Being Your Best Self
I’ll be honest- until this year I have never dated a guy I really cared about. All my previous boyfriends were your typical have-a-boyfriend-to-have-a-boyfriend boyfriends. So when my first college boyfriend broke up with me, my tears were not over him, but over myself. I began to question why I wasn’t good enough for him and what was wrong with me. Cliché, yes, but very true, and true for many people after breakups. I questioned my personality, my appearance, my interests… I began picking myself apart, trying to figure out what was unappealing about me so I could fix myself.
Even though I knew I was causing myself pain, I couldn’t stop criticizing every aspect of myself. I needed to drill into my head my self-worth. First, I asked my friends to write notes in my phone, whether their favorite quotes on courage or their favorite things about me. Next, I searched online for self-love tips and wrote these down as well. Since the list was on my phone, I could read it over at anytime, helping me slowly heal. I began needing the list less and less, eventually forgetting it altogether.
The next year, I began over-exercising and undereating—not purposefully, but with the goal of being in shape and healthy, as defined by magazines and social media. Mirrors and scales became my frenemies- I depended upon them, but they always resulted in shame and self-criticism. When I began meeting with a nutritionist, we discussed how I could avoid this harmful habit. Scales were easier to avoid, since I did not have one at college and could choose not to be told my weight at the doctors, but mirrors were less so.
Mirrors terrified me. I would spend what felt like hours in front of one, assessing my naked body, wondering why my stomach was flat on the top but then bulged out right above my pubic area. Why did I have a muffin top no matter how hard I worked out? Was it considered a thigh gap if the space closed when my feet pressed together? I would stick my fingers between my thighs, measuring the distance every day to see if it stayed the same. I would turn left then right, making sure to address every area. And I never said anything positive- only what I had to improve.
How was I suddenly supposed to avoid mirrors? There were two in my dorm room, a full length and one above my sink. My gym had mirrored walls. I could see my reflection in every window. But I was determined to feel better- I knew I couldn’t go on critiquing myself because my happiness was far too low and I had no confidence left.
I thought back to when I had last felt truly happy and confident. I remembered the list on my phone and how it had helped me grow. Sitting at my desk, I spotted leftover pink poster board under my bed, which I had used to make a Valentine’s day card for said first college boyfriend before we broke up. It felt like a full circle, encouraging me to begin my project even more. I grabbed a gold pen, a black sharpie, scissors and a stack of my favorite magazines. I’ve never been one to DIY but I was eager to love, to grow, to be my best self yet.
Now, every day, when I look in my full size mirror, I read “Olivia’s Guide to Being a Better Self.” Whenever I brush my teeth, I read the sign next to my sink’s mirror that reminds me why it’s incredibly important and possible to “Love Yourself.” Every day I consciously choose to make mirrors my friend. That’s not to say there aren’t difficult days- when I feel bloated, lazy, or just unhappy, my initial instinct is to critique my body. But these signs force my gaze onto something positive. Even if their words don’t resonate in the moment, I still read them, knowing somewhere deep down that they are truth.
I can’t promise you that your life will be made 100% perfect by taping a few signs around your home. But I can promise you that there is no harm in the action. Making these signs forces you to explore what you consider most important and by putting them at the forefront of your every day routine, you become that much closer to finding your own balance, your own happiness. Another great idea? Do it with your friends, your children, your family: inspire each other and encourage one another to remember why you are all strong, smart, beautiful, and important.
So grab your scissors, your favorite color poster board and sharpies, and a big stack of your favorite magazines. A fan of glitter? Always a good call. Ribbons? Flowers? Take whatever you need to make your posters beautiful and authentically you, and get creating.