Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Problem with Self-Esteem

I have struggled with self-esteem issues my whole life. I'm always incredibly hard on myself, and I've never particularly liked my body. I always want to be skinnier, to be maybe a little bit taller, to have straighter hair, to have clearer skin (because, really, at 26, these stupid breakouts need to just end already).

And while I was single, I always seemed to have this persistent, nagging thought hovering in the back of my mind. It was a thought that I knew intellectually was ridiculous, but I couldn't keep myself from believing it a little anyway. That thought was this: "Once I get married, these self-doubts will go away. My insecurities will be gone because I'll have someone there who loves me for me."

Well, I am now married, and I have been for nearly a year. I do have someone who loves me for who I am and is always there for me. But I can now say from personal experience that that persistent little thought is a complete and utter lie. All those self-esteem issues I had before getting married still exist. And that's the problem with self-esteem; no outside force can create it, regardless of how effectively outside sources can tear it down.

Two years ago, I spent six months working diligently to lose weight. I knew I was out of shape, and I knew I wasn't as healthy as I needed to be. So I made a major commitment to myself to do better, and I succeeded. In about six months, I lost roughly 25 pounds. I only needed to lose 5 more pounds to hit my goal weight. But then I started dating Andrew, and I stopped tracking my food because we would go out to eat and get ice cream and seeing the calories rack up was depressing. And going to the gym started falling by the wayside because I just wanted to spend time with Andrew. In the roughly year and a half since Andrew and I started dating, I have gained all the weight back that I lost, and then a little bit more. I had to put my favorite pairs of jeans away because they just no longer fit. And the more I thought about how much weight I had gained, the crappier I felt about myself.

So why am I writing this post? It's not intended to be a wo-is-me post. I don't want anyone to feel bad about me or tell me how great I am. I'm writing this to remind myself that the only person who can change the way I view myself is me. Though I have let outside forces form my perceptions of myself, it's time for me to stand up for myself to . . . well, myself. I've been thinking about this post for the past week and how I wanted to go about it. I have a draft of a giant post detailing all the things that helped fuel my poor self-esteem. But then I realized that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about how I could improve myself, about how I could learn to love myself. Because someday probably sooner rather than later, I'm going to be a mom. I might have little girls who look up to me. And I don't want those little girls to learn from their mom that it's normal to hate yourself and your body. I don't want them learning that they should be fixated on the scale and how many pounds they lost that week.

I want my little girls to learn from their mom that it's okay to love themselves for who they are. I want them to look at me as an example of how to accept themselves and improve themselves without negativity. I want them to want to exercise because it's good for them and because it's healthy, not solely to fix some problem they have with their thighs or their stomach. I want them to have a real person be a good role model of beauty for them instead of being swayed by the media and the unattainable ideal we're always sold.

If I want my daughters to learn those things from me in the future, I need to start implementing some changes in my life right now. So I'm making a list of things I need to do to improve my own self-esteem, since no one else is going to do it for me.

  1. Stop the negative thoughts. When I look at myself in the mirror and see something I don't like, I'm going to stop the thought in its tracks. I'm going to pause and think something positive about myself instead.
  2. Continue my efforts to be more active. My goal right now is to lose some weight, but I need to make that a goal that is more about my health than it is about my appearance. I am not the healthiest I could be, so I need to make efforts in that regard. I also need to focus on how good I felt when I was so good at keeping up my goals two years ago. I felt better about myself then than I have at any other point in my life, and that is a goal worth achieving.
  3. Eat healthier and watch my portion sizes. This falls into line with being more active and getting healthier in general.
  4. Attend the temple more often. Andrew and I met with our stake president this week, and he talked about the temple in a way I had never heard before. He said that as we attend the temple and make it a real part of our lives, we feel better about ourselves because we begin to view ourselves through Christ's eyes. That struck me to the core, and I knew it was something I needed pretty desperately at this point in my life.
I am also hoping to have some updates on these items that I will post in the future. Now that I've written these goals down, I need to account for them in some way, and I figure this blog is as good a way as any. In fact, here's a quick update already: I started working out and tracking my food on January 1. Since then, I've lost 3.4 pounds, and I've exercised at least three times a week. This, my friends, seems like a promising start.

