Self-Care Fashion Lookbook

I had juvenile arthritis and the way I dress changed the way I view my body

I didn’t particularly enjoy high school and I know that sounds pretty cliché, but it’s true. For the most part, my friends were supportive, but high school was tough because I was ill for most of it. My illness eventually wore down my self-esteem. I started to dress badly, and that worsened my mental health.

When I was in the ninth grade, I joined the school dance club, and after just a day of dancing, I felt aches in my joints. A quick trip to the doctor told me that I had arthritis – as a 14-year-old. I was officially diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and it was a very difficult, very long two years. Throughout ninth and tenth grade, I was on heavy medication, and my condition got worse— at one point, I was on crutches because my knees couldn’t take my body weight. I felt like an old, broken woman. 

When I eventually recovered in tenth grade, I didn’t like the way I looked. Objectively speaking, I didn’t gain that much weight, however, I hated myself for gaining the weight, being ill, letting myself go, and looking this way. I started wearing baggier clothes to hide my body, and I wore oversized graphic tees and sweatpants exclusively for months on end. I disliked looking at myself in the mirror, and baggy clothes made me look bigger, which further distorted my body image. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t handle myself well.

It still hurt to exercise, so I started to skip meals and count calories. I started to hate food, and I hated that I needed to eat to survive. It was difficult to break this habit and to build a healthy relationship with food. I gradually unlearned a lot of toxic habits and started listening to my body instead of punishing it for wanting to survive. 

In 11th grade, I finally started choosing my outfits intentionally, thanks to a good friend of mine. She forced me to go shopping with her, and I let her dress me. I was more open to her opinion than my mom’s (oh, the fickle nature of a 15-year-old). But, I was genuinely shocked when I realized that I looked good. She helped me buy clothes that I felt complimented my shape.

It was surreal to realize that I didn’t have to be ashamed of how I looked because I didn’t look that bad. Honestly, my friend made me fall in love with shopping and helped me realize that I didn’t have to hide behind massive t-shirts and sweatpants. I learned about contrasting colors, loose clothing that still looked good, and about dressing for my size. It was nice to know that I didn’t have to wear tight, petite clothing. I could dress well and stay covered up. 

Juvenile arthritis and the resulting medication sparked a series of body image issues that I still struggle with today.

I’ve learned to approach my body from a healthier viewpoint. I’ve learned that I look good and that (shallow as it may be) helps me feel good. Self-confidence is affected by a myriad of things, including the clothes you wear. Multiple studies have been done on how your clothes can change the way you see yourself, and how you dress impacts your self-esteem. 

I chose to wear baggy clothing because I was ashamed of my body, and I didn’t think my body deserved love. What helped was my friend showing me that I could look good, and my mom supporting me along the way. I remember how happy she was to see me expressing my personal style. It lifted me out of a two-year-long funk when I needed it the most.

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Mental Health Life Stories Life

I used to love myself until I fell into toxic corners on the internet

People love to talk about how the internet has ruined the lives of Millennials and Gen-Zers. They’ll go on about how social media has lowered our self-esteem. They’re right in some ways, but for all the wrong reasons. I’ve always been extremely confident. I have never had any of the insecurities kids in my school would talk about, I simply didn’t care what others thought. Some might say I was too confident, but my family happily encouraged it. I know I’m privileged in that sense, so it hurts even more that I let myself fall apart like this. 

I was 14-years-old when I really got involved with internet communities. I started out on fanfiction sites, and my time there was pretty tame compared to the stories I’ve heard. In fact, I would say the first nearly six years of my time on the internet were totally safe and friendly. When most people talk about social media and its effects on self-esteem they tend to imply it starts young, in your teenage years for example. But I was older and not new to social media or the internet when it impacted my self-esteem. So I felt as though I should have known better than to let internet standards manipulate me. And sometimes that thought hurts the most.

Things went downhill right before I turned 20 and by 22 years old I was in the worst place I had ever been in my entire life. It started on Discord with a group of friends who all gathered around a niche anime series. Most of these people weren’t bad people. In fact, I’m still friends with a handful of them and I’d even consider them my best friends. It started with small things: jokes, usually self-deprecating ones, everyone would toss around. It seemed odd at first but they were just jokes, right? I learned to play along with their humor, send knife emojis or jump in whenever someone was putting themselves down or jokingly call all my friends a bitch.

