Three years ago, I hated myself. It wasn’t a constant burning hatred, just a dull and persistent lack of self-compassion paired with an inability to see anything worthwhile about myself or my actions. Actually liking myself, not to mention loving myself, is a very new thing in my life; and to be perfectly honest, it started out as a joke.
Before I get into this there’s some important background you need to know, and that is that I am lucky enough to have one of the best sisters in the world. Yes, we fight, and I undeniably have logged many hours hating her, but in the end I would not trade her for the world. I could write about my sister for days, but what is important to know right now is that my sister has the most infectious flair of self confidence. It has been around my whole life; from announcing that everyone must smell her hair because it is luxurious and smells like the most finely curated rose garden, to her hilarious anecdotes about how she shut down her incompetent mansplaining co-worker as if it was a conquest worthy of an epic poem.
Not only was she unafraid to voice the pride she felt towards herself, she also was no stranger to extending that praise to others. One time in the middle of a long car drive she broke the silence to tell me she was jealous of how my “golden leg hair glistened in the sunlight.” No joke, I remember the exact words because I wrote them down. Many people think praise and affection should be held close to your chest, lest they lose their value from overuse. I think that’s complete crap. If the words of praise are genuine, they will always be priceless. It is only when compliments are tossed around like obligations that they lose their meaning. Again, I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that not only did my sister consistently find genuine worth in herself and others, but she was also not shy about letting people know.
Now, three years ago my sister was visiting me here in Boston, Massachusetts. I had just moved here after college, I hadn’t really found any friends, but I had found a therapist who was beginning to make it quite clear to me how little I valued myself. I had read all about the concept of ‘’faking it till you make it’ and I had tried using affirmations, looking in the mirror and telling myself how I was smart and worth loving, but to be honest I felt stupid and I did not believe a word I was saying. However, with my sister around being her unapologetic self, something began to change. I started to mirror her, putting on a performance of bottomless self confidence; I took shameless selfies of my outfits, talked about how soft my hair was, and started telling people how majestic they were. I wasn’t making fun of my sister, but I was having fun putting on this performance and pretending to be her (or at least an exaggerated take on this side of her).
In fact, while it started as a joke, I didn’t really want to stop. I didn’t believe anything I was saying but for once it felt good to pretend that I did.
Because I was “just acting” it felt okay to be proud of myself, proud of my fashion, proud of my accomplishments, and I wasn’t afraid to tell people I loved them because for once I wasn’t thinking “why would they care, I’m not worth it.”
I’m not saying all my anxieties and distorted thoughts just disappeared. However, putting on that persona of the glamorous unafraid Ollie made it easier to fight them. It was like a superhero cape that I could reach for when I needed it.
Speaking of capes, one of the inspirations for my confident glam persona (aside from my sister) is none other than Edna E. Mode from The Incredibles.
“Never look back darling, it distracts from the now.”
So find that persona, and allow yourself to be as extra as you want. Let yourself feel like Beyonce in her baby photo shoot, covered in vines like the goddess you are. Even if it’s just a joke at first. Trust me, learning to love yourself is so worth it.