By McKenzie Ward
In fourth grade, I would wear the same pink Hollister zip-up hoodie to school almost every day.
It did not matter if it was 30 degrees or 80 degrees, I wore that zip-up if I felt like I needed it.
And I didn’t need it because pink was my favorite color, nor was it because I loved Hollister.
I felt like I needed it because I wanted to hide my arms - one of my insecurities.
For my entire life, my weight has been my biggest insecurity.
I remember being told by my pediatrician I should start eating less because I wouldn’t want to be an obese adult and I was on the track of becoming one.
I wasn’t even 7 years old when she told me that.
I was 9 years old when I began weighing myself using the scale at my grandparents’ house because to me “fat” was a dirty word and I was so afraid of becoming it. This was around the same age that a family friend introduced me to Nabisco’s 100-calorie snack packs which ultimately led me to excessive calorie counting in the years following.
During my pre-teen and teenage years, I spent them struggling with binge eating. Though I managed to lose weight at the beginning of high school, admittedly in an unhealthy way, during my junior year when I went on birth control, it caused an increase in appetite and I quickly gained the weight back.
And now that I am 22 years old and a senior in college, my weight continues to be my biggest insecurity. I will purposely avoid having my photo taken and will delete full body photos of myself that people took before I can see them because of how painful it is to even just look at myself.
Even when I traveled to France during my senior year of high school, I strayed away from taking too many full body pictures of myself in fear that I would “ruin” the photo.
I still regret not having any photos of me in front of the Eiffel Tower.
However, one of my current mental health goals is to practice self-love and my main inspiration is singer and rapper, Lizzo.
Lizzo is known for her songs “About Damn Time” and “Truth Hurts,” but she also has multiple songs about the importance of finding love for yourself.
Lizzo’s song “Soulmate” is not about a romantic soulmate, but instead is about being her own soulmate and finding self-love. When I heard this song for the first time, I began to realize the disservice I was doing to myself for hating my body.
Over the years, Lizzo has served as an influential role model for those like me who continue to struggle with self-love. In an op-ed she wrote for NBC, she stresses the first step of self-love is acceptance, which according to Lizzo is accepting yourself where you are, while knowing you have room for growth and healing.
One of the other important aspects of self-love that I still need to incorporate into my life is to stop negative self-talk. As someone who is a perfectionist, when I do not meet my own standards, I beat myself up and force myself to obsess over any mistake, both big and little.
As a result of negative self-talk, I have become my own biggest hater. But one of the ways to best confront negative self-talk is to give your inner critic their own name and then cross examine the thoughts.
By thinking of your inner critic as an outside force that you can cross examine and question the validity of their statements, it makes it easier to deal with the negative self-talk.
While learning how to love yourself can be one of the biggest challenges, the reward is more than worth it.
As I am on this journey of self-love, I have major goals for myself that I hope to reach.
My biggest goal is to be able to get back to Paris, take a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, and be able to say “I look beautiful,” because I am.