If 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 http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.