This time two years ago, I hated my own body so much that I rarely left the house, and when I did go out I usually required company so that I felt less exposed. I was aware of everything about my appearance, from the way I dressed, to the way I walked and the way my body moved. I was paranoid if I wore makeup (because what if I didn’t do it right?) and I was paranoid if I didn’t (because who the hell gave me the right to leave my house with my natural features exposed for the whole world to see?). Baggy clothes were my best friend because they hid everything, and my worst enemy because they made me look bigger. Dark clothes made me look ill and lowered my mood, but colours were just asking for attention. I was torn between looking down so that no one would notice me, and staring everyone in the eye so that I’d know exactly who was looking at me.
Has anyone else noticed how ridiculous that all sounds in hindsight? But that was my life. That was what I considered normal behaviour for years, and when you’re in that headspace of insecurity, you second guess every single thing about yourself. Honestly, whenever I did leave the house, by the time I got home the emotional turmoil of the whole experience would leave me exhausted.
But why? Why was I doing that to myself? Why was I so focused on my appearance that it literally affected my very quality of life?
Looking back, it is easy to ask those questions now that I am embracing learning to love myself. Having come so far along my path of self-healing over the past few years, I am now trying to create a platform of promoting body positivity and valuing who you are as an individual, something which I am so passionate about because I lived on the opposite side of the spectrum for so long. It is through this speaking out about my experiences along my journey, that I often get people asking me how I learnt to love myself… well, the truth is, I am still learning. There is no quick fix, and there is never a finish line, because life isn’t about the destination, it is all about what you do with your journey.
None the less, we all have to start somewhere. So, if you’re just starting out on working towards finding self love, and are looking for some advice, then here are a few simple tips which I have discovered along the way.
Start with self appreciation
One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: there is so much more to loving yourself than loving your appearance. Sure, loving your body is important, but it isn’t about loving your outward aesthetic. The first step to loving your body is recognising all that it does for you, and appreciating the fact that without this body you live in right now, you wouldn’t be the person who you are. Once you learn to appreciate everything that you are, rather than focusing on everything you wish you were, you will be one step closer to loving yourself. Remember: your body is nothing more than a physical host for all that you are.
Change your vocabulary
You would be amazed at how many times a day you say something negative about yourself, or others, without even realising it. From general negative connotations like ‘I’m terrible at…’ to outright insults against yourself such as ‘I’m stupid’ or ‘I look awful’, most people have unknowingly gotten into the habit of being self-deprecating. As a society, we seem to equate self-respect and self-appreciation to an inflated ego, but there is nothing vain or wrong with about speaking about yourself in a positive and complimentary light.
To teach myself to be more positive, I got into the habit of saying the phrase ‘Cancel, Clear, Delete’ whenever I said something negative, as well as tapping myself on the wrist three times, before then rewording what I had said to make it positive. This was something I learnt during my spiritual and self-development classes to call physical attention to negative behaviours and retrain your brain, and I was astounded by the amount of times I ended up having to cancel out a negative comment each day. It honestly made the world of difference to my thought processes, as I learnt to actively combat negativity, and use more positive vocabulary at the same time.
Actively practice positivity each day
Being body positive comes hand in hand with finding ways to be generally more positive in your daily life. It is so easy to get swept up in all the things that go wrong, that often we forget to sit and appreciate the things which are going right. There are so many small things which you can do to practice more positivity day to day. For example, you could:
- Write regular gratitude lists: what are you thankful for in your life right now?
- Say something nice about yourself each day, and say it with conviction (believe in your words).
- Compliment others, because recognising the beauty in those around you will help you to recognise it in yourself.
- Spend some time with the you in the mirror: Smile, laugh, cry, pull faces, strength, pose: do whatever it takes to really get to know yourself.
- Dance around, and feel how your body moves.
- Listen to empowering music, and sing to your heart’s content.
Surround yourself with body positive people
One of the biggest sources of support and inspiration for me while in the early stages of my self love journey was meeting other people who were body positive, and who embodied the ideals of self love wholly and completely. Taking part in a plus size pageant opened up a whole new community of body positive women to me, and I’m grateful to be able to call many of them friends now. I also pushed myself to go to a lot of events that I would usually have been to anxious to participate in, with wonderful results: from going to a plus size dance class and a body positive club, attending a plus size fashion show, taking part in filming for a BBC Three documentary, and modelling for a range of different shoots including a recent lingerie shoot; all of these experiences have offered me a new outlook on life and introduced me to some genuinely magnificent people.
Don’t limit yourself
One of the most liberating things you can do for yourself is chuck the so-called societal ‘rule book’ out the window. There is no set way which you should ‘dress for your body shape’. There are no ‘lanes’ which you should stick to, and there is no one who is ‘out of your league’. Go where you want, do what (and who) you want, and wear what you want while you’re doing it. The more that you push yourself out of your comfort zone, and begin owning your body and your right to live in it fully (without waiting to change it in some way), the quicker you will become comfortable with who you are.
Rewrite your beliefs
No person is born with the inability to love themselves. We are all capable of self-love, just as we are all capable of unconditional love. However, the experiences that we encounter during our lives have an influence on our world outlook, and different traumas, both large and small, can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves. In order to change your views on yourself, you first need to alter the core beliefs that are behind them, and address the root cause.
Personally, I am working though my issues through a mix of talking therapies: I’ve tried hypnosis and counselling, both to varying levels of success. However, I have found holistic and spiritual therapies to be the most beneficial, including EFT, Reiki Healing and Theta Healing. Through these therapies, you can dig down to the causes of your beliefs and replace them with positive ones, something which has helped me to completely alter my whole outlook on myself as well as life in general.
Enjoy the journey
Self love is not linear. Self love does not happen over night, and it does not improve each day. Learning to love yourself is a wonderful, messy, spectacular roller coaster of a journey with no end. Each day you will have to tackle a new obstacle, but every time you decide to not give into negative thoughts and self-perceptions, you are winning the battle. Every time you fall and get back up, you are performing a miracle. This is a beautiful journey you are embarking on, so stop waiting for the ‘end goal’ because there isn’t one: there is always room for improvement and growth in every aspect of life. Stop waiting for the journey to end, and start living in the moment: you might just be amazed at what you find when you start living in the present.
No matter what, know that there are people out there who see you for the shining light you truly are, and I want you to remember this: You are beautiful. You are worthy. And you are damn well loved. Unconditionally.