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Improving Body Image and Self Esteem: Learning to Love Yourself

The internet creates an avenue for people to share their lives with anyone who has access to it. This is a good thing, as we see people finding jobs, life partners or even long-lost friends over the internet, particularly social media. However, there has been a proliferation of ideals, not just physical ones but emotional,...

The internet creates an avenue for people to share their lives with anyone who has access to it. This is a good thing, as we see people finding jobs, life partners or even long-lost friends over the internet, particularly social media. However, there has been a proliferation of ideals, not just physical ones but emotional, social, financial and many other ideals. And who doesn’t want to be the ideal person?

Naturally as humans we are inclined to compare our progress with those of others. This is the Social Comparison Theory where people determine their own social and personal worth based on how they compare against others. When you see that lady with the perfect body in the arms of her perfect partner, looking so happy in front of their perfect house, as humans we are inclined to use that ‘perfect’ individual as a pedestal for our own success.

In learning to love yourself, you have to realise that you are a unique entity. Of all the 7 billion people in the world, there is no one with that amazing smile like yours, with your beautiful skin, your contagious laugh, absolutely no one. There is no one with your personality or emotions. No matter how similar you are to some else, there is going to be something even the littlest thing that makes you different. Someone told me that “we are products of an overflow of the love of God”.

For the Christians reading this, this should be heart-warming, someone loved you so much that He sat down and created you with the perfect amount of sugar, spice and everything nice to ensure that you are who you are. Even for those who do not subscribe to a religion, science shows that there are anatomical or physiological differences between every human. You are unique and if you haven’t had the chance of being told, I’ll tell you that there is beauty in your uniqueness, there is beauty in what you represent.

In realising that you are a unique entity, you slowly come to acknowledge that you have something unique to offer not only to yourself but to the world. You begin to acknowledge that everyone is running their own race. In acknowledging this, there’d be less pressure to compare yourself to others.

It’s all good and fine to tell you to realise that you are unique but how do you go about doing this? These things do not just happen by themselves cos you have to consciously work towards them.

Anyone who watches Being Mary Jane would be familiar with her sticky note technique, and that is one technique I’m absolutely in love with. Sometimes you have to keep reminding yourself of a few things, you have to constantly tell yourself things like ‘I’m amazing, ‘I’m beautiful’, “I’m not defined by what others think about me’ and other sweet somethings. Never underestimate the power of speaking things into existence, you don’t have to seek the validation of others, validate yourself, speak your self love into existence. Adore yourself, be your own hero. In this world, nobody has your back like you do, be your own backbone and be strong.

I’m not saying that you do not need the support of those around you. Absolutely not. A support system is undoubtedly very important. But you have to be able to support yourself first because the sad reality is that people change, people leave and if your self love is based completely on love or support from another person, then that self love is shaky. Nevertheless, have people around you that can remind you of the beautiful things about yourself on days when you don’t remember or on days when you question those realities.

You can love who are you and still want to improve on yourself. This is particularly true regarding body image, you can love your size, your hair length but still want to lose/gain weight, cut/grow your hair. But in trying to achieve these, you have to set realistic goals. The key word here is realistic. Set goals which you reasonably see yourself achieving because your emotional health is very very very important. And when you set those extraordinary goals and cannot achieve them, it will take a toll on your emotions and may even have a negative effect on your self-esteem.

Recently, a friend of mine recently went through a sort of mini emotional breakdown at age 19, because he did not have his life all figured out. I’d give the same advice I gave my friend: it is okay to not have your life figured out. Now, do not get me wrong, I’m not saying it is not okay to aim high or want to achieve the best you possibly can but you need to do so realistically. Using my friend’s example, he’s 19 and in the university, he wants to earn so much money at the same time, that’s putting a lot of pressure on him to balance so many things he may not necessarily be able to in a short time, which will take a toll on the emotions of even the most “emotionally strong” person.

Another good tip is to occupy yourself not just with meaningless activities but with things you love doing. Spending time doing what you love brings a sort of peaceful aura and peace and worry cannot coexist. Also, where there is peace, there is inspiration to do more, to be more.

Learning to love yourself is a gradual process and takes a lot of time, so it’s okay if you wake up next week or even next month and you still struggle with it, what matters is that there is a conscious effort to achieve it.

Always, always remember that you are beautiful beyond measure, not only on the outside but on the inside. You have a beautiful soul. You are valuable.

​​​​​​​​​Esther Adedoyin.

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