The world can be a cruel place that is unfair and unjust, and it’s a hard reality to accept. I will be honest, I’m not always the biggest fan of myself. For nearly my entire life I’ve struggled to love myself. With various traumatic life events thrown in, it has left me in positions where I find myself in a constant battle with whom I see when I look in the mirror.
Perhaps that makes me writing a guide on how to love oneself that much odder, but it’s 5 a.m and I have the feeling that I can help somebody with this. With mental health awareness being increasingly widespread (which is an excellent improvement), it’s important for people to come out with their own stories of struggle, as I believe if we all come together and share our stories, it’ll make life a little easier for everyone.
I’m not perfect, but I understand what can help. I can’t promise that these tips will never make you sad nor are these perfect, but little steps can make the journey to happiness that much better.
People will judge you, and that’s okay.
This may sound like an odd one, but let me clarify: it’s impossible to go in a public place without being judged by others. It’s a natural act. Everybody does it, including me. Whoever you are reading this, and everyone who’ll never read this, you have and will be judged. We see as humans and we react as humans. It’s natural.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, take this: people don’t care as much as you think they do. Seriously. When I look at someone, I can tell you 9 percent of the time what‘s going through my mind:
Wow, they’re wearing nice/interesting clothing.
Wow, they have cool hair.
Wow, I know them.
It’s really that simple. When I’m waiting in Main Hall for half an hour to get my veggie burger, my mind isn’t locked on judging other people, I’m only focused on eating. So take it like this, 90 percent of the time when somebody’s looking at you, they’re not really focused on you, so brush it off. I can’t promise that people will never give you a weird face for something that has nothing to do with them, but just think: you don’t always judge everyone you look at, so do you think everyone else does?
You’re beautiful, whether or not you know it.
The way we push looks on people is genuinely disgusting. Everyone is expected to be the perfect person with the perfect body with perfect hair and everything between. Nobody. Is. Perfect. And there is nothing wrong with that.
We all come in weird shapes and have quirks that make us different. I have long curly hair, a thick beard that grows in oddly, and a birthmark on my nose. And I love that about myself. The world is full of guys who want to be the next Channing Tatum, but I’m okay with being the first Steven Keehner. You should be okay with whom you are too.
Embrace what makes you different, you’re the only version of yourself in this entire world. Think about that, eight billion people live on Earth and there is nobody that has your looks, your memories, and your life. It’s all yours and nothing can take that away from you. So if you have stretch marks, love them. If you have an unusual smile, smile all the time. If you have weird ass thumbs that are uncomfortably stiff (like yours truly), then joke about it with others. You only get one chance to be yourself, so you might as well enjoy you.
People care about you, it may not always be obvious, but they do.
This is tough to accept, even for me. Despite how lucky I am to have not only an amazing family and an awe-inspiring partner, I still go back into the same corner often. The feeling of loneliness is crippling and the pressure it can put mentally, emotionally, and physically is enough to drive someone insane.
The world can easily give an abandoning feeling to those who aren’t able to fully embrace it. I will not promise stupid lies, like to go for a run and tell you it’ll make you the happiest person ever, but I can say this: embrace the world around you. It’s easy to spend an entire day on Reddit and Xbox (again, like yours truly), but there is a big world that allows you to do so, so much. Read a book. Learn an instrument. Call a loved one. Go eat lunch outside. Talk to someone in your class or job. A small step outside your comfort zone can be all you need to enjoy yourself more.
It’s important to not overwhelm yourself though. I can’t tell you the perfect balance of this, it’s different for everyone; you need to find it yourself. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it for yourself.
It’s okay to admit that something’s wrong. Talk to someone.
I find that this is harder for men than women; our society loves to push unrealistic and stupid gender norms that are not only unrealistic but flat out ridiculous. Everyone struggles with something even if on the outside everything seems okay. There’s always something going on in everyone’s mind. It may not be the same, but every human thinks, which means every human has something to say.
So listen. Talk. Tell people close to you how you feel; there’s nothing wrong with going to a therapist or psychologist. Just because American society has ingrained these unrealistic ideas of what being a ‘man’ is all about, it doesn’t mean they are correct. Think of it like a broken arm: if someone told you that going to a doctor to get it fixed was idiotic and that it made you a “wimp,” would you take them seriously?
Take that logic and apply it to your mental health. You are valid and deserve to be happy, so take the proper steps in healing yourself. Just venting can be a life changer, whether it comes with talking to a parent, friend, or even on your column.
I can guarantee nothing with these tips. Life can suck, but it can also amaze and be worth living. I will not end this column with some witty set of words that’ll leave you amazed, I will leave resources that can not only help you but a loved one. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you care about how they’re doing; you can never truly see in someone’s head, but talking to them can help every party involved. I hope that if I can affect one person’s day and make it better, than this column and my writing has been successful.
You are worth it. You aren’t useless. The bad days are nothing more than that. Don’t let it define who you are and how you live. Be stronger. It isn’t easy, but accepting defeat will never let you move forward. You are stronger. If you need help, it’s okay.
I love you all.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ☏ 1 800 273 TALK (8255) Chat: Lifeline Chat
Veteran Crisis Line ☏ 1 800 273 8255 SMS: 838255
For active U.S. service members, veterans, and family members.
American Psychiatric Association
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Half of Us
National Institute of Mental Health
National Network to End Domestic Violence
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ☏ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
SAFE Alternatives ☏ 1-800-DONT-CUT (366-8288)
Self Injury Foundation
The Trevor Project ☏ 1-866-488-7386
Suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth
Without my Consent