The journey to self love is hard. Some days I’ll look at myself in the mirror and think “I look pretty good today. I look fine. Not too fat. Not too skinny.” And along with that I continuously repeat to myself: positive thoughts only, positive thoughts only. When I take selfies I like the way that I look, but when I look at myself in pictures that others take of me or when I look at myself in the mirror right after taking selfies, I start to doubt myself: “Ew, that’s what I look like?” “Oh, God, I look so fat.” “Eh…”
I don’t expect this journey to be easy – what journey is ever easy? Nevertheless, each and everyday I try to reinforce positive thoughts only. And something that I’ve noticed more recently compared to when I was younger is that I am actually trying to care less about what other people think of me. All the time when I was younger I would worry every minute about how I looked and how I should look; however nowadays, I’ve surprisingly started to care a tad less than I used to. And that, that is something that I can say I am proud of.
How did this self-image issue come about? If I remember correctly, it was since I was eight – the age when I started to gain more weight because before that, I was a more “perfectly sized” child. Growing up I was ridiculed by my own family for being “so fat” and “fatter than your cousins and older sister.” Although it may have been a laughing matter to them to joke around with me, I took everything literal. I don’t know how kids discern jokes from something literal, but I internalized everything. Things didn’t end there though. Throughout my teenage years, I was told I would never have a boyfriend, I would never have kids, I would never get married, I would always be alone. And when I did get a boyfriend, I was told I was too fat in comparison to my partner, that my in-laws would not like me, that my then boyfriend would never marry me. And whenever I wore Hmong clothes I was always too fat for the Hmong clothes, I didn’t look as pretty as my older sister or cousins, I was too fat for new Hmong clothes, and too fat to wear matching Hmong clothes with the girls. I wonder if they knew how ousted, how marginalized I felt?
Sometime I also compare myself to other Hmong girls. Why can’t I be skinny like that Hmong girl? Why can’t I be pretty like that Hmong girl? All Hmong girls look so pretty: why do I not look like them? I think this in part had to do with my disdain for being Hmong at one point in my life. Even today I still look at Hmong girls and hate that I can’t be pretty like them or wear makeup like them or be skinny like them.
But underneath this all, underneath all of this negativity, this low self-esteem, and this low sense of confidence, I am learning to finally be independent from my own thoughts. As the cliche saying goes: we are our own worst enemy.
Today, I am learning new ways to think. When I think those negative thoughts, I rewire my thoughts to self-love thoughts and think about all my good attributes and accomplishments. Not yet will I love who I see in the mirror; not yet will I love the person I see in non-selfie pictures; not yet will I be able to stop internalizing everything my family is still saying to me today. But it’s all in the works – and that’s what matters. And someday, I’ll love myself, because loving oneself is the most important relationship of all.
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