For the longest time, I have battled with insecurities, and then I discovered self-love. Its one of my favorite things to talk about, to read about, to write about – you name it, it all starts and ends with self-love for me.
Which also beings me to one of my biggest pet-peeves, that we are raised to believe that liking yourself (let alone loving yourself) is vain and only shallow and selfish people indulge in it.
Even now, if I think about how many multi-billion dollar industries are thriving on people’s insecurities, it makes me realize that I am not alone – beauty, luxury products, technology, highly curated, edited and mono-tonal media, matrimonial and so many other industries are thriving on people’s insecurities – we are constantly conditioned and nurtured with imagery to believe so many things:
- If you are not tall, thin, blonde-haired, blue-eyed you are not beautiful; Of course this has changed quite significantly in the last decade! YAY!!
- India’s obsession with fairness, where beauty means having fair unblemished skin;
- If one is fat – they get constantly mocked and made to feel undesirable and un-datable – and not because being fat/out of shape may be a health hazard;
- If one doesn’t have the latest technology- they’re outdated and uncool;
- If one isn’t married by a certain age, they may as well be lepers.
Okay, maybe I was a bit dramatic on that last one there, but you get my point.. 🙂
We are constantly told that only “a particular way” is right, and if you don’t fit into that mold, you are not good enough…
For example, I recently went to the salon for a haircut, and ended up getting a very expensive facial and hair treatment along with the haircut. Why? because my stylist was very vocal about how damaged my hair and skin was, and I fell for it, simply because they had pressed on an insecurity of mine! Consequently instead of spending 1000 INR, I ended up spending 5000 INR that day. I came back home with a temporary fix and a lighter wallet. (See what I mean about industries thriving on people’s insecurities).
After parting ways with 5 times the amount than I had originally planned on spending that day, I took stock of my habits and decided I will take better care of myself, invest in good quality products and life long habits, and take the best care of myself.
Even now when I go to the salon, stylists try pressing buttons as they are trained to do, but at least now, if I do opt for treatments, it is because I want to, and not because someone is trying their luck at en-cashing on my insecurities.
So let me start at the very beginning of my own story – of how I was raised to feel like I wasn’t enough; and how I got over it (to a large extent…); and what that has resulted in.
Growing up, I was constantly compared with others (mostly by my grandmother, god rest her soul), this eventually lead to a pattern of me comparing myself with others and drive myself insane – thinking if only I was as tall as so and so, or if only I had a figure like so and so, or if only I had a job like so and so…. my life would be perfect. This lead to me feeling insecure and wanting to hide my real self from everyone because I never felt like I was good enough, resulting in me attracting situations and people who treated me likewise, giving me more of the same, reassuring me that how I felt was right and reinforcing the idea that I was not good enough.It became a vicious circle.
I spent years (decades) like this – outwardly happy looking, but struggling and hating myself for not being enough. In hindsight this saddens me so much, because your childhood, teens and early 20s should be filled with joy and not insecurities. Alas.
Something changed in my 20s, around the time that I was 23 years old actually – I had just graduated from law school, and having read the book called the secret, I realised a lot of the perpetuating patterns were made by me, by accepting it. I had lived my entire life not knowing that I could say No to something.
I had successfully manifested a 6 year relationship which can be described as toxic and a stressful job – where I gave my all and still felt inadequate. It made me clingy, angry, petty and pretty awful. I really didn’t like myself then.
All I knew was that I never wanted to feel like that, so I had to say No to things that diminished me. Then came the next dilemma, what do I say yes to and what do I say no to? I hadn’t the slightest. I had never ever asked myself this question…
So I did what I do best – made a list (not pen to paper list), which turned out to be one of the most powerful exercises I’ve ever done for myself and one that I do so constantly, that today it has become almost an involuntary function.
But that was not the case when I started – so what exactly did I do – well, it wasn’t one thing- it was however, triggered by one Oscar Wilde quote (which continues to be one of my favorites even today) –
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde
It seems so simple right – except we are usually taught the exact opposite of that, aren’t we??
I stopped dead in my tracks, how could something so essential never be taught. No answer.
