder to ourselves. I have to make a confession though: I was invited to a wedding in Nov 2015 and at the very last minute decided not to show up. That’s because the bride invited only myself and another girlfriend while the rest of the party was family members. I didn’t want to go because the other girl (who I have stopped talking to now) has the knack of commenting my clothes and appearance ALL the time. Even if someone was to say to me, ‘Hey, I love your dress’, this girl would invariably turn the conversation around that she’s the only HOT one in the room. As much as I love the bride who invited me to her wedding, I’m sorry for not attending because I just couldn’t bear the thought of attending a 3-hour function to be belittled by the other girl. I should have attended – it could have been fun regardless. Why do we, women, do this to ourselves?? I wonder, if the blokes have the same challenges too? πŸ™‚

    • Hi Kat – I’m really sorry you had to go through that, and what a shame you felt you had to miss out on such an experience because of another person. I think blokes have the exact same insecurities we do, but it isn’t discussed as often unfortunately…

  13. When I started writing One Man’s Opinion it was done with the idea to rediscover who I was and why I was …
    I was a crossroads and to be honest I felt I was near a point of no return, I was at a low point, my marriage was done. The relationship I was in was in some ways a form of therapy helping me understand that I needed to shed the old tapes in my head and be the person I want to be . Not be what everyone needed me to be but be who I needed me to be. It took time and some real soul searching but in time …I learn to except myself for who I am and learned to take a deep breath and exhale and be me and if that wasn’t good enough for anyone else it would be good enough for me.

    • Thanks so much for sharing such a personal story, and i’m sorry you had to go through that. Blogging has been the best form of therapy I’ve ever had…

  14. Well worth sharing this. I think rather more of us than would admit go through times like this. The good thing is reaching a point where you have to change. Regrettably, it often means you’ve got a point where it’s so painful you can’t continue as you are. The good news for you is that you’ve been there and are rising up from it.

  15. That is a great post.
    Can I recommend a book called “The Undervalued Self”. It works along the lines you talk about, but might help focus on a few pivot points. There is a link here to our attitude to failure; you think you’re failing all the time. And the consolation is that this typically affects highly driven and intelligent people, because they think about it.
    Most people aren’t out to get you; even if we think they are.

  16. Fantastic! Isn’t it interesting how you remember the way you felt when writing a post? Love the way you end this post with the advice to practice being nice with yourself.

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  18. Great post, Suzie. Over the last year, I’ve noticed more and more how we can be our own worst enemies and shoot ourselves in both feet without so much as a second thought. It is quite a strange realization, especially when it comes to my kids. There’s so much talk about bullies but they do more harm to themselves than anyone else. I came across a very good post by Australian Cook and winner of Masterchef, Julie Goodwin: β€œAs far as what I owe to myself and my children, I owe them food that is cooked from scratch, using as many fresh ingredients and as few additives as possible. I owe them mealtimes around the family table. I owe them the very best of myself, which includes (but is not limited to) keeping myself healthy via plenty of exercise, fresh air, fresh food and laughter. I owe them a broad world view and an education that includes how to be a compassionate human being. I owe them a safe home and a community surrounding them that loves them. And I owe it to them to be self-confident and self-loving so that they can feel the same no matter whether or not they end up looking like Brad Pitt.
    I am grateful to my body for the three children it has given me, for its strength and ability to work long hard hours, and for its robust good health. Yes, robust good health. According to the hard medical data. Sure, one day I may drop dead of a heart attack or contract cancer. Or be the victim of some terrible random accident or evil event. Or go peacefully at a ripe old age surrounded by people who love me. We all will, one way or another. But until then I will live my life as fully and joyfully as each day allows, with the body God gave me in all its magnificent imperfection.”
    Julie Goodwin, Masterchef.
    It’s a long quote but she makes so much sense. I listen to every morning on the radio and she’s sort of like everyone’s Mum.
    xx Rowena

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  20. Years ago, I lost a lot of weight through diet and hard exercise but was having a hard time seeing any payoff. I still wore a lot of baggie clothes because I was ashamed of my body. Then one day I walked by a mirror that was in an odd place. It was low, so when I walked by it, my face couldn’t be seen, all I saw was the body. The very first thought that popped in my head was “That person has a nice body, I wish my body looked like that.” Then I realized it was me. Talk about a revelation. Over the years (and numerous injuries) I’ve since regained the weight, but that revelation stayed with me and I now love myself better this time around.

  21. This is something I think most of us can relate to. Glad you’re not in that place anymore. Sometimes it takes a punch to the gut to make dramatic changes. Good for you. (Related: The photo on Facebook. I didn’t grow up with social media. I wonder if just you had seen that picture if it would have had the same impact if she hadn’t shared it online. It may have, but everything is so public now.) Love this quote: “If you can’t say something nice to yourself, practice.” πŸ’•

    • I like that phrase too… I have to keep reminding myself it. I think that it’s a really interesting idea about sharing something online… I didn’t grow up with it either so I’m still getting my head round a lot of it…

  22. What a great post! Very inspiring!

    The day I stopped trying to be normal and embraced my inner weird — that was the day I started to like myself. πŸ™‚

  23. I think most of us can relate to the struggle with self-confidence. When I watch the way my teen looks around at what others are doing and hyper-focuses on the opinions of his peers, it takes me back to the time when I did the same. With age comes wisdom for sure! I’m so glad I’ve grown to like myself — even if I’m the only one who does πŸ™‚

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  25. This is a great post and it’s always good to hear how people take positive action to improve themselves and their lives. Good for you! I’ve actually just wrote a post about something similar, must be something I the water!

  26. An honest post that I can relate to very much. It’s good that you had enough self-esteem to take care of yourself and change the things you didn’t like. The answer you gave to a comment, where you mentioned internalising things and starting your blog, really made me think.

