I was talking to a friend the other day and we were discussing how difficult it can be for women to be outwardly confident. A woman who has no problem telling the world that she finds herself sexy and intelligent can be too easily called narcissistic, a comment that is rarely applied to confident men. It’s also primarily women who attack other women for being “full of themselves” when instead we should be supporting those women in a vocal and public way, thus allowing for others to feel safe expressing self-confidence.
Before we can express confidence, we need to believe it, unless you are good at the “fake it ‘till you make it” approach. Faking it on the outside can be super helpful, and I will admit to trying it on days when I’m just not feeling myself but I don’t feel like being Debbie Downer. Most of the time, though, I need to really start feeling it before I can express it. Even if others can’t tell, I can see what’s really happening in that selfie. But you can’t just flip a switch and decide to love yourself, can you?
I propose this: you can. Not all the time, and that’s not all it takes, but I propose that it can be done, that you can decide one day to love yourself and then do it.
Is it really as simple as that? Yes and no. Yes in that, like anything, this is a decision. You decide one day that you are tired of beating yourself up, tired of blaming yourself for your clothes not fitting, and tired of analyzing every single photo that you’re tagged in. And that’s step one, actually wanting to change. Step two is obviously much harder and takes much more work, but this is where you begin to unpack all the reasons why you’re so hard on yourself and you get to find things that you love about your body and self as a whole. While I am in no way qualified to give advice on the topic, I can share with you my recent experience in starting to love myself and hopefully it will give you some hope if you are struggling.
My years of self loathing made every aspect of my life more difficult than they needed to be. Because I am not the same size I was a few years ago, getting dressed was awful. My bed was constantly covered in all of the clothes I hated because I felt uncomfortable in them. But I never blamed the clothing, I blamed my body and the excess fat I’ve accumulated. This needed to change, and so now when I try something on and it doesn’t fit, instead of saying, “I’m too big for this” I say, “This is too small” or “This isn’t the right size”. The smallest change in language is making a difference.
Because I picked apart every inch of my body, I didn’t feel sexy. My husband noticed this more than anyone and it affected us greatly. Without going into too much detail, I was in a constant state of insecurity and over analyzation whenever my clothes were off, and even if he was providing me with positive feedback, it didn’t matter. It couldn’t come from someone else, it had to come from me. Did I suddenly wake up one day and think that I was smokin’ hot? No. But I did start a process of self-care that included meditation, taking more baths, pampering myself, and reading and writing things that tantalize my brain. By deciding that I wanted to change, and doing these small steps on a daily basis, I actually started to change the way I saw myself. This contributed to me being more open and able to start to believe my husband’s compliments, and also helped me to be more…ahem…adventurous.
Other things that started happening when I made the decision to love myself more were cosmetic but still effective. With some Christmas money I bought some new clothes that actually fit me and I didn’t pay attention to the size on the tag. I pulled the trigger and cut 4-5 inches off my hair (As Coco Chanel said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”), and I bought some new bras and underwear, replacing the ratty old pieces I’ve had since I birthed my children.
Besides the physical, I have been going through a process of opening up a long history of not liking myself as a person, and while I know this will be a much more lengthy and involved process, starting to feel more confident externally is a huge step forward. Every person has their own relationship with their body and spirit and for some, all it takes is a few small tweaks while for others it can take much more work. I am also in therapy and am surrounding myself with women who inspire me. Whatever it takes for you to feel more confident, I encourage you to find it, but first, you have to make the decision to change. If you have been struggling with self-love, you first need to decide that you are done living this way. Sit with it, let it sink in, and then make a promise to yourself that you will try. That’s the only advice I feel qualified to give: you need to make yourself a promise. If I can begin this process, I feel like anyone can.
Take care of yourself