“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
It all started in a popular boutique’s fitting room. I was trying on this super trendy, little white dress that I was so excited to finally find and buy for myself, but the excitement I had walking in with the dress in my hand vanished as soon as I slipped it on and zipped it up. I saw my reflection in the floor length mirrors on every side and my heart sank into my stomach realizing it was all wrong. It didn’t look like how I saw it on the model in the magazine, all cute and cut perfectly for her body. It pinched in some places but at the same time was too big in others, and overall looked nothing like I pictured it. I was suddenly filled with painful disappointment combined with frustrated anger. I actually hated myself and my body because I felt I wasn’t pretty enough to wear this dress!
I went home empty-handed, carrying only my disappointment with me. I kept on thinking about it over and over, until suddenly I realized that it doesn’t really matter. I realized that it isn’t right to define my beauty by how sexy I look in a short, white dress, or how fit I look in a bikini, or how pretty I look wearing my hair and makeup in a certain style, or even how chic I look with an expensive Gucci bag on my side.
I realized that beauty is far more than this. Beauty is something that comes from within and has nothing to do with how you look or what you own. To prove this idea to myself, I thought about the people I have stumbled across in my life and appreciated their presence. I asked myself why I loved them, what attracted me to them, and I knew deep-down that it was never about how they looked or how they dressed; it was rather about the person they were on the inside. Maybe outside appearance attracted you at first, because unfortunately we’ve grown up in a materialistic world, but in the long run what matters is how beautiful they are on the inside, how comfortable they are in their own skin, and how much inner peace they have.
It was in this moment of realization that I knew that I needed to change how I think about myself and beauty. I needed to get back to who I actually was, before I was changed in reaction to life and cultures, traditions, education systems, and media. Each of us were born with an authentic self; however, it changed over time as it reacted to everything around it. These things affected us in so many ways. They mostly taught us that first impressions are indispensable, that how we look and what we own define us, and that what people think of us actually matters. In a world that constantly pushes us to change and improve ourselves to impress others, I found it is so important to remember that what really matters is to impress our own selves! So the key isn’t to change, it’s to be our original selves.
I couldn’t imagine that it was as simple as that. Since that moment, I started focusing on the right things. I started spending my time and energy on things that actually mattered and had a long-lasting happiness effect rather than a surge of happiness that instantly disappears. I stopped fishing for compliments or attention to make me happy. I knew that what really mattered is how I see myself. I made a list to remind myself of the things I need to do to maintain this new mindset.
Honor my body
Now I appreciate my body’s capabilities, I thank it for what it does for me instead of hating it all the time and only noticing its flaws. I pay it back by giving it the care it needs; have enough sleep, take long showers, exercise, meditate, floss, and eat healthy. But I don’t totally ditch chocolate, I believe moderate quantities are good for my soul.
Stop trying so hard to please others
Whenever I catch myself doing something that I am not proud of or feels unnatural to me just to impress someone else, whether it’s my boss, friend, client, or whoever, I stop it immediately and think it through. Do I really want to wear that, say that, or do that? Bit by bit, I’m becoming more and more my own person.
Stay away from all the negativity
This includes gossiping, judging others, being pessimistic, criticizing myself constantly, and reminiscing about the past. It’s not good for me or how I view myself.
Lift myself up
I couldn’t keep telling myself that I can’t, but rather insist that I can. Even if I can’t do it today, I can still try for tomorrow. As long as I’m trying I know I’m on the right path. I must believe in myself.
“The only person who can pull me down is myself, and I’m not going to let myself pull me down anymore.”
― C. JoyBell C.
Stop comparing myself to others, instead, compare myself to how I was yesterday
Comparing myself to others only makes me jealous, gloat, and in the end, never satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with getting inspired or motivated by someone’s accomplishments; however, there’s a very thin line between that and actually envying someone for it. I want to be happy with who I am while still happy for others for their accomplishments.
I know that this realization is not new, and has been repeated over and over to the point we find it cliche. But the reason that they keep showing up is because they are true. I am determined to make this time different. I am determined to actually think it through, believe it and become convinced by it. I know the change won’t happen all at once, but being aware of it is the first step I can take. I can already see the difference in what makes me happy, what makes me confident, and there’s one thing that I know. I will never let a little white dress ruin my happiness again.