In doing these four simple things, I think I will be able to overcome my self-doubts. Because the truth is, I am pretty awesome. Andrew must think so, or he wouldn't have married me in the first place. I have a pretty dang amazing life right now, and I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and is involved in every part of my life. That is the most important thing to remember: I am a daughter of God. He knows me and loves me despite my many flaws, of which he knows every tiny detail. It's time for me to start loving myself, too.


Gail said...

You go girl!! I, too, have had self-esteem issues my whole life, as my sweet husband can attest.....keep working toward your goals...I just started again after eating whatever I wanted through the holidays...

I agree, going to the temple changes your perspective of yourself - -it is a good goal - all others will fall into place!

I love you just the way you are as well :)

You will make a great mom when the time comes, I have no doubt. My son chose his eternal companion with the help of the Lord, and he chose wisely... :)

Have a great day!!

Jeanine's blog said...

It may come as a surprise but I think all women have self esteem issues. I too had self esteem issues when I was younger. I thought that would all go away when I married your dad. It took years for it to go away and it does rear it's ugly head at times.

You have made some wonderful goals (I really dislike that word) and I know you will be successful in the long run.

Remember that the Lord isn't done with you yet.

LeeAnn said...

Beautifully written and your not alone. I am still on the same journey as you are. I am a mother of two beautiful girls that I am trying to each them to love themselves.

Megan said...

Amen! Beautiful post, Lindy. It's so hard (for me at least) to post really personal stuff and I admire you for doing so. I've always had self-esteem issues, too, for basically the same reasons you listed. I love your goals. I'm hoping to improve, too.

Rachel said...

Every woman and girl is stuck with feelings of inadequacy, even the ones who seem naturally stunning. The media slaps women in the face every day with unrealistic expectations. We are pitted against each other and compare ourselves to others. No comparison is a fair one because everyone is so different.
Interestingly, Lindy, in high school, I looked up to you and thought you were so, SO pretty. Much prettier than me. I wanted to look just like you, and not be the wan, scrawny, lank-haired little runt I was. Isn't it funny that the things you think are flaws someone else sees as so desirable?

You're a lovely woman, always were. Best of luck in whatever you do, but know you already are beautiful.

Gail said...

Lindy I will tell you what I told a friend of ours who was having the same issue. You are a child of a heavenly father and mother. And they do not make crap. Every morning I look in the mirror and remind myself that I am a son of GOD! I really do not care what others think about how I look, dress, speak or anything else for that matter. I am who I am and if I feel I want to change something in my life I do it for me and no one else. You are beautiful woman inside and out don't forget it ever! Love Ed

Faith said...

Body image has been in the forefront of my mind especially since having Peter 2 months ago. I'm nursing, I've been active and more careful about what I eat, and I haven't lost any weight. And if I diet and exercise much more than I already do, my milk production goes way down, so I'm kind of stuck. I'm being healthy, and I have to forget about my weight for now. And that is hard.

Lilit Conelly said...

Lindy, thank you for sharing this! I agree , I think each and everyone of us have a low self- essteem in many different ways, not just waight. But that one is the most talked about. But here is the thing. Every time I see you, you're glowing, I think you're very beautiful!
Here is one advice which I'm forgetting to do my self every day. Look in the mirror, and tell your self that you're the best and that there is no one like you.
Say it out laud, I LOVE YOU LINDY!!!:)
Love yourself the way you are, cause we sure do.

Karly said...

Great post! Maybe it's my inner editor, but I am SO good at focusing on the negative and what isn't completely perfect. And I had a ton of self-esteem issues during my first pregnancy, which I think contributed to my post-partum depression. When I started with my personal trainer, my primary goal was to lose weight but it quickly morphed into seeing what I can accomplish and how strong I can become and how I can be persistent over time (I am a great sprinter but not a marathon runner)! Anyway, loved your perspective and especially loved the goal about temple attendance and what your stake president said. I'm going to adopt that one. :) Miss you friend!