When I was 16, I wrote a letter to myself not to be opened until 2018; today I opened it and became inspired to write about one of my hardest life journeys. Learning to love myself. At the age of 16 I was really struggling to come to terms with who I was, what I looked like and fitting in, in the letter, I wrote this to myself:
“I hope our future is a bright one, remember that we don’t take rubbish off of anyone – I’m a free bitch baby. Stay strong, at the moment I have around 30 cuts, don’t ever do this to yourself again. There’s been so many times where I’ve wanted to die, but I, no, no, WE never gave up. Keep singing, that’s what we are the best at and love carefully. Don’t ever let anyone bring you down as you’re perfect the way you are.”
I’m so glad I wrote the letter to myself when I was in such a difficult period of my life, even in the darkest of times I was still able to give myself words of encouragement even if I refused to believe them at the time.
"Loving yourself is easy if you know how to do it"
Loving yourself is easy if you know how to do it, but when you are stuck in the midst of gloom; drowned by your own thoughts of hatred about your self- image, it seems like the most impossible task imaginable.
The real question is, how do you turn that self-hatred into self-loving?
Here’s the thing, it is so damn hard to climb over the wall of negativity you created in your own mind, but believe me there will come a time that the wall becomes vulnerable and ready to be knocked down, and when that time comes you will see yourself in a light that you never thought imaginable.
My journey originally was all a matter of playing a guessing game; I came across things that would make me feel great about myself and then moments later I would feel terrible again because someone would give me a funny look, or someone would say something, and I would think negatively. One day I had enough of playing about with my mental health and perception of myself, so I bought a diary and wrote down a list of things that I wanted to change about myself and who I am.
I want to be beautiful
I want to be strong
I want to be loved
I want to love me
I want to know my worth
I want to look in the mirror and not be disgusted
I want to lose weight
I want to respect myself
I want to be confident
I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am anymore
I want to love my laugh
I want to love my smile
I want to love my life
I want to be the real me
Here’s how I began;
I stood in my bedroom in front of the mirror only wearing my underwear, I pinched and prodded all my physical insecurities, every inch of fat, every scar and every stretch mark. I sat down in front of the mirror and stared at myself in the eyes through and said out loud every bad thought I’d ever had about my physical insecurities; “you’re such a fat ugly bitch”, “why would anyone want you, look at all that flab, you have so much fat no surprise people bullied you, you fat fuck, you’ll never be good enough”.
I sat there until I ended up screaming at myself and curling up into a ball crying my eyes out for over an hour. When I stopped crying, I stood back up and looked at myself in the mirror again; it was at that moment, at that first glance, I saw my body for what it really is; the temple where my soul lies.
"If you want people to respect your personality and your soul, you have to respect the body it resides in too"
All the mental negativity and self-doubt came about through my social perception of myself; society and my peers had told me and shown me I was not good enough, I could never be good enough, I would never be beautiful. That first glance showed me my puffy eyes and red flushed cheeks, it showed my figure, it showed my scars and my fat; but it also showed me that they are only imperfections society has imposed on me, I had never taken the time to sit as an individual and judge myself because I was so consumed in having been made an outcast from society’s ‘beauty’ standards, I couldn’t see my own beautiful.
Without even knowing at the time of this realisation, I made myself a brand new road to walk down that enabled me to set my own standards of beauty rather than continue down the path that adhered to the constant critique society dictated to me.
After realising I needed to set my own levels of beauty, the next issue came down to a matter of respecting myself. I had no respect for who I was, what I was doing with my life or for the path I was choosing to follow. I allowed more men (than I care to admit) to use me for sex, just so I could feel some kind of intimacy and wanting of my presence even if it was only for (quite literally) a few minutes sometimes. I often felt disgusted with myself and pathetic, why? Because for that period of my life, my existence depended on getting ‘busy’ for the sake of having some temporary company in my bed. I thought at the time that men would never see me, but they at least want to be inside me and that’s better than nothing; I was so wrong.
The moment I started the process of valuing my beauty, I cut all ties with anyone from my one night stands, deleted tinder, I sat down and thought about what I was doing to myself. I had gotten to such a low self-destructive point in my life that I was allowing myself to be belittled and viewed only as a sexual object rather than as a person. You can’t be beautiful if you can’t respect yourself at the same time; I get that sexual partners are an individual choice, but my own use of them were what was causing me to disrespect myself, it wasn’t a healthy lifestyle choice.
I decided my next sexual partner would be with a boyfriend, someone who genuinely cared, cherished me and was willing to wait. With the men gone, I started giving myself two compliments in the morning and two in the evening; I recorded them all in my diary so that I could turn to them when my mind started to turn back to that dark place full of negativity and resentment. My biggest lesson here was that respect is something that is often taken for granted, however, there is no way anyone is possibly able to provide you with any means of respect if you can’t respect yourself. You have to earn what is given to you, and that isn’t by opening your legs to every man who shows you the slightest bit of attention.
"The realist moment of my learning to love myself process was understanding the importance of gratitude"
I was always disgusted by who I was and what I didn’t have or what I had too much of; but in hindsight, none of that mattered. I grew up with a roof over my head, I have made incredible use of my education and have an I.Q of 130, I can read and write, I passed all my GCSE’s, I’m in my final year of university close to graduating, I have never had any major illnesses and I have maintained a high level of resilience to deal with all hardship in my life. I am grateful for being alive when my best friend passed away at the age of six from leukaemia, I’m grateful that I was able to spend the first four years of my life with my dad before he passed away. I’m grateful for the hard times I faced because they moulded me into an independent woman who empowers herself through her own achievements.
"realising that my worth is far more than just what I look like"
This is not about showing off, it was a massive moment of reflection for me in realising that my worth is far more than just what I look like, it is also what I have done, what I’m striving for, it’s my good health and my ability to carry on even when the world wants me to give up. I overcame the temptations of suicide and the addiction of self-harm, and these are achievements I am grateful for and that have shown me my strength and the reason I am worthy in society and to my family.
My three biggest lessons were self-reflection in the mirror, respecting myself and understanding the meaning of gratitude. But my journey did not end there, it still hasn’t ended, I still have really bad days where I feel disgusting and ashamed of me.
The saying goes “you cannot expect someone to love you if you cannot love yourself”, but this is not true. I’ve found someone who loves me and has helped me substantially in learning to love myself and him at the same time, he’s my best friend and the greatest thing to have ever happened to my life. However, the significance of respect in our relationship lies in the matter that we don’t need each other for happiness, we only want each other. Relying on someone to make you happy diminishes your self-worth and your personal importance, but it doesn’t undermine how much I love and cherish him.
Today, I gave myself three compliments:
1.You were really productive today
2. Your make up looks really nice
3. Dad would be so proud of you
I have learnt not to base my self-love off of how I look, but I love myself because of who I am, I love myself because of the people I have kept around me that provide healthy and connective support mechanisms, I love myself for the time I take out and use to focus on myself, I love myself because if I don’t value my own importance then no one else will. Last week I was respected, yesterday I was important, today I am beautiful; so that tomorrow I can stand in front of the mirror and say I love myself.
"Next week I will be beautiful, fearless, important, loved, cherished and respected, and most importantly I will be comfortable being me"
I wrote myself another letter today, and this time I ended it by saying “I love you, you learnt over the period of 2013-2018 to love yourself, don’t let me down, don’t ever forget your worth and don’t ever stop reminding yourself of your beauty”.