What I Wish I Knew: Self-Love
Dear 19-year-old Molly,
You’re embarking on your college experience with bright eyes and a fairly innocent view of the world. It’s admirable, honey, but unfortunately, college is not going to be an easy ride for you.
You’re getting on that airplane for New York full of self-confidence and self-love, radiating with dreams and plans and possibility. You are confidant in your abilities and secure in your integrity.
These are all qualities I wish you had known how to hold onto, Molly.
For whatever reason, high school has been a place where you learned how to be your free-spirited, positive, creative self — without too much concern for how others’ viewed you and without too much angst. I wish these lessons had stuck around for the next four years. Your life would have been so much easier! Instead, your self-love is about to take a nosedive — pulling your health, self-esteem and grounded center — down with it.
I wish I could turn back time and give you this advice at the moment it would really make a difference…
You are strong. Remember when T dumped you right before Junior Prom? You held your head high while selling his new date her ticket, leaned on your girlfriends, and found a hotty underclassman to be your arm candy. Remember when you lost those two major student council elections? You never questioned your ambition to lead or confidence in your abilities, and bigger-better-brighter opportunities came through for you in pretty amazing ways.
You have integrity. Remember when you walked out of N’s house because a high school career of older boys, beer, and smoking pot wasn’t what you wanted (even if did make you a popular girl)? Remember when you turned down A because you knew you were in way over your head, even though it seemed strange to others? You weren’t afraid to follow your heart, Molly, and do what you felt was right.
You are beautiful. Remember how powerful your body felt vaulting 11 feet in the air? Remember the freedom from self-consciousness you felt skinny dipping in Spring Meadow Lake under the moonlight? Remember the realization that you had nice legs and a great smile, so there was really no need to weigh yourself? You withheld judgement of yourself or others on purely external measures of “beauty” and were healthier and happier for it.
You’re going to need this high school evidence of your authentic, sparkly self, sweet thing.
Why? Unfortunately, a period of raging self-doubt is about to hit you as you wade into unknown waters.
I know you’ll feel small and weak and insignificant. I know you’ll feel lost to yourself, and that pain will manifest in so many harmful ways. I know you’ll feel that you don’t have enough money, the right clothes, the east coast connections, or support for the loneliness. I know you’ll feel like you’re not smart, thin, pretty, or athletic enough to “be anyone”.
I wish you knew, Molly, that self-love is the answer to all of your doubts. Self-love is the answer to your fears. Self-love is the answer to your self-consciousness.
Things that are not the answer? Transferring majors to alleviate fears of making money in the future. Getting drunk with your sorority sisters and making out (or sleeping) with anyone who finds “your overweight self” attractive. Binging and purging and hurting your body. Hiding your depression behind a mask of false cheer and fake positivity, as you cry alone in the shower. Staying incredibly busy to avoid thinking about how insignificant and unhappy you feel.
I wish you knew that it’s okay to not “fit in”, that it’s more spectacular to simply be your quirky, good girl, adventure-seeking self.
You don’t have to drink to the point of blackout to bond with girlfriends or flirt with boys. You can ask for help when you need it, not push through on ridiculously low amounts of sleep and ridiculously high amounts of caffeine and sugar. You don’t have to buy the right jeans or go out every weekend to the big parties or bite your tongue when assholes make themselves bigger by tearing others down. It doesn’t matter what others’ think of your choices, Molly, as long as you are honoring your integrity and sense of self.
I wish you knew that you could embrace your body, your purpose, your uncertainty about the future with kindness, instead of cruelty.
You can’t binge, expose, puke, kiss, overextend, drink, buy or excel your way to confidence, sweet pea. It’s not a process of covering up, fixing, hiding or pretending.
Self-love doesn’t come from the outside in.
Self-love? It comes from the inside out. It comes from gentleness, from the release of pleasing others, from acceptance of yourself as fabulously imperfect.
No one else can validate your worthiness, Molly. Just you.
I wish you could give that gift to yourself.
p.s. Because I’m so much older and wiser now, I can tell you with full confidence that everything gets better. You refind your way to your authentic self. You started treating your body with more respect. You end up doing work you feel passionate about. You let go of needing to please everyone and be seen as nice. You get your booty back to the west coast, full of like-minded spirits. You feel free to be imperfect. You even become an advocate for self-love and teach other women how to practice Fierce Love in their own lives. Crazy, eh?
p.p.s. Don’t borrow your roommate’s clothes… Your “agreement” will only end badly!
p.p.p.s. It’s okay to lust after the a capella boys, but honestly? They make terrible boyfriends.