• Emily Formea

The Truth About Self-Love & Self-Confidence

“The truest form of self-love is loving the things about yourself you’ve spent a lifetime trying to change.” -Me

My freshman year of college did me dirty. It wasn’t my college that played me, it was my phone. I wasn’t super into social media before entering college. I hadn’t ever heard of YouTube before my freshman year. I had unlimited texting, which was SO exciting, let me tell you! And I had Facebook. That was pretty much it!

I remember diving into social platforms when I went away from home! It seemed I was always on YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and with all of this I was also always staring at ‘happy’ people. Every app I opened, I saw someone smiling, someone dressed up, someone having flawless skin that looked photoshopped it was so perfect *turned out it was.* My brain was just bombarded with perfection and it made me adopt a new belief: to be happy and to love oneself you had to be perfect; that self-love was a destination in the physical world. Now, I talk a lot about my eating disorder, food relationship, dieting history, but for this blog, I wanted to dive deeper: What do you think you have to be to love yourself?

This could be thin, beautiful, successful, perhaps married? It could be a plethora of things, but the important piece is that it’s important to you and that’s what we need to change.

I saw girls with perfect hair, skin, nails, bedrooms, desktop screensavers, and I began to believe that there was an image associated with self-love and self-acceptance. In other words, I thought that self-love was a formula. I thought that self-confidence was an equation. If you look like this, wear these types of clothes, drink these sort of caffeinated beverages, work out this way, then, and only then, will you be happy.

When did ‘self-love’ lose the prefix of self?

I think the majority of young women find that their belief around what it means to be happy and what it means to be successful can be illustrated on someone else’s Pinterest board or Instagram feed. We’ve adopted the misunderstanding that joy, happiness, and confidence comes with an automated checklist. Not only that but that that checklist is the same for every woman on Earth.

I downloaded my checklist freshman year and I stuck to it as though my life depended upon it because I thought that it truly did. I soaked in information around what I needed to look like, how I needed to behave, what I needed to say, and sip on to matter as a young woman in this world. Notice how I say ‘needed’ not what I desired or dreamed about or truly even wanted to be or do. The word ‘needed’ is graspy. It’s limiting. It’s self-sabotaging. When you ‘need’ to do or be something chances are it’s coming from the wrong intention. If you say, “I need to go for a run.” I’m going to go out on a whim here that you didn’t finish your sentence. You’re probably saying, “I need to go for a run because I need to be thin to feel pretty.” Once again, I’m going to guess you cut yourself off. “I’m going to go for a run because I need to be thin to feel pretty so people will like me.”

There we go. That’s the root.

Needing something like approval or material goods is a disconnect from oneself. Needing water, food, shelter, yes. Needing to buy new shoes because you saw this girl on Twitter wearing them and you thought she looked really hot, and you want to look hot because you think looking hot raises your value as a human being. That’s our problem.

And it’s okay, we ALL do this! I catch myself almost daily still falling into this hole of: Do I need to do that? Should I change this about myself? The number of times I’ve seen someone’s room tour on YouTube and instantly pulled open Wayfair to completely redecorate my living space would be in triple digits, my girl. Because we think that one day we won’t feel bad about ourselves. At all. That one day we will have a shiny car, shiny shoes, and shinier husband and we won’t have to deal with the pain in our chests and mind of having insecurities or even simply a bad body image day. And if God forbid, we do feel these things, then we’re failing at this thing called life. Because life can be perfect, right?

Have you ever noticed that you ‘need’ more stuff or more ‘things’ or a ‘hotter body’ when you feel your lowest about yourself?

It’s because you’ve been told by society that there is a certain image that will allow you to never feel bad ever again.

That’s thanks to the Internet.

I never see girls wearing Gucci and crying on their bathroom floors because a boy broke their heart, do you? But, do I know that that still happens and that I’m not the only one crying on my bathroom floor every once in a while because a boy broke my heart? *Thanks, Derek!*

I didn’t realize this in college. That was my problem.

I thought that once I reach this level of ‘societal acceptance’ I’ll become numb to any negative emotion; immune to insecurities and completely confident in my being 365 days of every year until the day I die.