Then came the comparisons. There was one friend in the group that everyone looked up to. She and I were very similar; the same zodiac sign, Hogwarts house, and MBTI plus a handful of shared interests. That was all it took for everyone to start joking that we were the same person. And it was flattering until it wasn’t. She left the group for a while and I became her replacement. But I was never enough. No one ever treated me the same way they did her, with such joy and enthusiasm. I was ignored if I talked about a topic other than the same three we always discussed. I felt like I should be the one carrying the conversations the way she used to. But instead, I bored them all constantly. It hurt and I tried to compensate by adopting more of her personality and interests, or at least faking I did.

Between all this, I got on Instagram. I kept my following small, only classmates and family, but it soon became apparent no one was their real selves on the app. Everything on Instagram was through this rose-tinted view of life. I knew it was normal to fake things for social media, but my self-esteem still took the hit. I was left wondering if I was the only one so boring I never had anything to post about. Then I saw all my classmates graduate college in 2019, so hated myself because I knew it would take me another two years to graduate, and I was missing out on this moment. Adding insult to injury, several people who I thought of as friends didn’t even tell me they were graduating. I only found out because they posted it.

When Discord and Instagram got too stifling, I fled to Tumblr and Twitter. But those were worse in a way. Many people romanticized the idea of mental illness. It was treated as a quirky personality trait to talk about but not something many people ever encouraged each other to get help for. Instead, people on Twitter would often double down on bad behaviors and self-destructive habits, and I did the same. I threw myself into lots of drama and several of my friends encouraged it, gave me attention even. I think none of us realized the kind of damage we were doing by putting ourselves in such stressful situations when we could have easily walked away.

Eventually, my friend who had briefly left our group on Discord started coming back, but she was a different person. She would put others down for not agreeing with her, but she claimed it was because she knew better. She said she had fought her own battles with mental illnesses and came out better for it. That left me unable to speak up for a long time because if she was happier then what could I say? Besides, everyone else still loved her and supported her behavior, even if it was slightly problematic.

So I took to hiding my feelings about everything. To her face, I would agree with things and then backstab her anyways. I would rant constantly about her on a private account hidden away from others. My frustrations with her made me an ugly and twisted version of myself. I had other friends, people who knew nothing of this group, who constantly encouraged me to just walk out on her. But I kept justifying it by claiming she still saw me as a friend and I wanted to support her. In reality, I was terrified of losing all our mutual friends and thought I could keep up acting because she wasn’t around consistently.

Then she started lying, and I called her out on it once and I saw her true colors. She didn’t want friends, she wanted cheerleaders who never spoke against her. And finally, I put my foot down. I cut her out the next time she disappeared, and when she tried to come back I told my friends I refused to have her around, but they were free to do whatever. And in spite of all my fears, they agreed gracefully and several also drew away from her.

That was six months ago. For nearly three years I’ve been sinking in depression and swimming in self-doubt the likes which would leave me on edge for months. It was debilitating and I remember a point in which I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house, as if all these problems I faced online would start to haunt me in the real world as well. There are a lot of details that are still very fuzzy. It’s like my mind just decided I would be better off not remembering things. But I remember breaking down and thinking everyone I cared for hated me. I remember losing three different birthdays, first to internet drama and then to toxic friendships. I remember my mother coming to me when things were at their worst and telling me to eat because that’s her way of saying she’s worried.

It’s been three very tumultuous years on the internet. Three years of ripping my self-esteem apart to fit in on social media and not realizing that was what I was doing. I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of the girl I was before it happened. It’s slow work but every day I’m learning to love myself the way I used to.

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Hair Lookbook

I chose to go natural after 11 years of relaxing my hair – here’s how it went

For Black women, hair is a huge part of our identity, esteem, and culture. Unfortunately, many of us have grown up relaxing or perming (straightening our hair using chemicals) our hair to hide our natural curl pattern. Relaxers were so common among us because kinky hair has been historically viewed as unkempt, unprofessional, and undesirable. Personally, I began relaxing my hair when I was 8-years-old. After that, I spent the next 11 years chemically straightening my hair, and in turn damaging it repeatedly. When I turned 19, I finally decided to do what Black women call “the big chop” (cutting all the chemically damaged parts of your hair off) and fully go natural. 

The emotional process while chopping off your hair can be tough. Like I said, for Black women, our hair is a tremendous aspect of our self-esteem. Undergoing the big chop feels as though you’re shedding dead weight in an attempt to release the insecurities that led you to continuously straighten your hair to the point of damage.

