In today’s time, it can seem like our happiness depends on others. There was a point of time when I did not know a bigger people-pleaser in the world than me. I found it hard to say “no”, did whatever was asked just to be liked, without honouring my own needs and wants, and before I knew it, I found myself entangled in a web of toxicities. Trying to be everything to everyone was exhausting. More so, because it was actually unsustainable. Eventually, I found my psyche just collapsing in on itself, like a sinkhole of muck. Amidst social media breakdowns, and real-time breakups, it was, indeed, very trying to figure out who other people just wanted me to be.
Today, I strongly advocate that to be genuinely happy, you absolutely must honour the truth of you. But all too often, finding this truth is not easy. I see so many people wearing masks of self-confidence and grandeur, and it’s easy to know that it is a mask and not authentic, because you just cannot give away something you don’t already own. Only if you truly fall in love with yourself, first, will you be able to help people see the awesomeness in themselves.
A while back, a close friend of mine gave me the following ‘compliment’, “I really admire you! I love the way you carry yourself and dress up…I know I wouldn’t be able to if I were in your position.” While I responded with a polite “thank you” and chose to only focus on the positive portion of the message, I would be lying if I said that I did not find what she said hurtful. Since childhood, I have been rebuked for my weight by family members; I feel the only reason why I never developed an eating disorder or severe body-image issues is because I always had a kind, supportive circle of friends, who never made me feel that I was inadequate or not deserving of things simply because I was fat. Till date, I have family members saying statements like, “You are so intelligent and successful. You would look so much better if you lost some weight!” While I don’t wish to question their ‘concern’, these statements are not helpful in any way. For one, they definitely do not make me want to lose weight – hearing statements like this always activated the rebellious child in me who adopted a passive-aggressive stance of not losing weight just to prove to them that their words had no effect on her. Of course, the only person who still remained miserable in this entire affair was me!
It is a normal part of the human psyche, on some level, to be occasionally consumed by doubt, insecurity, or uncertainty. Self-worth is knowing you are loved, valued, and worthy, simply because you are, and not because of what you think, say, do, look like, or what others think of you. You should not have to perform or act for anyone to keep in the good graces – you for you is enough. It can be challenging to accept all parts of ourselves, but that is truly where self-confidence begins. As we truly accept who we are, we find that we don’t need the approval or inputs of others anymore, because we know the truth about ourselves. I started taking care of my body the day I honoured it and acknowledged it as the vessel through which I get to experience life. I still am nowhere close to what my ideal weight should be, but I know I eat intuitively now, and I listen to my body more than I used to earlier.
Hold on to your truth and allow it to absorb into your pores. When you find yourself going into judgment, label the judgment as defeating thoughts and push them away. Banish them from your kingdom!
No matter what these thoughts make you believe, the truth is that you matter. You are a unique being with a unique purpose and path in this world, and any comparison or need for another’s approval is apples to oranges. And, if you are tempted to motivate yourself to becoming a better version of yourself, just remember to take those comparisons with a grain of salt – ask yourself: are you comparing your real body to a photoshopped one? Are you comparing your regular life to an Instagram depiction? Are your role-models television-stars on reality shows who are paid bucket-loads of money to memorize and read scripts?
Be patient. Remember that it takes time. Please don’t set unrealistic expectations and expect yourself to change overnight. Be kind and gentle with yourself in this process. When you are able to be gentle with yourself, you will experience a sense of wellbeing that will make you feel safe and secure, happy and content with who you are rather than who you think others want you to be.
Many people have explicitly asked me why I choose to share my story when I am far from perfect. It’s unfortunate how we all want to hear or read stories about heroes and their victorious journey…Most people feel brave enough to only bare their soul about their struggles after they have conquered their fears, and not while they are struggling. And I feel that is where the disconnect lies. When I was a little girl, I often felt like an alien. I felt my body was weird and ugly, and even when I entered college, I took these feelings of shame and discomfort with me. I internalized what I felt and it really ate me up inside. At times, I have wanted to hide. At times, I have wished that I was invisible. There are times when I still want to hide. There are times I wish I was tiny enough to not get noticed.
Yet I choose to share my story. It’s not a victor’s story (yet), but I am not sharing myself for validation. I share because bodies like mine are deemed unacceptable and inappropriate, and sometimes it feels like society wants to rid them away. A long time ago, going to a beach and wearing swimwear used to make me conscious. Today, it does not bother me or affect me. I feel really confident wearing the clothes that I wear and I enjoy myself without feeling any shame or disgust. I am still far, far away from having the perfect body – if such a notion even exists – but I refuse to give into people’s discomfort on seeing me having a nice time just because, according to them, what I wear is offensive for a body like mine. I put myself out there because if just talking about my struggles helps even one person – if talking about my body can give one person confidence to don anything they like without worrying about judgment – then, I have achieved what I want to. Confidence breeds confidence.
You are not a “BEFORE”. You don’t need an “AFTER” to feel worthy. This was a lesson that I actually learnt after working with a client of mine, a fashion-model, who believed she wasn’t beautiful anymore because she was not a certain body-type. The first time, she came for a session, and said that she had body-image issues, as her therapist, I head her with absolute empathy and nonjudgment, but after the session, as I sat down to record the session, I realized that this woman feels the same things I feel every day. Even in my wildest dreams, I can never imagine becoming as thin as her. So, when does this really end? Is true happiness really tied to chasing and working towards the perfect body? In my life, that was my aha! moment – when I finally decided to stop hating my body, and giving it the respect and love it deserves: for functioning well, for not giving up on me despite the fact that I don’t do much to really nourish and look after it…And it was while working with this client of mine, that I started taking teeny-tiny, small steps towards looking after my body a little more than before, and never hating it for being or looking a certain way.
Today, grant your body and yourself the permission to just be. Remember that you are loved in all shapes and sizes. How does your world change as a result of that? How does it get better than that? What else is possible?