Learning to Love Myself

Growing up, my dad taught me that the key to finding the right person was in the way that I carry myself. He taught me to always use my brain, exude confidence, be honest, & be authentic. Because if you’re constantly wearing a mask & pretending to be someone you’re not, you’ll just end up attracting the wrong people, who don’t even know the real you. Through accepting who you are, being yourself, caring for yourself, & loving yourself every day, you’ll attract & keep yourself surrounded by the right people, who will truly love you & continue to love you just as much as you do. This is about Iearning to love myself.

My Darkest Secret

My darkest secret is my body dysmorphia. I have an unhealthy obsession with food & not wanting to get fat. Over time, the way I perceive my body became a clear mental health disorder. To put it simply, no matter how “healthy” I am according to my BMI, when I look at myself in the mirror, my body & what I consider to be my “flaws” always look exactly the same to me. While I may seem confident with my curves, the truth is that I hate my round face, arms, butt, stomach, & thighs.

When getting ready to go out into the world, I change my outfit several times, because of how my body looks to me when I’m wearing certain outfits. There’s nothing worse in my mind than picturing how perfect an outfit would be in my head for a certain occasion then having to change 10+ times because I hate the way my body looks in my 1st option & every single option that I choose afterward. Growing up I thought I was just messy… but in reality, my hate & frustration with the way I look causes me to scatter my clothes all over my room every day. That’s also why I became obsessed with shopping for the same styles of clothing in different colors & patterns, because they make me look “skinny” or highlight the parts of my body that I like better & are more comfortable showing off.

Learning to Accept My Flaws

While I know that I’m generally attractive, I still obsessively put myself under a microscope when it comes to how I look in the mirror & in photos. When I post a selfie, I take at least 10 different shots in various angles & lighting with different smiles. When posting something with my body, I suck in my stomach, arch my back, elongate my spine, & emphasize my jawline from the crown of my head for the optimum shot.

Last year, I finally learned to start loving myself more. With COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, I had little reason to do my hair & makeup every day. I no longer had to pick out the “perfect” outfit for work, date nights, or parties. There was no need to get my eye lashes or nails done. I couldn’t get my eyebrows threaded. I couldn’t get a facial or a massage. Forced to be my natural self every day, I love the way I look with my wild, curly hair, glasses, & a fresh, freckled-faced now.

The Positive Effects of 2019 & COVID-19

For the first time in a long time, I feel beautiful without having to try so hard. I could be me, & I didn’t have to wear a mask for the world anymore. Even though I’m ironically forced to wear a mask over my nose & mouth for the health & safety of the rest of the world, I finally feel more confident & happy in my own skin. Because the people who I love & matter to me the most still appreciate & love me too. With people telling me how much they love my curls & freckles daily, I can still be seen as beautiful & perfect without all the extra effort.

2019 taught me that I didn’t have to wear makeup, do my hair, dress up, & take selfies regularly to be loved. I work out regularly & eat better because I know that my body deserves to love & care. It’s nearly impossible to go out to eat every day, so I renewed my love of cooking at home. I couldn’t fly & collect more stamps on my passport, so I learned to appreciate road trips & explored up & down the West Coast instead. And with little to no social interaction outside my immediate social pods, I proactively choose to be more friendly & kind to every person I interact with each day.

Retreating into the Darkness

I’ll admit that I did struggle once the Bay Area started to reopen again. While people in other California counties were rushing to book their eyelash, nail, & waxing appointments again, I was honestly more excited to finally be able to re-book all of my cancelled travel plans for the year. Scrolling through social media ultimately triggered my insecurities & my obsession with staring at everything wrong with my body in the mirror & in my photos.

This was a very dark place, but it’s important to reevaluate what I need to be happy & feel comfortable in my body. I was already working out for at least 30 minutes every single day, drinking lots of water, & eating lots of fresh fruit & veggies. In the end, I decided that I needed to limit my time scrolling through social media, because social media algorithms force unrealistic standards of beauty in my face that trigger my body dysmorphia. I want to continue to embrace my natural beauty & love my body for all of things it allows me to do. I don’t need eyelash extensions, a full face of makeup, & perfectly manicured nails to feel beautiful anymore. Despite society’s unrealistic standards of beauty when it comes to the ideal body type, I know in my heart that my body is strong & perfect.

Lesson Learned

All that matters to me going forward is that I continue to love myself, take care of my body, & be authentically me. Despite what I still see in the mirror, I choose to love myself more than the hate I feel for my reflection. Others tell me that I have an innate ability to inspire others to love themselves just by being myself, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I hope that sharing how I learned to love myself has helped you as well. Because I want everyone to learn that no one in the world is more deserving of your love & affection than yourself.

XO Denise

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