Photograph by Catarina Inacio
Whenever I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. And I don’t just mean I think I’m not great-looking, I mean I REALLY hate how I look. And it’s not only that, I also despise my actions, expressions, choice of words, etc etc etc. I shrugged it off at first but now it’s really affecting me as a person. What can I do to love myself?
Please help me!
– Bella, 15 yrs/old
Thank you so much for your message. We are so glad you decided to reach out to us. Feeling this way, while quite common amongst teenage girls, is an awful way to feel and anything we can do to help you is our goal.
I (Freya) completely understand this feeling. I’ve been there. I struggled with this for many of my teen years and some of my early 20’s. I am now 28 and still sometimes get waves of this feeling, but mostly I love myself and have the tools I need to help myself out of these thoughts.
At 15, we have just started analysing who we are in the world. It is supposed to be a time of growth and questioning. We no longer see ourselves as just part of our parents or family; we see ourselves as individuals. This should be an exciting time of exploration, love, heartbreak, and learning, but often for girls (and some boys too) it can be a time of self hatred, low self esteem, and depression.
We are bombarded by images of who we SHOULD be and what the IDEAL woman is. We are meant to be beautiful, funny, intelligent, graceful, insightful, successful, etc. We are told we have to be so many things, but above all, beautiful. This is not fair at all, and our society runs off women’s insecurities. How many millions of businesses would go out of business if we all just decided we were happy the way we are?
I remember when I was a teenager, catching a glimpse of myself in a shop window as I walked past, and that act alone disgusted me. I thought, “How can I live with myself, walking in such an unattractive way? Who will ever love me with these short legs and chubby body?”
This type of cruel self hatred is common amongst teenage girls, and we are not to blame. The media is. My favourite way to make myself feel better was by rebelling against what society wanted of me. And that is to be skinny and perfect. Anytime I felt chubby or unattractive, I would tell myself these thoughts are a product of society and not actually reality. If I was upset at myself for eating chocolate because I was “too fat,” I would remind myself that boys are “allowed” to eat as much as they want without feeling judged (whether that’s by ourselves or the outside world).
I find affirmations helpful too, they may feel a bit lame at first, but the words we use about ourselves really do impact how we feel. Try setting yourself a goal to say three nice things in the mirror each morning for a month. For example, “I am a wonderful person who is worthy of love, acceptance and success.”
The best rebellion to conquer these thoughts is to LOVE yourself unconditionally. I know it’s so much easier said than done. These thoughts are so ingrained in our conditioning as girls and women, so it takes a lot to get out of the self hatred cycle. But if you can tell yourself, every day, that you are going to rebel against society, by loving yourself EXACTLY AS YOU ARE, I promise you things will slowly start to get a little better.
It also can help to try to find just a little something every day to love about yourself or your life. Challenge yourself to find a new thing every morning to appreciate throughout the day. This has helped me (Sophie) in the past (and the present!!) when I deal with insecurities. When I look in the mirror, it’s too easy to notice the pimples on my face, or when I walk down the street, the fact that my hair just isn’t as straight and frizzless as the girls I pass by. It’s too easy to compare myself to my friends and think, I wish I was as smart as __, I wish I made people laugh like ___. Instead of letting my mind linger on those feelings, I challenge myself to find something I love about myself instead. I thank the world that I have two working arms and legs that let me walk miles around the city to school and to run errands. I thank the world for the little mole next to my mouth, because it makes me unique. I thank the world for my body’s incredible ability to always be fighting, every second of every day, to improve and to be healthy. I thank the world for my ability to appreciate music, art, and brilliant films. I thank the world for my love of dogs. I thank the world for the fact that I can immerse myself in a great book. Some days, thinking of things are easier than others, but with practice, you can start to really appreciate tiny things about you and your life that rock, and it can make all the difference.
All in all, know that you are not alone in what you are feeling, and know that it will get better. It really will. Loving yourself is hard, and it does take work, but once you start on the path to self love, it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever felt before. Freedom.
Hang in there. If you want to talk more, feel free to email either of us directly at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also call kids helpline if you’re in Australia and feel like chatting to someone straight away: 1800 55 1800
Or check out Rosie Respect for more information on being a teenager and respecting yourself.
Freya and Sophie[share]