However, my natural hair journey has not been linear. As perfectly encapsulated by Giselle La Pompe-Moore in her i-D Vice article, “Natural hair journeys are as diverse as the spectrum of afro hair textures experiencing them.” Like many other Black girls, I initially struggled with my confidence while being natural as I had always been insecure about my kinky curls. It was particularly hard to see my hair so short after I spent my whole life having an unhealthy obsession with length. For a while, I would even use protective styles like braids or wigs to hide how short my hair was. And in between styles, I would wear scarves to avoid having to embrace my short length. It took baby steps to gain the confidence I sought in my natural hair.

First, I had to learn how to upkeep my 4c hair texture. 4c hair is very particular in how it grows, how it’s styled, and how it must be managed. So, I had to trial and error (emphasis on the error) my way through finding products that worked best for my hair. Then there’s the detangling process. Honestly, it took me years to learn how to effectively detangle my hair. All of which came with years worth of tears and frustration as well as me trying to refrain from hating my hair all over again; this time, for its difficulty to manage.

Though, once I figured out how to manage my hair, I had to learn to style it. Unsurprisingly, this took another long while before I perfected my signature slicked updo with laid edges. Admittedly, it was the easiest style I could manage learning, so now it’s my signature look when I’m not wearing a protective style. After I found a way to make my hair presentable enough, I would periodically tease showing my natural hair outside of my house. For example, if I was going somewhere I was sure no one I knew would see me, I would test my confidence while wearing my natural hair out of a protective style or scarf.

However, three years since embarking on this hair journey, I’m in love with my 4c hair texture and kinky edges more every day. Going natural taught me how to be truly confident, for being natural allowed me to work towards loving myself in ways I never could before. It forced me to get to know a version of myself I hadn’t even seen since I was a child. Regardless of difficulties along the way, I began to find comfort in my nonlinear road to self-acceptance and love because I thoroughly liked the person I was getting to know. 

In addition, many Black women seem to be undergoing the same journey of acceptance. Thanks to social media and Black female influencers who started the hair love movement, Black women everywhere are embracing their natural hair texture. In fact, a short film titled, “Hair Love” won an Oscar last year due to social media’s strong support of the project, which has been further impactful to the movement.

To any Black girl reading who is thinking of going natural, despite how it may seem on social media, the process is not easy, but it is worth it. It’s likely you won’t immediately fall in love with your kinks, and it’s likely you may even feel self-conscious for a while. However, there’s so much power in our natural hair as well as the way our hair connects us to our identity and lineage. We should’ve never been made to feel insecure about the hair that grows naturally from our scalp in the first place. Simply being natural feels like you’re a living act of resistance. A resistance that firmly rejects Euro-centric beauty standards pushed onto Black women and allows us to reclaim our confidence on our own terms.

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Career Life Stories Life

We need to celebrate professional milestones as much as personal ones

I have a bone to pick with personal celebrations. I can’t be the only one feeling ornery every time I log into my social media pages only to be bombarded with announcements of classmates (both from school and university), childhood friends, acquaintances, frenemies and random neighbor #85 are either a) tying the knot, b) engaged or c) welcoming a child. Whenever I voice my annoyance out to a close friend, they assure me that no I’m not alone in my feelings, it’s quite disconcerting being harassed by surprise proposal photoshoots, engagement photoshoots (of couples who met a few months ago), or the random maternity shoot.

Maybe I’m feeling a tad bitter that I’m all alone.

Or maybe it’s because we never celebrate our professional milestones the way we do for our personal ones.

I apologize if I sound acerbic but I’m at this phase in my life where I can’t bring myself to care that another one of my classmate’s or a former friend has decided to tie the knot. While I am happy that they’ve found their life partner and thrilled to see where their marriage takes them, I’m not going to give someone a pat on their back for doing what society expects all women. I find it very hard to show my support for creative or quirky engagement photoshoots, baby showers and lovey-dovey Facebook status messages when I barely get a half-hearted good job for moving up professionally.

Maybe it’s the fact that while in university, I had to listen to people giggle about their wedding plans without thinking about where they see themselves professionally. Yes, some people aren’t ambitious or they’re okay being the way they are. But we’re in 2021, women have moved past having conversations that sound like Florence Pugh’s Oscar-nominated monologue in Little Women, on why marriage is an economic proposition.

Love or relationships aren’t the only milestones worthy of celebrations in our lives.

