It's an age-old question: What is the secret to happiness? We seem to find it hard to be happy, or at least we find it trying to be content with our lives and ourselves.
Why is that? One word: envy.
It's the slow killer of everything important, especially in a young woman's life. It slowly chips away at our self-worth; it gnaws at our confidence and erodes our passion.
It's that voice in the back of our head that says, "Why don't I have that? What did they do to deserve that? Am I not worthy?"
This train of thought is the norm with young women. You don't believe me? When was the last time you said, "I wish I looked like her" or "I wish I was more like him"?
We don't just wake up one day and decide that what we have or who we are is inadequate. We aren't naturally wired that way; it's a learned thought process, which becomes a habit of social interaction for us. We learn it from our mothers, our sisters and friends, and the sad thing is, this train of thought starts early.
When I was 10, I first realized that I hated my body. I was trying on jeans in an Old Navy dressing room and none of them fit. I had to move out of the kid sizes into adult sizes. I was 10, still childishly chubby, but tall for my age. It didn't matter, though, because I was now the same size as my sister who was three years older.
I looked at my body in the mirror, squeezed my fat like I'd seen my mom do so many times and began to cry. My mom, who stood just outside the dressing room, asked what was wrong. I said, "I hate my body. Why can't I be skinny?"
All throughout my childhood I would hang out with my friends and bitch about what we wished was different about our bodies or our lives. It was a type of social interaction we all learned to utilize -- quite effectively, I might add. It's almost impossible to find a girl who hasn't played the game of “Who Can Dislike Herself the Most?”
This learned habit, this social interaction, of talking down on myself stopped when I was 21. I met a girl named Maddie and she quickly became one of my best friends. When I met her I still had all of the insecurities I had as a young girl: I thought I was too fat, too boyish, too annoying, not pretty enough and not worthy enough. I thought I was fine and normal, but looking back I really, really wasn't.
Maddie never liked to hear me say, "Ugh, I'm fat," or "I look so ugly," or anything remotely negative about myself. She would immediately yell at me and forcefully tell me how beautiful I was inside and out. She was basically my walking, talking self-help book.
She taught me a new way of interacting, one that lifts up myself and everyone else around me. It's the practice of being able to look at myself internally and externally, and confidently say, "Yeah, this thing is not my favorite thing about me, but look at this amazing other thing about me. Oh, and this one, too!"
As for envy, sure, some people have things that I would like to have, but I probably have some things that those people would like, too.
I still have many insecurities; no one is immune to them. They will always exist within our minds, but on top of the insecurities, we must find the things we like most about ourselves and have confidence in them.
We must wear that confidence like armor so we can fight against the negativity. The next time we hear a friend, a sister or a mother put herself down or say, "I wish X, Y or Z was different," stop her. Tell her enough is enough. Tell her what is most beautiful about her, and tell her she should think of herself as such.
If there is any secret to happiness, it's just that: thinking and believing you are beautiful and amazing. Because you are; we all are.
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