So, of course, we all want that! Are you kidding me!? So, we try! We try hard! We spend what seems like an eternity molding ourselves into whatever is ‘in season’ that season or spending more money than we would like to admit to our parents on Starbucks drinks that lowkey taste gross, but high-key make our social pages more socially acceptable. We have completely lost touch of who we are and what the hell makes us happy.

But, we were told that swallowing this magic pill will make all the pain go away, we just have to keep swallowing. We indulge ourselves in diet magazines and workouts regimes that kick us in the butt to try to force our butts to look bigger. We spend weekends scrolling and scrutinizing ourselves against every photo of happiness we see. We believe that no one in the world is feeling the way we feel meaning that we have to transform our world to match theirs and by doing so we will not only gain their image of happiness but the feeling we desperately want to feel: loved by ourselves.

I tried this equation: Putting everything that society told me to or not to into my being + Self-loathing and Self-Deprecating Intentions behind my actions *meaning I harshly dieted to hate my body more, I over-exercised because my being disgusted me not looking like this girl or that girl online* will somehow = Self-Love

Where is your ‘self’ in that equation?

How can we continue to believe that by adopting someone else’s ‘perfect’ life that we will love our imperfect ones more? Here’s a fun fact I had to learn the hard way: Life isn’t perfect or painless and the longer you try to run from imperfection and pain, the longer you run from living.

But, let’s backtrack a second. Let’s say you’re like me and you’re a go-getter. So, you change your hair, maybe go on a diet or two or ten, perhaps you only wear ripped denim now because some woman in some paper told you that made you ‘cool.’ You follow the formula PERFECTLY. Then, you look in the mirror and what’s this? You feel pain. You feel more pain than when this whole experiment began. You feel more insecure or anxious or dissatisfied with your body or life.

And why is this?

You have the additional pain of forcing yourself into a mold not your own.

That’s pretty painful.

You have a shape, purpose, destination in this world and now you have completely ignored all of that to forcefully shove yourself into a mold that not only isn’t your own but also is running out of space entirely.

I truly believe that when we force ourselves to look, dress, weigh, speak like, work as, be in a relationship with… when we force anything that isn’t our truest desires, it brings about additional pain on top of the pain we were trying to run from in the first place.

Then we feel cheated. We think, “Wait a minute, but this isn’t what was supposed to happen. I was supposed to feel elated. To feel euphoric. I was supposed to feel beautiful and cherished and successful and sexy.”

So now, we have additional pain + pain of squishing and shapeshifting your soul AND upset. We feel downright let down. We feel like we ‘messed up.’ Like we failed. Like we didn’t try hard enough because if we had we would have felt amazing. We feel like a failure, like a liar, like a fraud.

And then, my sweet girl, you try again.

If in your heart you believe this is the way to happiness: by dieting, by being super skinny, by having clear skin, by looking perfect in designer clothes, by driving expensive cars, by getting straight A’s, by being President of this organization, or landing that top job is the only way to feel good about yourself….. Then you’re forced to think the problem is with you and not the falsity that planted that bug in your head in the first place.

  • There is no perfect life.

  • There is no painless life.

  • There is no destination of happiness or pursuit of confidence.

  • I have insecurities and I have confidence.

  • I have flaws and I have things I adore about myself.

  • I have strengths and weaknesses.

I have to because they are balancing acts.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Bad days make you appreciate good ones.” Life is a balance. When you dedicate your existence to only having good days…. You’ll find yourself never having a good day for 10 years.

That was me.
And it’s not my fault. It’s not your fault that this pill has been force-fed to every woman in America.
However, it was my choice to not swallow it anymore.
And it’s now your choice to do the same.

Remember that self-love begins with the word ‘self’ and to love someone, you have to listen to them, understand them, care for them, spend time with them. To love someone you have to respect them, be curious about them, accept their imperfections, and celebrate their strengths! You have to want what is best for THEM, not what you think is best for them. You have to support them. You have to uplift them. You have to know them.

So, I challenge you to get to know your ‘self’ first and stop chasing ways to fall in love with someone you’ve been ignoring in the first place. Because what you’re searching for is not a destination somewhere out in the shiny distance, it’s finally coming home.

Sincerely, XO Emily

Sincerely, XO Emily || 2020

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