Which is why I can’t help but wonder every time I go through a former classmate’s wedding album on Facebook, where did life take you? Where did you end up before you had your wedding?

Why aren’t any of the STEM ladies shouting about how they were a few of the women who attended a prestigious institution?

I wish I saw more social media posts that celebrated winning a prize, getting the keys to your own home, completing that always talked about documentary film, or even completing a thesis. I, for one, would love to see a woman posting about graduating with an honors degree and then uploading a photo of the said degree onto her socials while we read a lengthy post on her journey.

I wish we had more celebrations for people who completed their one-year anniversary getting sober, moving up in a company or even landing that dream internship they took based on pure nerve. I wish we didn’t only have LinkedIn to toot our professional horns on and that too, it’s always curated in a wholesome way that makes us women come off as unthreatening in our ambition.

I  would love to see that mini-Miranda Priestly (and no, I’m not talking about the toxic work culture she created but her perfectionist attitude that made her an industry titan) in the making’s professional journey.

Why don’t we boast about the power moves and games of strategy we play to get from point A to point Z?

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be celebrating personal milestones, but we need to stop placing a higher value on them than professional accomplishments. The world would profit from women who were more honest about their ambition – I would have loved to see peers celebrating their dreams in a public way.

What is wrong with flexing those years of blood, sweat and tears? After all, if you don’t hype yourself up – no one else is going to.

So take this piece of advice from me, do that ‘Just Got Promoted’ photoshoot because why not, it would be great for your ego and my timeline would greatly appreciate it.

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Culture Family Life

How oppressive life expectations continues to burden my twenties

I was six-years-old the first time someone asked me what I wanted to be in life. I still remember my answer. I want to be a fairy-princess bus driver, I responded. Notably, I said that with full confidence, and of course I earned some laughs; but what was I supposed to say? A data scientist? I didn’t know any better. All I knew was that I liked fairies and princesses and all the bus drivers I had ever met back then were lovely. So, I just combined them all. However, I was told by the adults around me that my intelligence was far beyond aspiring to be a mythical being or an “ordinary” bus driver. I could be anything, they said. 

And that definitely stressed me out. 

I began to stress because I started to internalize how there was always so much expected from me at a young age. Though, the inclination of my future career endeavors mostly came from my extended family members rather than my parents. My sharp tongue was apparently unusual for a girl to have in Bangladeshi culture, so I was suddenly destined to become the family lawyer, according to members of my family.

At the same time, I was also really good at art, so they suggested I should become an architect. But how could I forget to mention my love of technology, which led to everyone believing I would be the first female engineer in the family. To sum up my point, there were a lot of expectations pinned on me and it was not enjoyable being on the receiving end of other people’s projections. Especially while combining all the impossible expectations I already had for myself. 

After realizing that a fairy-princess bus driver was not quite a plausible career path, I started looking into other options. I’ve always loved fashion. Even now, I would love to be a fashion designer. That dream diminished, however, when my weight was pointed out by those whose counsel and advice I sought out regarding how to make my dream a reality as well as how difficult it is to join the industry without the proper funds. 

So, I changed career projections again. When I was eight, I then realized my love for writing and wanted to become a journalist. But I quickly went through another change of career option when I found that I did, in fact, want to be an engineer. I loved machines, whether it was taking them apart or learning the inner mechanics of how they worked. I adored learning about machines, just not science- the very lessons I needed to take on engineering at a degree level.

What did I want to be next? Well, I’m an artsy soul; in turn, I wanted to be a graphic designer. I did graphic design at A-Level and enjoyed it very much. Although, what I didn’t enjoy was my graphics teacher who would constantly put me down for my preferred style of art by calling it “gothic” and “outdated.” All of which, brought me back to my love of writing, the one thing that has never failed me. I went to a university to receive a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MA in International Journalism.

However, what differing career burdens mimicked from childhood haunt me into adulthood? Finding a job. 

I’m more than aware that being an intelligible young girl came as a shock to many members of my extended family who never, unfortunately, had the chance to complete their education. Perhaps that is the reason they pinned all their hopes and dreams onto me. However, I somewhat feel like I missed out on various aspects of my childhood because I was too busy trying to find what could make me become the “greatest” or “most accomplished” kid in the family.

