To start, if you’ve ever looked down upon yourself or spoken the words “I’m so ugly” to yourself, you’re not alone. You could be someone who has an immense amount of self love and still have some self doubt occasionally, and that’s perfectly understandable. We live in a society that perpetuates the belief that beauty is only skin deep, and it can be difficult to ignore that message every moment of every day.
However, it’s when you start to believe those thoughts fuelled by hate rather than those focused on self love that it becomes a deeper issue. If you feel like your inner thoughts are filled with more body shaming and negativity than they are with positivity and self love, ask yourself: Why do I feel this way, and when did I start to let my outer appearance determine my self worth?
Even if you don’t experience body image issues, odds are that you know someone who does. An astonishing 10,000 people every month ask Google, “Am I ugly?” However, I make a point of expressing to my friends just how beautiful they are all the time. I’ve listened to them on countless occasions discuss how perceivably “ugly” they think they are, and it always shocks me. These are my friends, the most beautiful people I know. How can they not see their beauty in the same way I so clearly do? How can they not value themselves as much as I value them?
Sometimes compliments can rub people the wrong way as well. By complimenting one another on our physical appearances, are we giving too much power to the way we look? I personally think that complimenting someone on the way they look can brighten their day, because I know it brightens mine. However, I encourage you to compliment people on their inner beauty as well, because that’s what truly matters anyways.
Part of the issue here is social media. People all over the world are looking at social media constantly, encouraging them to value themselves off of the number of “likes” they receive and the amount of comments left on their posts. This is especially an issue amongst young, impressionable adolescents, who are growing up in a very different world than we did, one that’s engrained in social media and pop culture.
Even the most perceivably beautiful human being could body shame themselves or have incredibly low self esteem. So many people assume that just because people perceive you as pretty that you have no problems in your life, which is rarely the case. You cannot expect to know someone based on the way they look, which is another huge problem with social media.
The common denominator here is that most people experiencing these internal struggles are giving power to the outside world to determine their self worth. They look toward others to understand the latest fashion and technological trends, and decide that if they don’t follow the status quo, then their self love should lower.
They allow the feelings and beliefs of others to affect their own opinion of themselves. The issue here is that we’re searching for self worth in others, rather than through ourselves. It’s referred to as “self love” for a reason, because it’s all about your sense of Self, not the opinions of others. The beauty of self worth is that no one can determine it but you. Sure, other people can influence it, but only if you let them.
Meaghan Ramsey of the Dove Self-Esteem Project recently gave a TED Talk discussing the prevalence of body image and physical appearance issues in society. The disturbing thing is, they’ve become extremely common amongst children, impacting their education and social lives in surprising ways.
You can watch the full video below:
All of this comes back to us allowing society to shape our opinions and make our decisions for us. We often allow our dreams to die because society didn’t believe in them, and we say “no” to our wants and desires because we’re afraid of what others will think. What if we turned off the little voice inside our head that constantly asks “What will they say?” and instead asked ourselves, “What truly makes me happy?”
The best advice I can give you is to stop searching for the answers outside of yourself and start looking within, because that’s what I did. Get to know yourself, ask yourself deeper questions than those that simply revolve around your personal experience, and really figure out what you want in life.
Do you want to be a follower, someone who places the responsibility of determining something as important as your self worth on others? Or would you rather search for deeper meaning in your life, regardless of what other people think? Trust me when I say that gaining the approval of others will never feel as good as strengthening your own self love.
I know it’s easier said than done, and I encourage you to constantly remind yourself that self love is not a destination, it’s an ongoing journey. I have to remind myself all the time that I don’t put my self worth into my body image, despite the fact that I know I have a lot of self love. You don’t simply reach a point where you’ll love everything about yourself forever. You’ll change and grow as a person, constantly asking yourself, “Is this the person I really want to be?” And as a result, your self worth and self love will shift as you evolve.
Those of us who are building up our self love have days when negativity takes over our minds too. The difference is that the stronger your self love is, the stronger your ability will be to shut down those thoughts and not give power to them.
Why do we give so much power to our physical appearance in the first place? Regardless of what you look like on the outside, we’re all just human beings. Perhaps part of the reason so many people are a little too focused on the way they look is because their souls are truly yearning for something more.
We let our physicality separate us in so many ways: from the brands we wear and the way we do our hair to some more serious topics like our genders and our races. So many people prefer to identify with different labels and focus so much on their exterior that they forget to face themselves on the inside, going beyond the physical plane.
So, the next time you’re looking in the mirror, I encourage you to look at yourself and tell your body you love it. Your body is your most incredible tool; it’s the vessel you use to explore this life. Without it, you couldn’t play out your human experience. Why not give it the love and appreciation it deserves?
Afterwards, I encourage you to look in the mirror and look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself that you’re beautiful. If you’d prefer, you could even close your eyes so you can truly gaze within. If you’re looking into your eyes or closing your eyes, you won’t be looking at your body, your hair, your clothes, or whatever else. You’ll be peering into yourself on a deeper level; after all, they do say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul.
Tell yourself that you love the inner you, even if you don’t fully believe it yet. Have compassion for wherever you’re at in life right now and understand that your journey is just that — it’s yours. It’s perfect for you, and no one else can fully understand the path you’ve chosen but you. You’re strong, capable, and so very worthy of love.
You are beautiful.