I believe to live my fittest, healthiest, happiest lifestyle, it is imperative to have a healthy mindset. A healthy mindset leads to a healthier individual which leads to a healthier connection with others: something I have struggled with most of my life. It isn’t easy for me to build genuine connections with people. My own insecurities, doubts, and lack of self-worth become my own worst critic, creating a barrier between myself and the other person. As a result, I could be in a room full of people and still feel completely isolated and alone. That kind of life doesn’t fulfill—it drains. However, to continue striving to be my healthiest and happiest, I had to confront 4 fears that controlled this insecure, bruised mindset. For years I thought the fears that dominated my life were creating safety for me, but, they were causing more of a burden in every single relationship and interaction in my life. I had to give myself a reality check.
- Confrontation 1: I am not worthy of a compliment. Reality Check 1: Not feeling worthy of other people’s compliments causes a disconnect.
We have an innate ability to deny any compliment someone gives. We do this by half-heartedly saying thank you and then demeaning ourselves right in front of them. Have you ever noticed that? We refuse to let someone shower us with kind words. We refuse to listen to the compliments because we believe we are not worthy of their words. We lack the love for ourselves,which leads to denial of compliments…which leads to a life filled with words of misery and emotional abuse we place on ourselves instead.
Someone compliments us on our hair looking fantastic and we respond, “Thanks, but I haven’t washed it in a few days”. Or someone says they like our shirt and we respond, “Thanks, I am only wearing this because I haven’t done laundry all week.” Or someone tells us we look beautiful and we question why they think that. My whole life I have been incapable of accepting compliments from others. I doubt and question everything. When a guy told me recently I was beautiful, I rejected it or responded with some sarcastic “I know” response (but every sarcastic comment has residual insecurities slightly exposed.) When I caught him just looking at me, the only response I could muster was “I’m not used to guys looking at me.” I doubted my beauty. I doubted what I was capable of. I doubted my talents. I doubted my character. I didn’t feel worthy of his or anyone’s attention and affection towards me.
Because I chose not to love myself and compliment myself, it filtered into so many of my other interactions with others. My lack of self-worth and self-love caused a disconnect between me and other people. What we don’t realize is when we belittle someone’s compliment, when we deny the words they are speaking to us, we are essentially telling them, “Your words aren’t worth being spoken to me.” When we refuse a compliment, we are hindering the other person from doing something they desire to do for us—remind us that we are awesome. Along with demeaning ourselves, we are belittling the other person’s desire to love us well in that moment. This mindset will only destroy our attempt to connect with other people. This disconnect will not lead to a thriving life.
- Confrontation 2: Complaining to my friends about the parts of my body I hate will make me feel better. Reality Check 2: Negative body image and self-talk creates distance between us and establishes bitterness within our hearts.
This confrontation builds upon our inability to take a compliment. I would complain to friends about my weight or appearance, disgusted by what I saw in the mirror. Friends will reassure and encourage that we aren’t those things, but we continue the self-hate. We do this because our friends will make us feel better. What we don’t realize is sometimes this can harbor unresolved bitterness and resentment because most of the time, we complain to friends who have the same insecurities. We complain about not being happy with the fat on our stomachs to our friends who are several sizes larger than us. Or we complain about the one zit that broke out on our chin to the friend who has struggled with acne all over her face for years. When we do this, their building us up and encouraging us in our freak-out moment is tearing them down. This can lead to resentment building. The more we coat ourselves in this resentment, the more we will be putting a wedge between us and the true connection we can develop with one another.
*I want to talk to the mothers for a second. I am not a mother and, in all honesty, I’m not sure I want motherhood in my life, so you can choose to reject my suggestion. However, please trust me because as a child who experienced this, I want you to see this perspective. Mothers: please watch how you speak about yourself in front of and to your children. Instead of showing them self-hate, show them what it is to love yourself…even when you feel broken. When we live unaware of our words impacting others, we are unable to fully connect with each other. Biological mothers, your genes=your children’s genes. They will grow up questioning their own image when you express disgust about yourself. (I have that same nose. If she thinks she is ugly for it, I must be ugly for it, too.)
We have got to stop the negative self-talk. Show yourself love instead of hate.
- Confrontation 3: You should compare yourself to others. Reality Check 3: Letting the fear of comparison outweigh our own happiness won’t allow our relationships to grow.
Sometimes competition is good. Sometimes it can push someone to finally make a change they have been wanting to do. But when that turns into an obsession of comparing our bodies and lives to others, is when it becomes unhealthy. When it turns into “I wish I was as skinny as her”, “I wish I was as pretty as her”, “I want to be as toned as him”, “I wish I had a six-pack like that guy”. Get the picture? These thoughts will eventually drive us into that negative, unhealthy life of self-deprecation. We will question our own value. We will never be satisfied with ourselves if we let this fear drive our mindset. Letting the fear drive us instead of self-love will cause the relationship to be stagnant, unable to develop.
- Confrontation 4: Changes in my body make me less attractive. Reality Check 4: Looking at a change occurring in our body as something damaged denies the beauty others see in us.
Let’s talk stretch marks. As I grew, the pounds continued to pack on and stretch marks appeared even into early adulthood. I saw my stretch marks as something broken. Something unimproved. An indicator of something bad. Something to show I was fat. Something damaged. I believed this concept for years. Even when I went through my weight loss, I still believed this. The stretch marks seemed more prevalent, especially now that I had some excess skin on my stomach. I looked at the stretch marks on my hips, my inner thighs, my stomach, and I believed what this world told me because of them: I was unworthy and undesirable because of them. However, the moment I chose to see the stretch marks for what they really were for me—a reminder of what used to be—was the moment I could forgive myself for ever doubting the beauty everyone else saw in me. People would give me compliments on the strides I was making in life, yet I couldn’t see past this change. I only saw the damage until I finally saw the reminder. When we deem changes in our body as unattractive, we are allowing ourselves to see something damaged, denying the true beauty others see in us. We, once again, don’t allow people’s words to have worth in our minds. Instead we should be embracing that beauty and allowing it to flourish.
These confrontations of my fears and insecurities are never easy, but it’s worth it. By examining what I believe about myself and then accepting a different perspective—the true perspective—will render those confrontations undeserving of my time. We have got to stop telling ourselves that we are damaged goods. We deserve more than that. We are more than that. We cannot fully love others and fully embrace connections if we don’t love ourselves.
The moment you stop telling yourself that you are damaged goods is the moment you will feel the freedom to thrive.