Sunday, March 8, 2015

3 Steps to Improved Self Esteem

    Self esteem is an elusive concept for many. In a society that constantly feels the need to give us the 1,001 ways we need to fix ourselves, it is a wonder how anyone feels good about themselves. We have been trained to pick ourselves a part. We have been brainwashed into feeling that somehow the universe messed us up, how did everyone else turn out perfect and I get beat with the ugly stick? The truth one is perfect. Even the models in real life don't look like the model in the magazine. We are being sold a fake image, one that is specifically made to keep our self esteem at bay. Imagine how many companies would be out of business if people woke up and felt good about themselves. In a society determined to keep us down, how do we build up our self esteem? How do we take back our mental health? We take back our control. Here's how...

1. Stop reading mainstream magazines. Seriously. 

     The growing amount of Photoshopped images in mainstream media is astounding. We have reached a point that we can no longer trust the images we see. Mainstream magazines are the leaders of visual lies. Models, from everything from fashion to toothpaste, are wiped clean of their human traits. Smile lines? Oh, no. Erase. Cellulite? The horror. Erase. Thighs touch? Unheard of! Erase. Geeze, no wonder so many of us suffer from low self esteem! There is not a human alive that is flawless and the sooner we stop trying to convince ourselves that flawless is obtainable the happier we will all be. 

     So I can never read a magazine again?! Have no fear, there are magazines that will help build self esteem instead of tearing it to shreds. Verily online magazine prides themselves on have zero Photoshopped images in their publication. They also focus on empowering women with articles that are not focused on sex.  Tired of seeing the “one body fits all” model? Open up your Google search and type in plus size magazines . Boom! Hello women of all shapes and sizes! I recommend this step for women of all sizes. Look at women of all sizes, see the physical diversity that is our planet. When we can accept the reality of what the human body actually looks like we learn to accept our own bodies at our size. 

2. Follow models that YOU find attractive on social media sites. 
     We can control the images we see, we just have to put some work into it. First step is allowing yourself permission to see all sizes as beautiful. We have been trained to focus on the flaws of others, too fat, too thin, bad hair, crazy eyebrows, and so on. What if we just stopped picking each other a part? What if we just let each other be? How does one begin to reprogram their brain to see the beauty in all body types? We follow confident women of all sizes in our newsfeeds. That's right, I said ALL sizes. It is important that we break the ingrained image of what is acceptable beauty. Confidence is contagious, this is why I am a Tess Holliday fan. At 5'5 and a size 24, Tess and I are physical opposites yet she empowers me in my body because she rocks hers with such tenacity. Tess gives me permission to love my body.

     How does one go about finding models outside of the mainstream one we all know? Start with hashtags. If you have Instagram look under hashtags for your body size. For example I am a size 12 so I look under #size12 and have found stunning women that help me embrace my body. #plussizemodel will give you an array of sizes, then pick women that you find attractive. There are a lot of confident women who are giving out self esteem to others with a simple follow of their page. Go on a hashtag clicking spree and see where it takes you, you will find inspirations to fill your news feed. 

     Mix your newsfeed with different body sizes, don't subject yourself to only one body type. Not only will this help you with your own self esteem, it will also help you break down the brainwashing that we all have to look a certain way. We have heard the phrase, "It's not what size you wear, it's how you wear your size." This is true. We can give each other permission to rock our own beauty by simply appreciating the beauty around us. 

3. Change your inner monologue. Make yourself be nice. 

     This step takes practice. Most of us only know how to critique ourselves. I was the champion of reticules and put downs for myself. My bullies in school thought they were nasty to me - no way, I was 10 times worse. However, it was not just myself I would put down, I would also tear apart strangers. Never out loud...well maybe a comment to my best friend. We have all found ourselves thinking "What are they wearing?" or "Oh my gosh did you see how big/skinny that lady was?". We have to rewire our inner monologue toward strangers as much as we need to rewire it toward ourselves. 

     The next time you are looking in a mirror, compliment yourself! Compliment your body. We do not have to hate our bodies. Hating our bodies is a choice and not a must do. Tell that voice in the back of your head to sit down and shut up. Think of that voice as a small child; you are going to have to repeat yourself a million times before it hears you. And just like a small child, you cannot give up on making them hear you. That small voice will go away and get replaced with a loud voice that will sing of your praises, if you let it. 

     That voice will also need to be trained to shut up when someone who doesn't fit the beauty "mold" walks by us. None of us fit that mold, so why are we treating those around us like they obviously did not read the memo about how to be seen in public.  Enough picking on ourselves and each other. Instead of focusing on the difference find a nice thing you can say. Mom was right, "If you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all." That includes our inner monologue. When we can find it in our hearts to be kind to those around us we will naturally lighten up on ourselves. 

     These three steps have drastically improved my own self esteem. I am not perfect. There are holes in my self esteem that negativity squeezes into every now and then. It is going to happen, even to those who seem to have self esteem in abundance. The trick is to stop yourself, shake it off, and replace the thoughts with positive energy. Think of these three steps as the gym for your self esteem. Self esteem is like a muscle you have to develop in order to use it. 

Control taken back. You are imperfectly perfect!