So I started on my quest with no answers: I made a conscious effort to dwell on things I like about myself, it started very small like one or two things that I did like, and I’d acknowledge it – it felt good, so I kept adding to it, and adding to it and then adding some more – till I fell in love with myself, and thus began my lifelong romance. Thank you, Mr. Wilde!
Things that I was once insecure about, I now loved and flaunted – Like my height, I stand proud at 5 feet 2 inches.
It was merely a change of perspective. Not short, but utterly adorable. And just like that, you like something instead of feeling embarrassed. AND I get to wear the tallest heels and still look like an adorable little pixie! Win-Win!
Of course this is only one example, and like this I found things I didn’t like and changed it, and what could not be changed, I changed my perspective about it, and it worked! I constantly found myself surprised that it was that simple and yet it never occurred to me sooner.
As they say, better late than never, but don’t let it fool you into thinking its all great all the time, sadly romance doesn’t work like that – there are still days of utter confusion, self doubt, and worst of all self defeating thoughts, but like with any relationship, you process it, you figure out a way to fix it, and you make an effort to do so again and again till its not a problem anymore.
Since this realization and my efforts to live this way began, I noticed a LOT of people were uncomfortable and even unhappy with this development, uncomfortable because they could not relate to me (the evolving me) anymore, I was told that I was selfish and that if I kept it up that I would end up all alone, because no one like vain people. I was told that my affection for myself was wrong because it was conceited to think like that. These people practically handed me the scissors and begged me to cut them off (from my life), and I happily obliged.
Some people expressed their unhappiness in their actions and sometimes even with words, they questioned why I deserved to like myself, or how I could dare to not seek their approval anymore. It pissed off a lot of them, again they practically handed me the scissors and begged me to cut them off, and again I happily obliged. This actually made me feel a thousand pounds lighter.
Through it all, I realized how many toxic people I had collected along the way, how many toxic people I had so happily accepted as my friends and family. It brought me to a new mantra –
I finally realized that it was okay not to be liked by EVERYONE. We are not built for that. Life doesn’t end if a few people don’t like you, either they don’t know you, can’t relate to you, or best yet they don’t matter.
So what difference does it make if someone dislikes you – NONE (I promise you) No difference whatsoever, as long as you like you, as long as you approve of your choices & consequences, it makes NO difference. I remind myself this every time I start to obsess over this.
Of course, as human beings, we all want people to like us, but here’s another secret that I uncovered along the way, when you like you and accept you for the beautiful unique person you are, you set the bar for those around you as well; and the people you attract into your existence will like you. But just like anything, this type of consciously choosing a life that serves to magnify your existence, is not as simple as flipping a switch, it is, but its not a one time thing, every time you are faced with a choice, you have to choose the one that aids your well being more. Its more than a full-time job, its a way of life. 🙂
Another result of this I have noticed through the years is friends have used it as an innuendo to make light of what I was saying – self love to be more literal rather than the tool to build your self-esteem and self-worth, but hey, they were funny so I rolled with it, laughed at it, and moved on.
If people were not ready to hear my story, it was okay, I no longer felt the compulsion of explaining myself or convincing them. That was freeing, to know that my way of life and my story is enough for me, irrespective of how acceptable it was to others.
This has resulted in better relationships, better confidence, more compassion, and most importantly a grateful and highly satisfying life, knowing every day that I am enough… Hell, I am an awesome, genuine, one-of-a kind woman!!! That is worth the world.
Now lets get to the big question – why self love – because this is the foundation of everything your life is built on. How, because we come to this world alone, and one day we will leave this world alone, but from the time we arrive to the time we depart – we are surrounded by people, beauty, and endless opportunities offered by this bountiful world, and we would have done ourselves a HUGE disservice if we didn’t make the best of our time here.
To build anything lasting, its foundation should be solid, so to make your life one of substantial significance, it starts with the strong foundation, that is YOU! The you that derives strength from inside yourself, and the ONLY way to do it is when it starts with the most powerful creative force known to mankind – Love!
The ONLY reason for this post is because I had to learn this the hard way, and I’m hoping that you don’t have to.
Its okay to love yourself, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and see how life changes for you!
Go ahead, start with one baby step today. Look at the mirror and focus on your favorite parts for a good 5 minutes, you will come away liking yourself a little bit more!
Go on, try it, and let me know!
Until next time, go love yourself!