My goal of this was to provide an outlet and prove to them (and you, the reader) that so many others face the same struggles and they aren't alone in this battle. I know this article is a long read, but I urge you to read until the end- these personal stories have been so powerful for me to read and inspired me in so many ways and I truly believe it will do the same for you.
Anonymous 2 (wished to not be named)-18-Male
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest), how would you rate your confidence in your appearance? Can you explain the reasoning behind your rating?
Eaven: "I'd say about a 7 because like I'm fairly confident and I like myself but when I see pictures of me I get self-conscious about the weight I gained in college."
Sasha: "This fluctuates a lot, but currently an 8. feeling pretty good today because I worked out this morning but I am not wearing makeup. I tend to feel better when I wear makeup, my hair is freshly washed and I take the time to work out and put effort into my outfit."
Mallory: "Probably about an 8-9. I'm more confident than I used to be because my skin is clear now, and I think I have a good body."
Jenna: "My confidence in my appearance would be an 8 because I tell myself "I look good" or "damn girl, damn". Having that confidence in myself makes other people's opinion of me unimportant."
Emma: "6. While I think I'm relatively attractive I definitely only feel that way when I wear makeup. when I don't have makeup on I feel kinda plain and average looking."
Craig: "Because I have always had body insecurities with how I look."
Anonymous 1: "I'm not confident but I'm not unconfident. Just average."
Has your self-confidence gotten better or worse since starting college? Can you pinpoint why this might be?
Eaven: "I don't exactly have an answer because I am less confident due to the weight I gained but college has made me more independent and helped me to love myself more making me more confident."
Sasha: "My confidence has gotten WORSE (as of this semester it's getting better). Had a low point with how my skin looked because I started new birth control, there was so much pressure to look nice in order to make friends/for people to like me (or at least I thought that was what I needed to attract potential friends). When my confidence was low about how my skin looked or my weight, it would be exponentially worse because I was hyper-conscious of what others were thinking."
Mallory: "My confidence has definitely gotten better since college; when I first started I was alone and didn't want to stick out because I feared they could classify me as a freshman just because of my actions. However, I have found a good group of friends & I am back to being carefree."
Jenna: "Since I have started college, I would say my confidence has increased. When I first started, I straightened my hair and wore makeup. But now, I barely wear makeup and haven't touched my hair with heat in 5 months now. A reason that I believe my confidence has increased since college would probably be joining a sorority. To know these girls wanted me to be part of an organization because I am beautiful on the inside and out. When I dropped due to it being toxic, I realized my self-worth and that I don't need a group of girls to define who I am.
Emma: "It's gotten better because I care more about myself and what I think of me rather than others since high school."
Craig: "Gotten better. I feel that with not everyone caring how everyone looks it's a lot more laid back."
Anonymous 1: "It's actually gotten much better since I started college."
Do you believe your insecurities arise from an internal conflict or more external (i.e. what society paints beauty to be, attempting to impress those around you, etc.)
Eaven: "I believe my insecurities are 100% external because internally when I'm alone I love myself and my body but the moment another person enters the room I become self-conscious."
Sasha: "I believe my insecurities come from external sources. When I was in middle school, not trying to impress anyone or trying to get a boyfriend, I was in love with myself and never insecure. While I've grown from that mindset now, a lot of my insecurities stemmed from never getting attention from boys and people who would point out things like my awful acne."
Mallory: "A little bit of both - mainly internal, because I'm usually picking on myself and all of my insecurities get to my head. Like I said before I'm a carefree person, so typically I don't care what people think of me - to each their own. But there will always be that one comment that matters or that one person's opinion you really hope is positive."
Emma: "I've definitely had to fight against what's expected of femininity. Especially as a queer woman! Struggling with the balance of feminine and more masculine (which stereotypically lesbians lean towards) is something I've had to come to terms with. Yes, I'm not the most comfortable in a dress but that doesn't make me less of a woman! Also struggling to accept how my body behaves as like you know a normal functioning body. Accepting hair growth and not shaving all the time and being comfortable with that."
Jenna: "I believe my insecurities arise from internal conflict. I wanted to be noticed and be known. This caused me to put a lot of work into my Instagram as my Instagram shows that "I have friends" and "I have fun"."
Craig: "Society influences a lot of how I act. I think I tend to try to act more masculine to be able to justify myself."
Anonymous 1: "With such high expectations and norms it does make it harder to love and accept myself because I feel there's a much higher emphasis placed on imperfections as opposed to uniqueness and acceptance so I focus much more on my shortcomings."
In what ways do you think societal expectations influence how you love and accept yourself?
Eaven: "Society has definitely created a lack of self-esteem. This is the era of Instagram models which has definitely hurt my self-esteem and even made me consider plastic surgery which I thought I would never consider."
Sasha: "Society influences how I love myself because there is a constant advertisement on how to get rid of "imperfections." When I was starting to work out a year ago, I would do a lot of research. something that I kept seeing appears was "how to get rid of hip dents". I never even noticed I had these until the media made me aware of them, and that's when I started becoming insecure about this feature and working to get rid of them."
Mallory: "Society tends to make jokes about people's appearances, but then I also see things about how to "accept yourself first to accept anyone else". Society is hypocritical, but at the same time, some of the things that are circulating around at the right time are things I need to hear. Sometimes I let society impact my confidence - but I think that choice reflects on my character actions, and I don't want to be as someone I'm not."
