Photo by Ruby Rose

After a transcontinental move back to the land of the free, I was astonished, to say the least. I had lived in Texas all my life, but a few years ago I moved to England with my mother and started making a life over the pond, one where I could just hangout with friends and be myself. Unfortunately, during the move, I became fragile.

I went to an all-girls school, which shouldn’t be for the weak hearted. Foolishly I overlooked the common stereotype: girls are catty. In my case this proved true, and for three years I let the people around me dictate my speech, self-expression, friendships and levels of emotion. It was never rare to find me crying in a math class, blaming my feelings on stress when truly I felt a sense of belonging elsewhere. I wanted nothing more than to disappear.

In the summer of 2016, I took the move back home with my mom to Austin, Texas, and ultimately started my journey of self-love. I went to a new school where I only knew one person, and I immediately fell in love with the feeling of belonging somewhere. I made many changes in my life that drastically tore away this negative view I had perceived about the world, and I built up my own positive outlooks.

Through my school, I became aware of an entrepreneurship program called Whatever It Takes (WIT). WIT believes that the younger generation is fully capable of starting businesses and changing the world. Sarah Hernholm, the founder of the organization, came in and spoke about leadership skills. I sat in the first row of seats, up close but not confident enough to participate in the conversation. However, I can wholeheartedly remember how the founder held a gaze with me and commanded words that I had never believed—“I believe in you. I believe that you have everything you need right now to do whatever you want to do with your life.”

For someone who had escaped a place where I had no future in sight and could never do what I wanted, I felt relief and reassurance flood through me. She said that “it doesn’t matter whether I believe in you or not, you have to believe in yourself.” That’s what astonished me. Every day I looked for something to believe in, someone to care for me and that all crashed when I accepted her words.

I had to believe in myself.

Through my experience and observation of other girls around me, I accumulated ways to help young women overcome this haze of self-doubt and hatred that develops after girls transition to women. I found these tips helped not only me but many of my friends. The biggest accomplishment was the positive change that I saw in my mother after I helped move our lives in a different direction. So here are some ways that will help you on a journey of self-love:

01 | Lists:
Think about going grocery shopping. Your mother (or you) probably make a list through the week of what to buy. Otherwise, when you get to the store, you buy too much of the wrong stuff. In the store, you are lost and confused without a list, and the same thing goes if you’re struggling with confidence or happiness. There’s usually a few reasons why people feel this way. Finding these hurdles and writing them down (and putting them in order of importance if you want to go crazy) helps your mind to focus on exactly what you need to overcome instead of fighting all battles at once.

02 | Acceptance:
Everyone wants to be right or know what is best for them. However, even the smartest, richest and most beautiful people in the world are sometimes wrong. Every confident woman has been overwhelmed at one point, and there’s always a time when those who “have it all” feel pressured or beaten down. If you ever feel this way, know that it is normal. That doesn’t mean you are the same as everybody else; your feelings can never be compared to another’s—that we must accept. But to get over the slow hump in the road, you must accept that it’s going to take a while. Longer than you want or expect. Trust in yourself, in this guidance and in the universe that this process of healing takes time, but is worth it. If you try to cheat it, skip it or forget about the struggle, you will just add more strife to it. Accept the process, the struggle and the flaws. Accept who you are, that this low point isn’t forever and then love yourself for accepting this.

03 | Declutter:
This tip is about leaving things behind, forgetting the past and letting go. All of those cliches. This part of your life is the hardest because you can make lists of who is bringing you down and accept that you need to fix it, but moving on from these dispiriting people who you have spent years with, seems selfish and unfathomable. Remember that usually, it is the fault of no one. A school, friend or teacher may try to help or be there for you, but if their style of life is causing you grief, then there is no obligation to stay. Every painful memory, friendship or responsibility can be replaced with a joyous one meant for you alone.

04 | One-A-Day:
Now hopefully you moved passed the emotional part, and you want to build yourself up. Or maybe it wasn’t that bad in the first place, so you’re looking for a confidence boost. Well here’s a prescription to last a lifetime: compliment yourself. When you are having trouble with trust and body image, it’s hard to believe your grandma when she tells you how beautiful you look. She’s just saying that to be kind, right? Well, I firmly believe in learning through experience. Here’s how to effectively compliment your look:

  • Get yourself dressed and ready for the day
  • Find the biggest mirror you own
  • Strike a pose (optional but advised)
  • Find AT LEAST one thing that you like or love about you
  • When alone, refer to yourself in the third person and give yourself an uplifting comment
  • Go out that day and be proud of your attributes, even showing off

After consistently hearing this, it becomes easier to accept and understand that when people compliment you, they mean it. Remember, take part in this routine daily for the best result.

05 | Smile & Reciprocate:
Everyday girls (including myself) are told: “Hey smile more, you look dead.” However, girls often fight back, saying that they don’t have to smile for anyone but themselves. This outlook is perfect for stronger girls, but can sometimes seem conceited. Perhaps listening to their seemingly backhanded advice would present an opportunity for improvement. If you start to smile more, I promise things will seem better. Even if it’s forced at first, soon you will learn that smiling is a chain reaction and you can give joy to others by moving those four muscles in your face.

Oh and don’t forget to reciprocate. Once you’re comfortable with self-compliments, dish some out for others each day. Spread how you’ve learned to love yourself by loving others.

06 | Dance Party!:
 Have a one-person dance party in your room and give yourself compliments. “Hey I have no rhythm, but that spin was pretty good.” The more you’re laughing, the more it’s working. After all, It is not about being alone, but being in tune with who you are and where you want to go in life. At the end of the day, there is nobody quite like you. So go out, stay in, have a meal, go to a party, call up a friend, talk to your parents, play some games or just take a nap. Do what makes you feel happiest at that moment, allow yourself to be selfish and experience joy right then and there. Then focus on helping others and improving the world afterward.

Everyone, young women specifically, tend to forget that living isn’t about sacrificing yourself for others. Sacrificing oneself and being selfless are two separate concepts. So take the advice I’ve given and try it out. It’s all here for you. If you find that something isn’t working, adjust the steps to your personal need. Go out there and have fun, the show the world what it’s missing: you.

At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture, and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.