What’s worse is that I can feel the repetition from my childhood of trying to choose a solid and lucrative career path happening in my twenties. And while I should now be having fun trying to figure life out, most days I stay away from friends and family, applying to job after job and slipping deeper into anxiety. I also know I’m not the only one who feels like this. A friend I have, who is around 3-years older than me, is going through the same thing I am. One of my acquaintances is stuck in a job she doesn’t enjoy simply because it pays the bills.

I can’t speak for other cultures, but here’s what I know about Bangladeshi culture: girls, particularly ambitious ones, must have their lives sorted out by 25 with a job, orderly finances, and assets, etc. After that, according to our elders, we get old and no man will ever want us. I’ve heard people use ‘expiry date’ when a woman ages because she faces the possibility of being less fertile. What on earth is a woman without a family? Well, every bit still a woman.

The non-progressive Bangladeshi mentality pushes women to have achieved everything they must in order to be successful by their mid-twenties, so they can spend the rest of their lives pleasing their spouse and his family. So many of us spend so much time and energy worrying about how time is slipping through our fingertips. As a result, the vast majority of us then feel as though our twenties were just a blur of tears and failure.  

Although my parents do not push me to live with these oppressive life burdens, I can’t help but feel the pressure radiating off of my extended family members. Even my friends sometimes voice their concerns for me and my future projections in life. Sadly, even though I am not physically forced to stay in this trap of life insecurity at such a young age, I remain here as a part of the tradition.

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Tips & Tricks Life

Journaling lets me remember my self-growth journey

I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. Occasionally, I like to skim through the top shelf of my cabinet and pull out one of my journals to read. Do I cringe when I read my younger self’s entries? Yes. But it’s all a huge part of self-growth. 

Journaling has proven to have many benefits, particularly for mental health. For me, the biggest benefit was the reduction in stress. As someone who is prone to have stress-induced panic attacks, journaling – whether it’s small doodles or a novella – has helped by giving me clarity and a place to express my emotions. A 2005 study found expressive writing to be therapeutic, noting that participants who expressed trauma, stress and other emotions through writing decreased their chances of getting sick significantly. In the long run, people who journal are less seriously affected by trauma as opposed to their non-journaling counterparts. Although I wouldn’t consider myself completely unscathed by my experiences at school, I do look back at my journals and applaud myself for the strength I mustered to get through it. 

So what does journaling do for the soul? Reduces stress and anxiety as well as boosts your immune function. Well, there are other benefits. One great one I have noticed in myself is the ability to put things into perspective. Journaling is a great regulator of emotions as when you write down how you feel, everything becomes comprehensible and once you have the chance to figure out your own emotions, you are presented with the amazing opportunity to be able to process other people’s too. It is a great way to promote self-growth and confidence as many people, myself included, read over their past personal struggles and either laugh at themselves or marvel in awe at the inner strength they didn’t know they had. 

And the best part of journaling? There are so many different styles you could go for. Days where I am feeling more creative, I’ll do some art journaling or bullet journaling. Some days, it’s easier for me to do an electronic journal (I highly recommend Notion because you type or record videos straight into the app). And you don’t have to do the typical ‘dear diary’ stuff. Make it yours. Of course, there are other tidbits people concern themselves with before they start writing, namely,  what do I write about

My easiest tip is to start writing about anything. There was a class exercise one of my lecturers used to do with us in my first year of university and that was writing for the first 15 minutes of class. “If you don’t know what to write, write ‘I am writing’ until the thought, any thought, comes into your head.” Although this is not a piece of advice I had when I first started journaling, it is something I would pass on to new journalers. Start where you are. The great thing about journals is that they are private to you so they can be two words or a whole novel if you want it to. Even if it’s just a single line, or what you had for lunch, write it. Don’t censor yourself. This is for you and it’s your personal journey. There is no right and wrong when it comes to journaling because it’s an experience so personal and tailored to the individual. 

So unlearn anything you had learned about ‘keeping a diary’ back in the earlier stages of education and go with what works for you because you don’t get graded on how you feel. I’m sure that you would appreciate the nostalgia and growth that comes with looking back at your journey in your journal as much as I do.

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Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health Wellness

11 ways you can gain your confidence back

I’ve always had trouble with my self confidence because I’ve had an issue with thinking everyone hates me. I lost my own self confidence, and it took so much to build it back up. Regaining confidence, or even gaining it in the first place takes continuous time and effort. A common misconception is that you can have confidence as long as you say it. In reality, you have to have determination and grit in self improvement and growth. However, if you’re having trouble with finding ways to gain your confidence back, here are 11 ways you can improve your self confidence.

