I have a friend who’s beautiful.
She’s vivacious, smart, funny, kind, great at what she does and turns heads just walking by, but for some reason, constantly doubts her self-worth and struggles with her self-esteem.
The other day, I got an email from someone who wrote: “I struggle with self-hate every single day. I hate myself for being fat. If I so much as eat a banana, I feel like a failure. I’m in a really dark place”. I wanted to give her a hug, but couldn’t because she was so far away.
For over 5 years, I worked as a fitness coach at a weight-loss bootcamp. I was strong and fast. The people I coached told me that I inspired them. Even so, I never felt like I ‘belonged’ in the fitness industry because I wasn’t an extrovert, didn’t have six-pack abs, and I was far from being obsessed with eating clean.
I was just a normal girl who ate normal food who had a normal-looking body who lived a normal life.
And I felt like a fraud because of the work I did.
But as the years have gone by, I’ve become more able — with effort and mindfulness — to gradually own who I am and make my way through life with greater confidence.
This is how I’ve come to learn the following lessons about finding peace and confidence in my own skin:
I’m not saying that you should disregard anything and everything that people think and subsequently, say, about you — that would just be a delusional and arrogant thing to do. You shouldn’t, especially if these thoughts are coming from the most important people in your life, and are ones worth considering.
What I’m saying is that obsessing over what anyone and everyone thinks about you (particularly if they know nothing about who you are), is a complete and utter waste of your time because more often of than not, they contribute absolutely nothing to your well-being or shaping you into a better human being.
So Sally thinks your hair’s too curly, Matt thinks you’re waaayyy too sensitive and Jenny from accounting thinks you’re a little on the ‘chunky’ side.
This is your life, it’s your body and it’s your time. Just as you would set healthy physical boundaries for the people whom you allow into your life, you need to do the same with the thoughts they send your way. Consider the opinions of those who are close to you and genuinely care for you carefully, and let the rest fall away.
You’ll find yourself so much less conflicted and more confident about who you are and the life you’re living.
The notion that you become who you spend the most time with isn’t a new one, and is relevant no matter what you’re trying to achieve in life.
Spend most of your time with people who drink a lot, and you’ll probably find yourself heading to the bar more often.
Spend most of your time with fast-food junkies, and chances are high you’ll find yourself downing burgers and fries from the drive-through more often than you’d like….with a growing waistline to show for it.
Spend most of your time with people who are successful, confident (not to be confused with being cocky) and purposeful, the less time you’ll spend wallowing in your insecurities and the more inspired you’ll be to ask: “How does she do it?”
“What are the things that she does everyday that helps her live this way?”
“What can I do to be more like her?”
So if you want to help yourself become confident and certain in your own skin, do it by spending more time with people who know how to get and stay there.
Developing a fit body requires that you sweat, experience discomfort, and push yourself beyond your perceived limits. It involves placing increasing amounts of measured stress on your body with the goal of making it stronger, faster, more flexible, and more capable of enduring the physical rigours of life.
But that alone isn’t enough to make you resilient inside and out, or able to rebound from adversity.
Rising from difficult circumstances, be it heartbreak, betrayal, abuse or disappointment and getting better at withstanding more of them requires that you go through the accompanying mental and emotional discomfort.
Just like the way the torn muscle fibres in your body get stronger as they recover and rebuild after a challenging workout, so does your ability to get up and keep moving forward after being knocked down.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this tiny voice in my head whose only job seemed to be to plant the seeds of doubt when hope, new ideas or opportunities presented themselves, causing me to stop in my tracks and give up on even trying.
“You’re too quiet and introverted to be a journalist.”
“You’re never going to lose all this weight.”
“This isn’t you. You shouldn’t be doing this.”
At some point, I needed to get real with myself to find out why this voice was there — and I did, with great discomfort. After awhile, I realised that it was just a self-protection mechanism that I was using to keep me safe from failure and disappointment. Yes, there have been plenty of times when I’ve ‘rebelled’ against it with acts of pure stubbornness that allowed me to break past the invisible limitations that I was imposing on myself, acts that I persisted with because I knew that ‘safe’ likely equaled mediocre.
Despite being aware of it, I haven’t been able to get rid of it completely. But what I am able to do is silence it with action. The more I focus on the ‘doing’ despite my inner resistance and the more success I achieve, the quieter the voice in my head gets.
Quiet down your thinking with ‘doing’, and the better you’ll get at breaking past your invisible limits.
A big part of feeling good in your own skin comes from knowing how to nourish your body.
There’s a huge misconception about eating well, especially if you’re one of the estimated 50% of Americans who want to lose weight, and it’s that you need to starve, deprive and punish your way skinny.
I’d struggled with my weight and emotional overeating (both of which had a hand in keeping my self-esteem on the low side) for about 20 years of my life, and it was only when I began to master the food in my life so they no longer controlled me that I started to truly feel comfortable and confident in my body: What it could do, how it looked and how it felt as I went about my daily life.
How did I get here? By realising at rock bottom when I was on the verge of giving up, that I wanted so much more out of life, and deciding to eat in a way that allowed me to feel good about being alive instead of abusing food (and my body) because I didn’t know how else to deal with the stresses of life.
This meant prioritising awareness, mindfulness and habit development over external tactics like counting calories and restriction, which almost always led to more food cravings and bingeing. It also meant making sure that my primary focus was on eating foods that helped me feel energetic, nourished and satisfied, rather than forcing myself to ‘eat clean’ day in and day out.
I didn’t realise it then, but this path of mindful, joyful eating allowed me to heal my dysfunctional relationship with food, and finally, lose all the extra weight I’d been carrying around for years without starving and depriving myself of the food I loved.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about feeling like a stranger in my own skin and constantly having my self-esteem on shaky ground, it’s this: That the antidote to both is taking the time to discover who you are, what your values are and what you want from life, from yourself as well as your relationships with others.
Without this foundation, you’ll always feel like you’re in danger of being swayed by another. Without this inner ‘anchor’, you’ll constantly feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions, unable to keep your feet on solid ground so you can walk a path that you’ve chosen because you really wanted it.
If you have no clue what makes you happy and gives you purpose, you’ll always be in danger of living someone else’s life and as a result, feel like a fraud because of it.
If you don’t decide how you want others to treat you, you’ll constantly find yourself being used, taken for granted or worse, being abused because someone else has made this decision for you.
Struggling to find your way to who you really are? Start by going inward, not outward for answers, and you’ll get much closer to working things out.
Tired or overeating and feeling uneasy in your own skin? Rediscover what it’s like to feel at-ease and happy in your own skin by nipping your tendency to overeat or eat mindlessly in the bud with my FREE Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet email course. To get your first lesson sent to your inbox, all you have to do is sign up here. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.
Originally published at www.michelelian.com
Originally published at medium.com