All of my life I’ve tried to make sure everyone around me was happy. In doing so I let myself go.
There used to be a time when I wouldn’t leave my house without having my hair and makeup done. I’d spend time picking out an outfit that matched and looked cute. But then there came a time when I stopped caring. I was in and out of bad relationships and feeling bad about myself in general, so I’d keep my pajamas on, throw my hair into a bun without brushing it, and stay that way all day. I’d run errands in a baggy t-shirt and plaid lounge pants and feel like everyone was judging me for being a slob.
For some people, not wearing makeup and not caring about one’s appearance could be a sign of liberation—a way to announce to the world that you do not base your self-worth on what others think of you.
But for me, it was the opposite. It was a sign that I had stopped caring about myself. It was a sign that I no longer believed in myself or my value as a person.
Instead I let what my boyfriend or other guys thought of me contort my self-image. If a guy told me I looked fat, I’d stop eating. I wore what they wanted, did my hair how they wanted it, and the same with makeup. Yes, sometimes it’s ok to wear that dress you know he likes or style your hair in his favorite way, but it became a problem for me because in the process I lost who I was. I lost my own sense of style—and in some ways my basic sense of self.
Since then I’ve learned that I cannot rely on what my boyfriend thinks or on other people for my self-esteem. It does not matter what they think of me. I cannot rely on sex or flirting to feel sexy or beautiful. I am the only one that controls my self-esteem and it’s time I start working on it. To be in a healthy relationship, I need to feel better about who I am and what I look like, which is something that only I can do.
For me, working on my self-esteem means challenging myself to add a few simple things to my everyday routine:
- doing my hair and makeup at least four times a week;
- telling myself that I’m beautiful even when I’m tempted to believe the opposite;
- letting any unkind comments about my appearance just roll off my shoulders—after all, it’s impossible to please everyone.
I don’t want to be obsessed with my physical appearance. But taking a little bit of time each morning to make myself feel presentable by putting on some makeup and getting dressed in something other than PJs, is a way that I can show that I value myself. It is a simple way of recognizing and celebrating my self-worth. It sends a message that I view myself as a person who is worthy of love.
Taking care of myself also sets me up for success for the day. I don’t feel as self-conscious when I’m talking to someone else, I’m not so paranoid about them picking apart my flaws. I feel less awkward and out of place and less shy when I look my best. I also feel less jealous of other girls, which makes it easier to see them as people instead of competition.
It is also empowering in my romantic relationships. I’ve found that when I have a healthy self-esteem I am less likely to stay in a bad relationship and to let things slip by and take crap from a guy. When you don’t take care of yourself then you think things like, “No one else will want to be with me,” or “I’m too ugly for someone else to love me,” and it makes you feel like you don’t deserve someone who treats you well. It also makes the other person unhappy and feeling like they can do better, too.
If you don’t see your self-worth, then it’s going to be difficult for your partner to see it.
It’s not that you are only skin-deep—you are worth more than you think you are. A person’s self-worth is not defined by her hair, makeup, or clothes. But I’m learning that making an effort to look beautiful on the outside is a sign and reminder of the inner beauty that was there all along.