A teen's journey to uncover self-love.
I was thirteen when I started to notice the way that people looked at me. When people whispered in the halls at school, my ears would perk up as though I was a dog and they were calling my name. I would convince myself that they had been talking about me. Rationally, they were most likely discussing Mr. Smith’s latest math homework, but something inside of me wouldn’t let me think rationally when it came to my insecurities. My emotions continued to be a roller-coaster throughout middle school and into high school. I would be out having a blast with my friends when my reflection in a store window would quickly shatter my confidence. My heart fell, my pace slowed, and I would curse myself for feeling pretty. My mind was always cheering for the other team. Everything I said, the way I looked, and the way I acted registered a cruel thought from my own mind. I would stare at the mirror and analyze every inch of myself; dissecting everything I hated about myself. It didn’t make any sense to me why I was hating myself and constantly jumping to the worst possible conclusions. I desperately wanted to find confidence in myself, but I didn’t know where to start. And it seemed that every time I began the journey to self-love, I would tumble back down the stairs whenever somebody whispered in the hall.
High school is a breeding grounds for self-deprecating thoughts. There is constant exposure to other’s judgments. Along with the fact that everyone is stumbling along and struggling to understand ourselves. Most days in my freshman year, I tried to hide my face from my classmates in an attempt to avoid any judgment that I would immediately pin as negative. It was a truly awful feeling. Teenagers are told due to our age, that our struggles and insecurities aren’t real. They are simply a product of growing up. This isn’t true, and when a teenager is struggling their pain is valid. We feel pain as deeply as anyone else. And many teenagers have experienced more than we are given credit for. We have every right to seek help in order to form a loving relationship with ourselves.
Unfortunately, this took me a while to realize. Part of the reason finding self-love while being a teenager is so hard is that even people who love you don’t take your struggles seriously. Sometimes adults who mean well have a hard time understanding what we are going through and they may discredit our pain due to our age. Luckily, I was able to share with my friends what I was experiencing. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but one day when I couldn’t continue my fake confidence while in their company, I shattered.
My friends have always been a very important part of my life, and I am grateful every day for their readiness to listen to me. They sympathized with my struggles in ways I could have never imagined. They shared the same experiences with a challenge to fully loving themselves. They had insecurities about their weight, hair, voice, and
intelligence. I realized I wasn’t alone in my battle, and we decided that together we would get better. Finding true self-love when you are a teenager is a continuous battle but we deserve to be validated.
Simple steps towards self-love:
Stop self-degrading thoughts and jokes: This is so hard to do, but with the persistent effort it can be done. I used to make self-degrading jokes all the time as a way to tear myself down. I see these jokes all the time on Instagram or Snapchat too. They seem harmless and a bit funny, but they actually have an effect on how I feel about myself.
Accept that sometimes doing nothing is perfectly fine: Because I am a teenager, I always feel like I should be doing something. Things such as hanging out with a friend, doing schoolwork, looking for a job, etc. When I accepted that sometimes being lazy was okay, I began to relax more and stop stressing myself out. This helped me stop trashing myself for not being motivated enough. -
Stop reading into other people’s words so much: I often found myself making up someone else’s side of the conversation, and usually, this resulted in me ending up hurt. Whenever I catch myself doing this nowadays, I tell myself to be rational and stop speaking for them.
Cut out negative people from your life: In high school, I’ve met a lot of really fake people who don’t have my best interests at heart. It is simply best to distance yourself from people who make you feel bad. You don’t owe anything to someone who brings you pain. You deserve people who make your confidence shine.
End perfectionism: This one is so hard for me. I am a complete perfectionist from everything from school projects to Instagram posts to the way I look. I eventually accepted that sometimes I had to let myself produce some not-so-perfect work. I also had to accept that I was never going to look completely perfect. Through this, you can form a more forgiving relationship with yourself. -
Reach out to others who you trust: This really helped me on my journey to self-love. If it is possible, talking to someone about how you feel is very effective. For me, my friends were able to relate to my feelings. Other people could be parents, counselors, teachers, siblings, therapists, etc. If someone doesn’t understand or listen, don’t give up!