“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Surrounded by college students, image is huge. Image is huge wherever you go- but I think a lot of times in college it is heightened. With everyone telling you this is THE time of your life, to enjoy it, and appreciate the ease your 20’s bring to your life; there is a lot of pressure.
In your 20’s you’re supposed to be able to eat burgers, smoke cigarettes, and bong beers-then wake up Saturday morning to casually run a 10k. [Ironic I actually know people like this.] But ~ what happens when that reality doesn’t work for you? What happens when you struggle with your weight, feel insecure about your height, or can’t let yourself live the laid back, don’t give a shit lifestyle that it seems like so many college kids sport so easily.
This would make anyone feel insecure, like they aren’t good enough. Starting to worry more about achieving your superficial goals to be able to live your life, that you end up missing your life.
The thing that makes it even worse-we are shown pictures of women who do spend every waking moment working out, eating healthy, and focusing on the superficial aspects of their lives. While those pictures might show a flat stomach or thin legs- they don’t show if they are actually happy with their lives.
It’s no secret I have struggled with body image issues in my past. I have spent countless hours in the gym, gross amounts of money on triggering foods, drinks, supplements etc. And after years of professional help in recovery from an eating disorder, I finally understand what “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” really means.
Instead of changing my physical looks, I needed to change the way I saw and felt about myself.
If you’re struggling with poor self image, try these tips
1. Stop comparing.
You can’t compare a rose to a lily. Why? Because they are different flowers. They are both beautiful ~ but incomparably different.
All people are also different. You aren’t like anyone else on this planet. So why try to compare yourself to them? You are each wonderful and beautiful in your own aspects. While one of you is a rose, the other a lily ~ equally wonderful. Equally incomparable.
There is always someone shorter than you. Always someone taller than you. Always someone fatter, skinnier, with better hair, skin~ whatever. You will always be “too something” when you play the comparison game. Know that you are exactly what you’re supposed to be—one of a kind and beautiful.
2. Ideas of beauty differ and change all the time.
If you looked into different cultures at different times, you would see that people had (and still have) different ideas of beauty. The definition of beauty we define ourselves by may just be one person, or one group of people’s opinion.
If you go by other’s definitions of beauty, you’ll always be chasing something new. If you decide to go by your own definition of beauty, you’ll always fit it. You can’t let ever-changing opinions of other affect how you feel about yourself. Their opinions don’t matter.
3. Change the way you see.
I’m sure there have been people you liked, and then when they showed their true colors to you, you no longer had such fond feelings of them. This can happen with ourselves too. It’s easy to change the way we see ourselves, but often that may not be the whole picture.
The person you always really liked, and snapped at you for something small, may have just been having a bad day. This one bad day, and this one incident doesn’t define who they are as a person. Just like one bad body image day, one bad screw up, or one day when you are down on yourself doesn’t describe you as a person.
Beauty is so much more than your looks. The saying “beauty is only skin deep” is one of the most false claims I have ever seen. The older I get, the more I see this. I find people who are gorgeous on the outside, but are horribly ugly people on the inside. I find people who may not be the prettiest on the outside, but are impacting this world more than anyone else I know.
Removing what is clouding your view can help you to see what people are really like, including yourself. Remove the judgments, the negative thoughts, the doubts, and the distrust in yourself to see the you that is really there. An awesome, wonderful, beautiful person.
4. Change your thoughts.
Sometimes you just need some space to clear your head. Going on a walk, taking some time for self-care, indulging in a bubble bath~ whatever it is. Give your mind some room to expand and allow for some new, inspirational thoughts to enter their way into your mind. Time, space, and some deep breathing can help you step back from your current world of self-analysis and focus on other aspects of your life.
When these better thoughts enter your mind, you will begin to notice that when focusing on the negative thoughts, you are withholding all of your great gifts, ideas, and treasures from the world. Step back and observe your thoughts, don’t get immersed in them.
Remember that thoughts are not requirements. They come and go in our mind, and whether or not we indulge in them is our choice. You are more than your thoughts, you are more than your body~ you have experience, courage, integrity, creativity, love and gifts to offer the world. Share what you have with the world~don’t let yourself bring you down.
5. Give yourself total acceptance.
Insecure thoughts will creep in. Regardless of the years of therapy I have had related to self-image, I still have days where I get dressed and feel crappy. They happen to the best of us. It’s how I admit, even with all the realizations I had, there are times when I look at myself in the mirror with dismay.
The world has told us that if we don’t look good, we are not desirable, and don’t deserve love. The truth is, there will always be someone or some people who will find you undesirable or unlovable, but the world is also full of people who will feel the opposite.
Ultimately, if no one loves you, how will you love yourself?
Love yourself. That’s the only thing you need to feel beautiful and comfortable in your own skin. In the moments that you look in the mirror and don’t feel great about what you see, make a choice to list out five things about yourself that you love. Your generosity? Your outgoing personality? Your resourcefulness? Your abilities? Listing five things you love about yourself in this moment will help these to be the things that you focus on.
At the end of the day, when you die, you won’t be remembered for your looks. You’ll be remembered for the impact you make on the world.