The Process Of Loving Yourself

The Process Of Loving Yourself

I began to love myself slowly.

Imagine being in the sixth-grade and already feeling chronically insecure about yourself. Constantly feeling like you are never good enough, like you are always being judged.

Unfortunately, this was me. There are many reasons that cause this. Life is hard, other students are mean, the media is distorted. Even with all of these things, however, only a handful of the people who experience them have severe insecurities about themselves. Why is this?

Mental illness is one of the biggest causes of self-esteem issues. I equate anxiety to thinking everything is wrong, even when things are perfectly fine. You constantly feel like you are not good enough and fear that everyone will reject you.

Although there is not a "cure" for mental illnesses, you can work toward a more positive mindset and learn to love who you are.

I grew up constantly trying to change myself. "If only I could be more like all the other students." I did not know the concept of self-love by any stretch of the imagination. I desperately wanted to be a different person who didn't have to deal with what I was feeling when in reality, I should have been celebrating my uniqueness. In our society, there's this belief that different equals wrong. It is ingrained in our heads to correct every little flaw we have, when, in fact, the very opposite is the truth. Our flaws are what make us special.

I don't know the exact moment that it happened, but I began to love myself slowly. I am still astounded when I look back at how I used to feel. The greatest improvements happened within the past few years. Perhaps it had something to do with seeing how far I've come in life and my achievements. My great support system of my best friends also helped exponentially. But I think the main thing was finally being in an environment where I feel comfortable being myself, where I know I won't constantly be judged.

Even with all of those things, I still took a long time to realize that I am enough the way I am. See, it is very difficult to change the way you've thought about yourself for your entire life.

I still have my hard days sometimes, but at the end of the day, I can look back and say I now love who I am.

I am no longer that middle school girl that tried to be like "everyone else." It's crazy to me that someone can feel this at such a young age. If I could, I would make sure no other person would ever have to feel that way again.

Loving yourself is a life-long process. I have come so far and can now say I love the person I have always been inside. I've learned how to celebrate my differences. I am also extremely blessed to be in an environment of people who also celebrates people's unique qualities.

Cover Image Credit: Marina Maynard

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The Ability To Accept Is A Form Of Self Care

And Society's Expectations Of Suffering

The way we live today, it is almost as if some sort of suffering is seen as obligatory.

What do I mean by that?

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Don't you feel that if you go through a break-up, for instance, that it is as if you're expected by society to grieve and suffer?

Or if you are rejected from a major career opportunity that you are expected to be sad and disappointed?

Or if you fall sick, you're expected to lament your fate and the stress-inducing consequences of not completing your work?

It is as if these responses are seen as normal and if you are to react otherwise, you're seen as strange or worse, insensitive.

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How could you not care?

After all, it is human to care. It is human to invest yourself so much into something - an outcome, an expectation, an ideal scenario - that the failure to obtain it, logically, must be met with a devastating outpouring of emotion. Otherwise, it is as if you simply didn't care enough!

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But is that really true?

Does my big emotional reaction to failure mean that I cared enough? Or is it merely an excuse not to work on ourselves to better learn to accept that which is thrown at us?

The ability to accept is integral to a happy life.

Why is it then that we find it strange if someone is able to accept their circumstances with the snap of a finger?

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Because it is difficult for most of us. We find it incredibly challenging to detach ourselves from the ensuing disappointments, feelings of injustice, anger, and resentment. We find ourselves easily lost in the fears that come along in an uncertain future.

Isn't that all the more reason, though, to learn the art of acceptance? Don't we all want to be free from the pain of disappointment, the stress of anger and the anxiety of fear?

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I say yes!

The person who is able to accept the circumstances around him, in fact, cares so much about the happenings of his life that he does not want to waste a single second in self-loathing, pity, grief or pain. He knows that those emotions will arise, but there is no reason to get lost in them.

They can exist but they do not have to stop him from moving on and continuing to live life to the fullest.

Cultivating the ability to accept is a form of self-care. It is knowing your human limitations, recognizing them and allowing yourself to be free from suffering. It is knowing when it is time to let go, to stop resisting the flow of the Universe and understanding the importance of capitalizing on every living and breathing moment.

It is understanding deeply that you shape and create your life with your thoughts and feelings and so choosing to accept and let go rather than resist and suffer in order to create a happier future.

So the next time you see someone not suffering as how you think they ought to based on the events of their life, don't judge them. In fact, perhaps admire the strength they have to continually choose to accept what happens to them rather than channel energy into suffering and choose to learn from their way of life to benefit your own.

Who knows, you may just be happier.

Cover Image Credit: Mathew Schwartz

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To Those Who Feel Everything So Strongly, Do Not Let Your Empathy Crush You

Empqthy and You

I’ve talked about a lot of things on this website, and ultimately, they all have one thing in common: they exhaust me. Every time I write an article or a journal entry or a homework assignment for one of my many classes which focus on human suffering and how to address it, I wind up completely burnt out. My emotions come at me from an alternate angle—as if they were not my own—and I just want to lie down somewhere and sleep. Problem is, sleep won’t fix that kind of tired.

You see, I’m not writing this article to commiserate about how hard it is to be black in America—or on Wake’s campus—or how hard it is to be broke in America—or on Wake’s campus. I’m writing this short little piece of me down to tell the people out there like me that it is okay to get tired. It is okay for you to back off all the save-the-world projects and save-your-friends projects sometimes. It is okay to go home and sleep like the dead for a week instead of going out and doing what other people think is fun. It is okay. But what isn’t okay is taking on all the problems you encounter at the expense of dealing with your own.

For those of you like me—those of you who feel everything so strongly that it seems every day has the potential to crush you—it is important to temper your own empathy. This isn’t to say that you need to lose some of it—lord knows I couldn’t get rid of any of the empathy in my heart if I tried—but you have to learn how to manage it. If that means completely unplugging from life over spring break, do so. If that means talking to a counselor once a week or once a day, do so.

If it means meditating or doing martial arts or reading, please do so, because the world needs you and your empathy more now than you could ever know. The world needs people like us, people who can’t look at the news and mean it when they say, “Whatever, people die every day.” The world needs compassionate teachers, doctors, food service workers and mail-carriers. The world needs more empathy, and it won’t have it if you let your empathy crush you.

Ultimately, this piece is for those of you who are beginning to wonder whether or not there is a point to trying to change anything. This is for those of you who are so tired that it doesn’t matter what you do, you remain that way. This is my acknowledgement—however little that may mean—that you are not alone with how you feel.

The weight of the problems you are trying to face are not yours alone, and you can shoulder the burden, but you must have help and you must make sure you maintain your own emotional, psychological, and physical strength to do so.

This world is fucked up in a million different ways—I won’t deny it, but without empathy and without compassion, we can’t do anything about it. Without you, we can’t do anything about it. So, as I said in a speech once: “It’s okay to lose hope sometimes, as long as you find it again,” because, without hope in the face of everything hurting the world, without those of us who are willing to understand, listen, and feel what others feel in order to address the problems we see, the world will die. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to be the one who lets that happen.

Cover Image Credit: Alexander Holt

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