In high school, I did not know how to love myself. It was never a real priority or even something I thought about often. It was a concept that I thought I somewhat understood, but since coming to college I have realized that I only had a shallow sense of it before. It would come up in conversation within my high school friend group, but my friends talked about it almost exclusively in terms of their appearance. Feeling confident in your own skin is amazing and not easy, but “self-love” goes beyond just appearance.
I understand that self-love must have different meanings to different people. Since coming to college, I have realized that trying to accept my shortcomings for what they are and daring to fail are both extremely difficult for me — and also very necessary in my path towards self-love.
One day I had an epiphany: the world is hard enough without you being your own enemy. Right then and there, I decided to embark on a journey toward real self-love. While this journey has included learning to accept my physical body the way it is, it has mostly revolved around learning positive self-talk and unlearning perfectionism.
I used to think of my perfectionism as a good thing. It drove me to strive towards being the best version of myself. But the more I let it drive me, the more I realized nothing was ever good enough for it. It was the voice in my head that berated me after awkward social interactions, or that scolded me for going in for a second or third plate at the dining hall. The voice wouldn’t let me just live unless I was living my “best life” all the time.
Obviously, this is a very unrealistic goal for anyone, so I was just setting myself up for disappointment and shame. And what is your “best life,” anyway? I don’t think it is a life that revolves around a facade of perfectionism. When I didn’t allow myself to fail, I started to avoid situations where I could grow, because I didn’t want to hear that voice shaming me when I inevitably slipped up or did something it didn’t approve of.
These days, I am doing my best to let go of my perfectionism. I am doing my best to view myself kindly, the way I try to view other people. Life is hard enough without me being my own enemy. I was amazed that the more I consciously worked on nipping self-negative thoughts in the bud and replacing them with positive thoughts, the more I enjoyed both being alone and spending time with friends.
I’m not saying building self-love or dismantling perfectionism is easy. There are days when comparing myself to other people feels like such a natural thought pattern that I don’t even realize I’m doing it. There are times when I feel sad or down for not living up to expectations I have set for myself or expectations that I’ve perceived others have of me. I guess that’s why self-love is a journey. Progress is rarely linear or clear-cut and that can be frustrating. But at the end of the day, we have the capability to determine how we feel about ourselves and I think that is so incredibly empowering.
Charlotte C.R. PZ’22 is from Portland, Oregon. She’s interested in Psychology, and in her free time she runs, does yoga, volunteers at a shelter, and listens to music.