The importance of self love

Senior reflects on importance of liking yourself

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Photo by Emily Meinzer

These days girls and guys alike are bombarded with images of flawless bodies, faces, hair– anything that can somehow convince society that it is what is right. The majority, if not all, of the young adult population struggles with body image and personality issues.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for a couple years now, and the biggest lesson I have learned is the importance of loving who you are. I use to cry into my pillow because I thought I wasn’t nice enough, smart enough or even funny enough. I didn’t think I was lovable.

Then I met my therapist. She is the sweetest, brightest woman you could meet. And at the end of each session she handed me a notecard. On each notecard was a different message. I am lovable, and I am loved. I am valuable, and I am valued. I am strong. I am good enough.

It may seem corny. I thought it was when I first received them. However, each time I look on my bathroom mirror and read each card I start to believe them more and more.

There was a period of time in my life about a year ago when I went through a really hard time. I had constant panic attacks and had no appetite. I lost 20 pounds in three months, and I was not a person who could afford to lose that much weight.

My parents were worried. Really worried. I learned there is not a more heartbreaking image than your mom crying because she doesn’t know how to help you. There is also no more shameful moment than when you realize what you have inflicted on yourself. I let the stress and depression consume me.

I wouldn’t eat. I lost all motivation. I constantly needed sleep. I cried. I had anxiety attacks about the smallest things. I lashed out in bad decisions. My grades dropped. I had lost hope in myself.

The thing about anxiety and depression is that they’re momentous. It’s like holding a perfectly round, small snowball. Just carefully holding it in the palms of your hand and admiring it’s beauty. Then something happens, say your friend is mad at you, and it rolls out of your palms and keeps rolling away from you.

You chase it frantically until it gets gigantic, then all of a sudden the snowball crashes into a tree and crumbles. The worst part is that you feel like you can’t stop it no matter how hard you try.

One day I received a note card that read “I am not the victim. I am a victor.” I realized that I had played victim too long. If I wanted to change the way I felt about myself, I had to do it. There is no one else who can validate who you are besides yourself.

I looked my body in the mirror. The bones that stuck out. The washed out color in my face. I told my body I would take care of it from now on. This body gives me everything I need to function, so I must make it the best it can be.

I started to make sure I was eating the right amount of the right things. My mom and dad made sure I didn’t skip out on dinner any more and got me a membership to a gym. I started to work on strengthening my muscles and growing.

I don’t want to be fragile. My body was a representation of how I let myself be. I let it grow weak and small. I couldn’t even finish one push-up. Now I want to be mentally strong, and to keep my mental health strong I’m going to make sure my physical strength is just the same.

A funny thing happens when you focus on building the temple of your body. While you’re exercising your body releases endorphins. It alleviates stress and helps create a more positive body image in your mind.

For me it was fueling my body with healthy foods and letting go of all my stress through squats and leg presses, but it could be something completely different for you. It could be running, meditation or volunteering in shelters. Everyone has a niche that helps develop a positive understanding of who we are.

I used to hate myself. I would act like someone different at school and close my parents out at home. That’s no way to live. I started to go to my parents when I had an attack and they would reassure me everything was fine. I started to let myself love and understand people for who they are.

My anxiety and depression stemmed from my insecurities about myself. If people liked me, if I was lovable, or if I was good enough. I let my fears dictate how I felt about myself and who I was. I had forgotten that I am in control of how I feel and who I am.

Because in the end, it’s a miserable life to live hiding from yourself. You hurt your body mentally and physically whether you recognize it or not. The only way to be truly happy is to genuinely be yourself. To genuinely love who that person is. We only get one chance to live this life– why waste it being something we’re not?