This is not a column where I give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve self-love and self-acceptance.
After reading various articles — from “13 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Love Every Day” to “Self Care 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Love Yourself” — and making countless 3 a.m. vows to get my life together, I know loving myself requires more than just sifting through a BuzzFeed listicle.
The more I recite mantras like, ‘Starting today, I will fix my life,’ and ‘From this day forward, I will accept myself and my body the way they are,’ the more distanced I feel from my own self. It feels like a lie.
Why has it always been so hard to remind myself that I am not ugly, but beautiful? That no matter what other people think of me or how incapable the world sometimes makes me feel:
I. Am. Capable.
I still remember a middle school teacher telling me I couldn’t dance at my school’s function because I was “too fat and dark to put makeup on in front of all the students.”
I still recall my classmates telling me I was a failure.
I still think back to a high school educator telling me I will never be successful in front of the whole class.
With so many people shouting my insecurities and faults, how can I start healing? How could I be kind to myself?
That, I’m still discovering.
Self-love and acceptance doesn’t happen overnight. It can take days, months or even years to find the courage to be kind to yourself.
I took my first step toward self-love while reading Maya Angelou’s autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The 1969 book chronicles Angelou’s experiences with racism and trauma and how she overcame it. The book helped jump-start my own journey, giving me the courage to rise from my own metaphorical ashes..
I started pouring my heart out, using my paper and pen to create a place where I could turn my tears into words, my pain into poems and my sadness into stories.
I started wearing the clothes I liked, faking more confidence than I could muster. I wanted to rise like Maya Angelou. She inspired me to overcome my past and heal. I was chasing a fresh start.
This motivation manifested in my excitement to come to UB and escape the fears that swallowed me in high school.
I made friends.
I was confident and happy.
It truly felt like I had let go of my past.
But then, I had a falling-out with my closest friend.
My friend said the most hurtful things, then left.
Every insecurity from my past flooded back, hitting me like a truck. People spoke to me more rudely, passing comments under their breath that I could never make friends because I was ugly and fat. It was like high school all over again.
I found myself, once again, in the dark place I tried to rise from, but this time it felt worse than ever before. Since these remarks came from a person who knew me personally, I was isolated from everyone when the pandemic hit, except my dark thoughts.
I hated myself. I felt like a creep with no friends.
After months of feeling frustrated with myself, I began writing again. But instead of forcing self-love, this time I wrote about the things I didn’t like about myself, trying to figure out why.
Writing made me realize I was deriving my self-worth from what people told me I was, instead of what I actually knew about myself.
To conform with societal norms, I bullied myself into thinking I was nothing but flaws. I never thought to consider who I thought I was because I let people project what they thought of me onto me, and I kept on accepting it.
With all these thoughts in my head, I began my journey of healing and self-acceptance… again.
I started quarantining myself from my negative thoughts. It’s easier said than done, but I tried my best and I am still trying. I started reading, journaling, exercising, doodling, baking, doing everything I can to pour myself into the things I love. I started wearing the clothes I wanted to wear, listening to songs I like and doing my school work.
At the start of the spring semester, I finally began trying to make friends again. I still try, even though the thought terrifies me and requires an internal pep talk or two.
It terrified me to join The Spectrum, but I did it.
There are still times when I feel stressed, anxious, ugly or less confident, but I have owned up to it and always try to make the next day better.
I try to love myself because If I won’t, then who will?
I'm still healing, and I’m still scared.
I’m not fully confident, and I still haven’t reached the nirvana of self-love and acceptance, but I'm trying.
And I’m confident that one day, I will.
“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still, I’ll rise.”
Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”
The features desk can be reached at email@example.com