Talking about this now feels odd because it is about a distant time in my life—at least it feels like it.
A few years ago I was at the lowest point of my life. I went to—and then graduated from one of the best schools in the country; I was in a great relationship with my then boyfriend, now husband; I had friends who made me uncontrollably laugh everyday. Inside though, I was broken and empty. After deciding not to continue with dental school for personal reasons, I continued to dive into this well of endless emptiness that I couldn’t seem to get out of. I struggled to wake up in the morning and unable to find an ounce of motivation, I was always feeling lethargic, numb and empty. I neglected everything—my health (physical and mental), my dreams. How could I love myself when I did not even like myself? That spark that made me feel excited about life was gone, and I was in this state for a long time. I went through this alone, I could not seem to find the right words to describe what I felt to tell someone else, and I did not have the energy to tell someone just for them to not understand. This made it worse; even though I never knew what it was like to have someone to talk to, maybe it would have helped.
How did I get to that stage you might ask? To put it simply, my whole life I was made to feel I was never enough, no matter what I accomplished, there was always an emphasize on how imperfect I was. I lived my life worrying about what other people thought of me; if my outfit was “trendy” enough, if I was pretty enough, if I really did my best at something, if this person I just met liked the first impression they got from me or did I annoy them? I would replay conversations in my mind and be embarrassed because I felt like everything I said to someone was not the right thing to say, and oh no I was not likeable enough. I lived my life like this because I was constantly told this was what mattered. I was always compared to other kids. I would hear them tell other people what I was lacking at. It was crucial that I was “perfect”. Growing up listening to this and being treated like that, it got to me in the end.
What made my condition escalate was being told I was fat, every single day of my life that was what I hear. It was true though, I was overweight borderline obese (I’m still overweight now, but I’m pregnant so I cannot limit calorie intake) but are things like that ever okay to someone else? Why was I still being told that non stop when it was obvious it did not help? “I did it out of love” “I said it to help you” Nothing good comes out of making someone hate themselves, I really wish more people understand that. I was frustrated, lonely, angry, overall very negative, continued to neglect my physical and mental health; basically got worse. There were times when I could not even look at myself in the mirror, and only wore clothes that would hide and drown me. That’s also one of the things that I was told, “hide everything” because I did not look like a supermodel. One day I could not take it any more and knew something had to change. I moved out and left the toxic environment I was living in and that was when things started to look up.
It was a long road of self-healing but each day I saw progress. I started feeling different. It’s a miracle, really. When I hated myself I was hopeless. Only when I started to find love for myself was when I started to make changes. Only when I started to see myself as worthy was when I started to take care of myself. I transformed physically, but not before I transformed mentally. I needed to see myself differently first before I took action.
Was I angry? Did I blame them? Were they responsible for how rubbish I felt about myself? I… did not, really; or maybe I did? I am in a different mindset now that I detached myself from what I felt at that moment. If anything, knowing how much I was raised and what I was being told impacted me, taught me how I have to tell and raise my kids differently, and that I have to approach everyone with kindness, respect and empathy.
“If words affect you that much then maybe you are weak” Maybe I was. But does it matter? No one, no matter how weak or strong, deserve to be told they should not like themselves, or made to feel horrible about themselves, especially just for something as superficial as what they see in the mirror—on the outside.
Fast forward to now, I have been a lot better than I used to be. There are still days when that negative feeling tries to resurface, but it has been easier for me to shut them out. I have just been extremely grateful with what I have. It is easier to be thankful when you are in the right mindset, I cannot imagine having all these feelings while also feeling hopeless. My body now nurtures a human being, and I thank my body everyday. I still can’t believe it sometimes. Isn’t it just the most amazing, unbelievable thing that can happen to our bodies? To literally grow another human! It is weird to say but I love my body. In the end self love for me is feeling genuinely thankful every second of every day. It’s knowing that I’m imperfect and that I can’t please everyone, I just have to make sure I’m pleased with myself, that’s the most important. For me, it starts when I started to make healthier changes physically, but also when I realized that from that point on I was in charge of how I felt and however I looked I was still going to accept my body nonetheless. I became loud and proud of my imperfections, I own it, it’s a part of me.
Imagine all of the junk we put our bodies through, all the heartbreak, the exhaustion, and they are still there for us in the end, we still wake up in the morning.
Self love can manifest itself in so many ways. The most familiar form is accepting, embracing, celebrating what we see in the mirror—all of our external imperfections. I don’t mind my stretch marks at all, they are like “battle scars”, they are a story and a history. Nurturing your soul, your mind, is also self love. I see self love in people who dedicate their time helping others, I see self love in people who have been struggling, and are brave to ask for help. I see self love in people who pursue knowledge, those who try to learn non stop. I see self love in people who have compassion. It’s not just about what we feed our body, but what we feed our mind and soul. Self love is not just about what you see in the mirror, it can be that but it can also be others. No matter how you see self love, it’s so important. No one deserves to feel “less-than”. All of us deserve to feel love for ourselves. We all deserve to find that excitement, passion for life.
If you are struggling, know that you are not alone, take one day at a time and celebrate progress no matter how small. Seek help if you feel like you need to. I hope you are surrounded by people who truly love you and are there for you, those who are willing to listen.
So this is my story.
Do you have yours?