by Naomi Bang ‘23
“I hate myself.” How many times does that joke slip out of my mouth for a little, stupid mistake? But a year ago, I started to really mean it. The only thing I could see in the mirror each day was one big mistake. Slowly but surely, I am learning to see my value and recognize that I do have an important part to contribute in this world.
The world tells me my beauty is my worth. Social media tells me I need to have a perfect body, a perfect smile, and an Instagram feed full of perfectly curated images. Even though I know it’s not true, I can’t help but continue comparing myself to so many “pretty” girls. It’s a lie – but such a believable one.
How could I ever love myself? I started to avoid this question. Maybe, I grew too used to the idea of achieving an ideal image in order to be accepted by society – to accept myself. My routine became jealousy, and self-deprecation was the only compliment I gave myself. It was completely unfathomable to me that I was allowed to appreciate myself, let alone receive love from other people. I became a mess of insecurities, doubts, fears, and eventually hatred and frustration. Why couldn’t I just be like “other girls”? Why couldn’t I have a perfect body and a perfect smile, too?
I know many other people share the same experiences as me. Insecurity can creep in regardless of age, gender identity, and race, and I let it take control of my life. Rather than putting up a wall to deflect all these irrational perceptions about myself, I opened the door and let them come flooding in. I was addicted to comparison when I knew it was the one thing constantly bringing me down.
Eventually, I reached such a low place that there was nowhere left to go but up. I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life hating the person I am. I wanted to enjoy living. I missed countless opportunities because I lacked confidence in myself. Now I wanted to try new things and make new friends and stop playing victim to my own insecurities. I could blame society, I could blame social media, I could blame models or influencers. In reality, it is up to me to take responsibility and shut out the lies.
Still, asking for help is scary. I was scared of opening my heart and letting out all the fears I had suppressed deep inside, but I also knew suppressing them further would only hurt me. I decided to start therapy last year, and I have continued going ever since. Some people believe this stigma around mental illness and therapy, but you don’t need to experience trauma to see a therapist, and going to therapy does not make you weak. As I shared my thoughts and emotions, I felt free. I no longer felt like I was dragging around a secret burden in my chest. I realized I was not alone because even the people who appear most confident have insecurities. The difference lies in knowing your self-worth and refusing to let negative thoughts sway your core perception of yourself. Though it is unfair for me to expect an instant change, breaking the cycle of comparison, jealousy, and lowering self-esteem is the first step in a long journey of finding self-acceptance.
Loving someone does not rely on perfection. People love each other despite and because of all their flaws. Imperfections make us real and authentic. While I spent my whole life giving love to everyone else, I finally realized I needed to return that same love to myself.