When I was 19, going to Jack in the Box to get a snack at midnight with my friends wasn’t a bad idea. (Cringe, I know.) Fueled by hunger due to terrible life choices including not eating all day and getting high late at night, a lot of bad decision-making ensued. It also helped that Jack in the Box was open 24 hours a day. That’s what going to college is for – to learn, unsupervised, how to feed yourself and get a degree. Am I right? 😅
What I wasn’t conscious of back then was how little I cared for my body, which was a reflection of how little self-respect I had. It just never crossed my mind that eating junk food at 2am after drinking and smoking was bad for me because I was too busy having fun.
The Effects of Low Self Esteem
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realized that I was looking and feeling less than optimal. My face and stomach were always bloated, I had permanent dark eye circles, I never had enough energy and I was always moody. I also had a lot of anxiety and dealt with stress by drinking. All of these factors pointed to one thing: I had to change some things in order to save myself, because my poor lifestyle choices were affecting not only my health, but also my relationships and my reputation as someone who partied too much.
The Turning Point
At the time I was working as an Assistant Director at a recreation center for seniors. Spending my time with the elderly shed light on the virtue of health. Here were all these older folks who dealt with health problems which made them grumpy most of the time. I knew that I wanted to enjoy my life and be independent when I was older, not be in pain, let alone fund Big Pharma.
Coincidentally, a new yoga studio opened up the street from me, and they were offering free meditation classes. My roommate suggested that we attend together, so I went to learn meditation for the first time. One of the best decisions of my life. Meditating gave me the download that there was so much more to life than the rat race I was in. I knew I had to cut down on drinking alcohol, and later on I learned that I also had to step up my diet and exercise game. It would also dawn on me later on that the lack of awareness I had around how bad all the stuff I was putting in my body and the lack of good stuff I was giving myself were markers of my low self esteem and lack of confidence.
Around that time, my mother was diagnosed with melanoma so I took on the responsibility of becoming her primary caretaker. Together, we focused on being the healthiest that we could be. It turned my life around. We adopted a whole food, plant-based diet. We had a lot of brown rice, vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices. Everything was organic. We did a lot of carrot juice for its anti-cancer property. I started running a couple miles a couple times a week and doing yoga at home. I meditated and/or journaled almost every night and focused on having positive thoughts. And did I mention that I did not drink alcohol for a whole month?
I started liking what I saw in the mirror for the first time in years. The inflammation in my face and stomach toned down. Even my hair and nails looked lustrous.
Having had low self-esteem without much awareness of it for so many years, the new me was proud of what I saw in the mirror. Always having been a perfectionist, I was the kind of person who could list more things that I did not like about myself than the things that I did like about myself. In addition to this increased level of confidence from accomplishing my goals of healing my bloated body, my energy levels increased and therefore I felt a lot happier. Happy for no reason. But actually, there was a reason – and that was the knowing that I had done something really good for myself.
Love Yourself First
Treating myself well by eating healthy, exercising and thinking positive thoughts became a new practice of self-love. And it was in loving myself that I found, for the first time, that I had a lot of self esteem and confidence within myself. So to build self esteem and self confidence, it starts with knowing why it’s low in the first place. Looking back, I know now that I wasn’t treating myself well because I had low self esteem. In order to reverse that effect, I had to learn how to treat myself well. The key things that changed my life are:
- Yoga and meditation
- Healthy diet
- Self awareness
Of all the things that I implemented to upgrade myself, the most import thing was realizing that I was worthy of good. I was worthy of love, feeling awesome and having optimal health. I had to learn that first. Sadly, during this process of self discovery, I did lose my mom to cancer. What I took from that was learning how precious this life is. As cliche as it sounds, life is too short. Do not settle for junk food, losing sleep just to party, and unfulfilling relationships. Life is just too precious and too short for that BS! I invite you to look in the mirror right now and tell yourself: “I love you.” If that was easy, then great! If that wasn’t easy, then you know you have work to do. What other feelings came up when you did that? What were some things that made you realize you can give yourself an upgrade? Comment below, I would love to hear from you!