Finding the Path to Loving Yourself
Self-love has very little to do with how you feel about your outer self. It's about accepting all of yourself.— Tyra Banks
The Daily Struggle
Body positivity and acceptance is a hot button topic right now. But, it is more than that, for many of us it is a daily struggle and a harsh reality. As someone who has struggled with this for most of her life, I can tell you there is hope, there is a path that you can take to find love of yourself.
I'm not claiming I have all the answers. Everybody's journey is different, just like everybody's struggle is different. However, what I do have is the story of my own journey, the path that I have taken. Maybe my journey can help you and inspire you to find your own.
Where it All Begins
I have struggled with self-love and acceptance literally my whole life. I was a big kid pretty much from the beginning. I was always bigger than any of my friends. When my parents split when I was around eight years old it seemed that without realizing it, I just got bigger.
I was bullied for my size. I was made fun of on nearly a daily basis for being the big girl in class. Don't get me wrong, I had friends. I even had guy friends, but even as I got older, they never showed the same interest in me as they did my friends. I was literally uncomfortable in my own skin. I just didn't like looking in mirrors. I was uncomfortable doing almost anything with my friends. I did them, but on this inside I was screaming from discomfort.
The deepest gift you can learn in life is about self-love, and that's not going to happen overnight.— Rumer Willis
The First Glimpse of Self-Love
The summer between fifth and sixth grade I had what would ultimately be my biggest and last growth spurt. It was then that my body slimmed down, my figure came through, and saw a piece of myself I never believed could be there. I saw a glimpse of self-love. I finally had a body that was closer to the bodies my friends had. I even would venture to say it was better than theirs, because I got my "womanly curves" sooner than the rest of them. For me puberty was a blessing not a curse.
On the outside from then through my freshman year in high school, I had the body I had always wanted. I did receive attention that I thought I needed. However, I still struggled on the inside. I still wasn't fully happy. I still looked in the mirror and saw the flaws. I still compared myself to my friends, and the popular girls in my class. I still didn't believe people that told me I was pretty.
The Glimpse Begins to Blur
Around the time I turned 15 I began to gain weight again. I wasn't doing anything differently. I was active and my diet has never been a bad part of my life. But, I went up two jean sizes in a year. I was becoming more and more miserable. Finally, my mom took me to see a doctor. It was then that I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It seemed like no matter what I did, I still continued to gain and I felt miserable inside.
It would take another decade before I was diagnosed with PCOS. Finally, a name for it! But, that wasn't a cure all for my issues either physically or mentally. I was married, my husband has always told me daily that I'm beautiful. Other people around me tell me I'm pretty. It's been that way at my smallest and my biggest. But, I never believed it. I still pushed for attention thinking that would solve my problems and make me feel truly happy. But, it never worked.
After my PCOS diagnosis, I began to take Metformin, and finally began to see a change in my weight and my body. I started to have fun shopping again, and even kind of liked what I saw in the mirror and in pictures. But, there was still something missing.
Self-love is the source of all our other loves— Pierre Corneille
The Light Shines Through
I can't tell you exactly when it happened, but at some point there was a lightbulb that went off deep inside me. I finally realized why I had felt this hole inside of me all these years. It had nothing to do with my body, my weight, or my looks. It had everything to do with loving and accepting ... Me. Not loving my body, not hitting some ideal weight or size, but truly loving me.
Self-love is not all about loving your appearance. Self-love begins on the inside. You have to love and accept who you are as a person. If you can't do that, then you will never love the outer appearance either. If you can't love you as a whole, then you will never see true confidence and self-esteem in your life.
Once I really began to see that idea, I was able to slowly see that there is so much more to me than my body. I found my light in finding a love for who I am, not necessarily how I look. Once this happened, I also found that I was able to open up to my husband's love fully, possibly for the first time. I was able to give him more love than I had every been able to before. I saw a change not only in myself, but in our relationship as well. This was true of my relationship with my friends as well.
Don't get me wrong, I still have days where I look in the mirror and think, "Why are my arms so flabby?" "Why can I not seem to lose that one area of fat on my stomach?" "Why is my butt so big?" But, I don't let those days define me anymore. I shake them off and look forward to the positive. That leads me to the days when I look in the mirror and say, "Damn, I'm sexy."
Once you can truly love yourself, you will gain that confidence that will radiate to the whole world. Your sexiness will shine through without you even realizing it is happening. We all have the ability to be confident and have self-esteem, but that begins with self-love and self-acceptance.
Have you found your path yet? Are you still looking? I hope my story has given you hope and inspiration to find a way to love yourself, not just your body, but your whole self.
© 2018 Mandy Baker