    I started mine after going through a terrible time with an employer in education in my second career – but because I couldn’t legally write about what happened, it all had to stay internal. I got into the habit of staying silent about the nitty gritty personal issues of life and writing absolutely anything to distract myself from the misery of having taken a big, powerful employer to court.

    Even though I triumphed – I still couldn’t bear to go anywhere near the issue and my habit of internalising got worse as time went on. I really admire you for having the courage to write so freely. In my first career, I wrote very easily about deeply emotive issues involving other people but when it comes to my own, I just can’t do it. My instinct is to disappear from life both physically and digitally when emotional pain strikes and it has got worse with age.

    I can make fun of myself and write about superficial stuff in a funny way but I can’t be brutally honest about pain the way you have. What you have said here has forced me to recognise that and think about it.

    • That’s absolutely blown me away Gilly – thanks so much… I’m absolutely the same as you in that I want to run away and hide when things get tough, and it’s so difficult to fight the good fight every day when all you want to do is hide. I have a confession to make though- I haven’t written about everything I want to, mainly because I know that there are people in my personal life who read the blog and have used it against me before. I’d be a lot more open about things if this wasn’t the case…

      • OMG – yes! Me too. And it is so restricting. I am thinking about starting another blog that is more anonymous so I can be more real in what I write. Glad I am not the only one who hides – I expect there are probably loads of us who do that but it always feels like such a lonely thing at the time. Have a good week!

  27. I find it incredibly difficult to like myself. I suppose it comes from a lifetime of being on my own. I never really had friends as a youngster, as there were no kids my own age where I lived and at school I was only worth talking to when someone needed help with homework. That sort of pattern has continued throughout my life – people only seem to talk to me when either I make the effort, or they need something. I’ve tried being more outgoing, which is hard when you’re a natural introvert, but all it ends up doing is meaning that more people try and get me to do stuff to benefit them. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had messages online from people wanting to discuss their problems, and even though I’ve been in the middle of something I’ve stopped to listen and help where I can…but the moment I want to talk about something, they disappear or suddenly have something else they need to be doing.

    But I still take care of myself, if only because I’m quite stubborn and proud. Other people might not like me, and in most cases I’m pretty sure I’m merely tolerated, but that lifetime of solitude makes it easier to just continue doing things for myself, and to pick and choose what I want to get involved in.

    • Possibly one of the most honest comments ever, Icy! You have a great attitude towards it. I think that’s why the blogging world is so beneficial for so many – it gives us the opportunity to connect in ways that we find difficult in real life…

  28. Where do you start? I feel like I’m an observer of life…I’m the single friend, the aunt not the mother, the dependable & dutiful daughter, the friend to turn to in times of struggle, the one you share great news with who is available to help. Whether it’s engagements, weddings, pregnancy, promotion or raise. I feel that I’m just the observer that I can get close to those with exciting news and Big change, but there is a wall that blocks me from sharing in it fully. It could even be a self-constructed wall…I don’t know, I do try to spin it/put it in a positive light. By God’s grace I have employment, food, clothes and a roof over my head so I know and often say ‘it could always be worse’, but I sure would like it to be better. I’m definitely a work in progress and am extremely harsh with myself; I hold myself to a standard higher than any that I would hold another to. So I guess there are times even in real life where you must ‘fake it until you make it…’ I pray one day I make it. Thank you for sharing I’m not good with vulnerability so it is a admirable trait.

  29. I can so relate to this post, Suzie! I have always been shy and uncomfortable in a room full of people, but it doesn’t help that when there is a lot of noise, I can’t always hear what people are saying to me, so I then appear to be stand-offish if I don’t reply correctly or worse, odd!
    I also started blogging because I was suffering from a particularly nasty phase of depression and anxiety, and put on even more weight due to comfort eating. which I just cannot get rid of!
    I am slowly trying to throw off all the negativity and just focus on the good things and blessings that I already have, and I do try wearing make-up now and again as I used to, to make myself feel better πŸ™‚

  30. Great post thank you. I feel what we give off we often attract like negativity. Definitely get rid of toxic people and also realize people are usually so caught up in their own lives that they are not talking or thinking about us that much!

  31. I love that last quote, “If you can’t say something nice to yourself, practice.” Such simple and powerful advice.

  32. Great post Suzie. Who out of us doesn’t struggle with self-confidence at times? I try to listen to my husband when he compliments me and my body and believe it. Believing in your own beauty is tough, but rewarding!

  33. Great post Suzie. I think we can all relate to a lot of what you’ve said. I’m guilty of internalising and self-confidence.

  34. I have just started out on this journey too Suzie; I know it will take some time, but will definitely be worth it! WEll done to you for all that you have achieved so far – and a girl has got to have a bit of make-up! πŸ™‚

  35. We never really know what’s going on inside a person’s mind. I think a lot of our insecurities come from other people and other’s expectations. It can go right back to childhood. I just find that the older I get the less I care about what (negative) others think. I do what makes me feel good and their opinion doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned the difference between valuable comments from ‘friends’ and the comments that are made to put me down. Well done Suzie for getting your life the way you’re happy with it.

  36. Big hugs, Suzie. As a depression and bipolar survivor, this resonates more than you know. It isn’t easy to come out of it as you know and I struggled for nearly a year before I could even walk out the door to pick up groceries. That was 15 years ago but the memories are so vivid. I love the idea of the questions you posed to yourself:

    Do I deliberately do things to hurt other people? No.
    Do I help others when asked? Yes.
    Do I help others, just because? Yes.
    Do I expect anything in return? No.
    Am I a nice person? Generally, yes.

    And I am grateful to say that my answers will mirror yours. Reading this in 2018 gives us all hope that things get better as they will πŸ™‚ Much love and many hugs.

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