The subject of self-esteem, self-love, self-care, and self-improvement is so widely discussed it can start to feel taboo, after all it's a whole lot of talk on "self" which can seem self-indulgent or egotistical. But having experienced ups and downs along my own personal journey of self care I have come to believe that it is not a frivolous thing, but rather a process that is integral to ones well being and quality of life. To me self-care means taking care of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of myself. So as an advocate of self care I thought I would share a few of my learnings on it all.
I came face to face with the fashion industry's high standard of beauty in an extreme way when I began my career as a model at the age of 15. And it wasn't until years later when I stepped outside of the international scene long enough to catch my breath that I realized that my perception of self and my body had been seriously altered. In hindsight I learned that once you start trying to be someone other than yourself, you will never be satisfied with the outcome. Even if you get the results you were seeking, that habitual behavior pattern of thinking you are not good enough doesn't dissapear, and the goal posts just get pushed further away.
Once I started saying no to the industry's unhealthy standards I began the hard work of learning to care for, respect and honor myself and get re-acquainted with who I was - not a version of myself that agents or clients expected me to be. I also realized how much time I had wasted in those formative years of growing from a girl into a woman, believing I needed to be something other than what I was when I could have been content and loving towards myself, and therefor been more present for the people in my life. However I am grateful for these hard lessons, because at a very young age I was forced to take a good look at my life and learn what "healthy" authentically looked and felt like to me, which has enriched my life in a very meaningful way.
- There can be a negative side to self-improvement
- It begins with self-acceptance
One of the biggest issues with trying to improve yourself is the notion that you are inherently broken, or that a part of you needs to be fixed. Firstly it's important to acknowledge that we are all flawed human beings and nobody is perfect. Unfortunately we live in a society who's media feeds off of that narrative that we are all less than and need to be cured of something in order for them to fill that void with a product for people to consume.
By accepting that you are not "perfect" by whatever standard you are holding yourself to you are accepting that there is nothing wrong with being "imperfect" and thus you are letting go of any judgement or shame on yourself for having these feelings. Rather than worrying about anyone else's opinion of yourself, you are putting your own opinion first and saying you are enough right now, just as you are. That's not to say you shouldn't strive for self-improvement (ie. growth), but if you accept yourself first then working to be the best version of who you are shouldn't feel like a chore, but something you want to do to love and honor yourself.
- Cut the negative self deprecating talk
Making a joke or complaining about what you don't like about yourself is not making you or anyone else around you feel better about your situation. Nor is having an inner dialogue where you put yourself down. This can be a hard behavior to unlearn (especially if you have been doing this a long time) but you can begin by creating an awareness of it. Each time you have a negative thought about yourself, acknowledge it, do not judge it, and reinforce it with a positive thought or choose an empowering mantra that you always reinforce with. Even if you don't believe it, just say it to yourself, fake it until you make it and nice thoughts start becoming your new normal.
- Learn your emotional threshold and set boundaries
Humans are so resilient, we experience things that push and extend over our emotional threshold every day. But just because you "can" stand an uncomfortable circumstance or relationship doesn't mean you have to or should. That old phrase "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" is true, but what it fails to mention is that what doesn't kill you can do harmful damage. Know and accept your limits, and respect your values. If you notice that a friend, relationship, work environment, or any environment (even your Instagram feed) is making your feel uncomfortable, less than, or is not good for yourself in some way then draw a clear boundary in your mind and take the necessary steps to remove yourself from the situation. Protect yourself.
In my journey I became so desensitized to adults criticizing my body, and not caring about my opinions or what I had to say that I began to accept that as my reality. I also became accustomed to living and working with other models who were severely unhealthy, with orthorexia, body dysmorphia, and other eating disorders and addictions. But it wasn't until I drew clear boundaries with those people that I could protect myself from those negative influences.
- Create Self-Care Practices that support you being the best version of yourself
Discover what your self-care practices look like - ask yourself what you need in this present moment. You don't need to spend money for this. It could be something that helps ground you in a routine or maybe its the opposite - an experience that takes you outside of your daily life. It could be physical movement, or relaxing. Meditation, walks, restorative yoga, reiki, massage, a steam, infared sauna, hot baths, alone time, and girl time, are all healing acts. If you need healing, find a healer. It could be a therapist, a masseuse, a spiritual coach, any one that you feel helps you. Seeing a naturopath can be a good resource if you have physical ailments that you would like to learn to treat naturally or with lifestyle changes/self-care practices. There are also many ancient Ayurvedic healing practices that you can research and try.
My biggest learning lesson on self care is that it is a never ending journey with ups and downs. Just when I think I've had a breakthrough and pushed past a personal challenge something else pops up, and I now have the awareness that its never going to feel easy breezy all the time, and that is life. There are times when taking care of yourself comes more naturally, and times where life throws us a lot and it can feel very difficult. Doing the best that you can for your mind, body, and spirit, with the tools you've got is what matters, don't beat yourself up if you find it impossible to find "balance". If I could program my mind it would be to always default to inner peace and unapologetically being my truest self - but those are intentions I continuously work on and that journey is something I'm trying to enjoy more than than the destination.
Sending healing vibes to you at whichever stage of your journey you are on. Know that you are not alone.