'Be yourself,' my mum would say.
'You are beautiful.'
I don't see it …
As young children, we are always told that we're beautiful in our own ways. Apparently it was my sharing nature and kind attitude that made my parents think I was beautiful, inside and out. As we get older, we stop listening to what our parents think. 'Beautiful' is no longer how we share a chocolate bar with our little brother or use our manners at the dinner table. Let's face it, none of our friends would call that cool, or think it is beautiful.
As teenage girls, we think beauty has little or nothing to do with our personalities. It's purely based around how we look, and how we compare ourselves to others around us. This is where low self-esteem can start, even when we are genuine and decent people. Our inability to see our own strengths makes us focus on the negatives instead. Most of us have an inner demon that puts doubt in our mind, so we think we are not up to standard.
Has there been a point in your life where you thought you were fat? Fat on the outside, therefore you must be fat on the inside. We also commonly think we are not pretty enough. Not being pretty enough affects our confidence levels, and makes us hide away in our shells, or hide behind layers of make-up. We are also afraid of being different – it's easier to think following the crowd is the answer to being more likeable, especially with the appearance pressure that comes from social media.
We tend to follow trends, not daring to be different. Right down to the brand of shoes we wear, we're following trends. At the moment, everyone wears either Adidas Superstars or Nike, where it used to be Converse and Vans.
Do you wear these brands?
I know I do!
We fall victim to comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down, often without realising. Especially at school, it's so easy to compare yourself to everyone else without even trying. There's that girl you sit next to in maths who you think is really pretty. She has better hair than you. She is smarter than you. She is more popular than you. Then there's your best friend who always looks amazing on any given day, without even trying. And there is always that photogenic girl who has no flaws, a perfect body. And it goes without saying that she has the greatest feed on Instagram.
Related: Read Turia's story
Let's get some perspective on what beautiful means. Turia Pitt, a heroic burns survivor who was caught in a bushfire while competing in an ultramarathon, suffered life threatening injuries. Her physical appearance changed dramatically.
It was hard in hospital not to compare myself with the old Turia. But gratitude helped a lot. It helps in general to stop comparing yourself to others – or your former self.
Turia's world was turned upside down, yet she always remained positive. She knew the extent of her injuries, but didn't know how they would affect her everyday life. The experience taught her to be more grateful for what she had, rather than concentrating on what she'd lost. She believes gratitude makes you think about how precious life truly is, and what you want to do with it, a valuable life practice.
'It's very easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life and get stressed out by little things that go wrong,' Turia says.
She believes that focusing on your own goals, and practising gratitude can help you to stay true to yourself, and to recognise your own potential and beautiful persona. She says to avoid falling into the trap of focussing on what everyone else thinks about you.
One of the best quotes I've ever heard is that you're the average of the five people you spend the most time around … so I asked myself, how do I bring positive influences into my life?
Of course, it's a very normal thing to compare yourself to others, and judge your own appearance and personality based on the people you are surrounded by. It is also normal to pick up traits and trends from others, either without noticing, or because you just want to fit in.
Related: Read Holly's story
When was the last time you could just be your complete self, without any worry or doubt?
When was the last time you thought about what you actually like about yourself?
What you are good at?
What qualities do you admire about yourself?
Have you ever consciously thought about how you compare yourself to others?
How does the comparison affect you on a personal level?
How can you break through your barriers?
What you are grateful for?
Remember that you are gorgeous. You are lovable. You are funny. You are kind. You are YOU, and just like our parents used to tell us, 'You are beautiful in your own way.'
So embrace it, and take Turia's gratitude advice.
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