Emma: "I think my insecurities are a mix of the projection society has put forth for women and a mix of my general anxiety because of that."
Jenna: "Societal expectations have been to fit in and wear my makeup a certain way and act a certain way. It was really degrading in high school because I truly never believed I fit in. When I came to college, I was myself and I met some of my best friends that love me for being crazy, passionate, and loving. Accepting myself took a lot longer than what I thought it was going to take. Now that I am to that point, I am a lot happier with myself."
Craig: "Insecurities arise from external sources by trying to impress those around me."
Anonymous 1: "My insecurities definitely arise more from external conflicts like the people around me and trying not even to impress them but just fit in."
In what ways do you try to emulate self love? (Routines or activities you partake in to remind yourself of your worth)
Eaven: "I emulate self-love by trying to hit the gym, hyping myself up and writing journal notes about what I like about myself."
Sasha: "Self-love: taking extra time in my skincare, like doing a mask (how my skin looks dictates how high my self-esteem is a lot), making a sufficient amount of time to workout (I always feel SO much better after...working out also makes me feel like a strong and capable woman) and giving myself time to relax and watch tv shows."
Mallory: "I try to "hype myself up", it works a lot. I usually take pictures of myself a lot and it actually helps me. I don't want to sound conceited or cliche, but looking at pictures of myself makes me realize that I am beautiful in my own way. I believe that it is okay to accept & love yourself and call yourself pretty! I don't think it's cocky at all to be in love with yourself."
Emma: "Self-love! Skin care! Sheet masks! Long showers! Watching my favorite shows! Letting myself cry. Taking care of myself and listening to my body."
Jenna: "I have been working out recently to get that perfect body for myself. Aside from my workout routine, I have been doing things to make myself happy such as eating ice cream, baking a cake than eating it. Eating pasta whenever I want. Things like that."
Craig: "I practice self-love by taking time to just relax and de-stress."
Anonymous 1: "I listen to music that normalizes me and my situation to show myself that I'm fine how I am and not in any way abnormal."
Have you been told that your lack of confidence is "exaggerated" or in any sense had your feelings undermined?
Eaven: "Definitely! Not recently because I try not to put myself down but when I was younger people thought that I was just fishing for compliments which I wasn't."
Sasha: "People have never really made me feel like my insecurities are not valid, probably because everyone feels that way."
Mallory: "No, typically quite opposite. I have been called conceited a lot."
Emma: "I've been told that my being uncomfortable with compliments was just fishing for more to minimize me being uncomfortable! So it just made me more uncomfortable."
Craig: "I have not been told that what I feel is exaggerated, but that my body is fine and I should not be feeling that way; however, it is easier said than done."
Jenna: "My father has had a huge impact on how I look at myself. He will be very straightforward and say that I have been gaining weight. It is not the best feeling for my own father to tell me that I'm getting "big", but I know he has good intentions as he doesn't want me to gain weight as he did. My best friend has been a huge help in my confidence. She will help me through my insecurities and make sure that I do feel like my best self."
Anonymous 1: "Yes, not even necessarily intentionally but it does happen quite often."
If you could give another person advice about learning to him/herself, what would it be?
Eaven: "Societal expectations are a concept that change constantly. When you conform to one expectation a new one will arise and you'll fall short. My best advice would be to love yourself and live in the moment. Live life not caring what you look like to others but what you feel like to you. Pay less attention to what you wear and more attention to what you do because the real thing that matters in this world are your actions and your quality of life."
Sasha: "My advice is to take things one step at a time and do what you are capable of little by little, eventually building the person you want to be. Do the little things that you know will help make you feel good."
Mallory: "Self-love takes a while for some and fasts for others. It's not about the pace, but rather about the progress. Once you reach the peak of self-love, it can be easy to backtrack, but you have to remind yourself of your worth & that people DO LOVE YOU! I also strongly believe that you must love and accept yourself first before you try to love somebody else. People make it seem like it's not a big deal to love yourself, but it really is. You can't progress in life without self-love, and that's my brutal, honest opinion."
Emma: "Understand it's a long process of ups and downs and looks different for everyone! It's not always just putting on makeup and taking a good selfie, it's inward stuff too!"
Craig: "I would tell people that before you can love others, you have to love yourself. You need to be solid in yourself and it is ok not to be. There is not a timeline where you have to truly love yourself and everyone else is different."
Jenna: "My advice to people on self-love and having confidence would be to not care what others think. If you have to be a different person to keep a group of friends or do things like drink or smoke or anything like that, it is not worth. There are other people out there who know that you are perfect and that you define yourself. No one or thing can define you beside yourself."
Anonymous 1: "Just know that everybody has their own struggles and that being more accepting of others and their struggles, be it physical, social, or emotional, and that can, in turn, help you accept and love yourself. Nobody is perfect and looking at people as if though they make it harder to love yourself."
The BIGGEST of thank you's to my friends who helped me bring this article to life! Your raw truth will benefit so many people all over the country.
Parting statement: Self-love and learning to accept yourself for who you are is oftentimes a long journey, but know that happiness is on the horizon and you WILL get there and it will be the most enthralling relationship one could ever be part of. Remember, when you love yourself first everything else will fall in line.