1. Follow an affirmations Instagram account.

[Image Description: A light box reading "Reach for the" and a moon next to it.] Photo by Designecologist from Pexels
[Image Description: A light box reading “Reach for the” and a moon next to it.] Photo by Designecologist from Pexels
Contrary to popular belief, social media can be an empowering network if used the proper way. An affirmation is a statement of emotional support or confidence. For example, the statement, “You are beautiful,” is an affirmation. Affirmations can greatly help with self confidence because even simply hearing or seeing those words that you are amazing can help your brain see that you truly are wonderful. They help you keep in control of your life and more.

2. Help someone else

[Image Description: Two hands reaching for each other.] Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash
[Image Description: Two hands reaching for each other.] Photo by youssef naddam on Unsplash
As crazy as it may sound, helping someone else does result in helping yourself. The satisfaction from helping a friend, family member, or even a stranger is incomparable to any feeling in the world. Let’s face it– being selfless makes you feel crazy good.

3. Set a routine and stick to it.

[Image Description: A bullet journal calendar with a yellow pen laying on it.] Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
[Image Description: A bullet journal calendar with a yellow pen laying on it.] Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash
This is something I’ve been doing personally. Every day I get up at 9 AM, exercise and have a shift at work for two hours. The accomplishment I feel after that work shift is one of the best feelings ever. It makes me feel as though I could do anything. If I can stick to a routine, I can love and believe in myself, right? 

4. Set smaller goals for your day

[Image Description: Piece of paper with words, "Goal Review" and three pens laying on it.] Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash
[Image Description: Piece of paper with words, “Goal Review” and three pens laying on it.] Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash
Setting bigger goals for smaller amounts of time is setting yourself up for failure. For example, saying that you will finish an entire book in one hour is unreasonable, unless it’s an incredibly small book, or you can read extremely fast. Setting smaller goals, and chunking them make them much more achievable. After reaching those goals, a similar sense of satisfaction and confidence will appear. Knowing that you could reach that goal helps you be more confident in your abilities.

5. Dress up sometimes

[Image Description: A woman stands in a white romper on stairs.] Photo by gbarkz on Unsplash
[Image Description: A woman stands in a white romper on stairs.] Photo by gbarkz on Unsplash
In quarantine, we often end up wearing our pjs all day. Honestly, it kind of makes me feel crappy when I’m in my pjs. I feel unproductive when I’m still in bed at 2 PM. Dressing nicely can force us to get out of bed and actually do something. It’ll also help you feel more successful and presentable.

6. Smile

[Image Description: A long brown-haired woman smiles at the camera.] Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
[Image Description: A long brown-haired woman smiles at the camera.] Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash
This is easy to say, but hard to actually do. Our minds can sometimes be hardwired to think negatively– especially when we see this much negativity happen around us with COVID. However, being positive can make you feel infinitely better about yourself. Becoming aware of your speaking and what you say about yourself– for example, are you saying i can and i am or the opposite– can allow you to view yourself in a different light. The Facial Feedback Theory in Psychology also states that your physical self can affect your mental self. This means that if you smile or laugh, you’re more likely to also feel the same afterwards.

7. Focus on the solutions

[Image Description: A solved rubric cube held in a hand.] Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
[Image Description: A solved rubric cube held in a hand.] Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
It’s very easy to hyperfocus on what’s wrong with everything; what’s wrong with you. If you lost your confidence, don’t focus on the fact that you lost it. Focus on the ways you can get it back. When you focus on the solutions, you will also automatically become more productive. Fixing the problem is more important than the problem itself.

8. Practice gratitude

[Image Description: A pink notebook with the words, "Today I am grateful" on it.] Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash
[Image Description: A pink notebook with the words, “Today I am grateful” on it.] Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash
Simply being grateful for the things that you have not only is a self care practice, but can also increase your confidence. Self love, care, and confidence all come hand-in-hand, so it’s important to practice gratitude to lead a healthier lifestyle. Being grateful is incredibly humbling and can improve the way you see yourself.

9. Drink more water and eat healthy

[Image Description: Water being poured into an almost full glass of water.] Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash
[Image Description: Water being poured into an almost full glass of water.] Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash
Physical and mental health health are interrelated. Your physical health can affect your mental health and vice versa. This means, if you want your self confidence, image, esteem, or anything to improve, you’ve got to focus on treating your body right. Knowing that you drank that extra glass of water, and chose to treat your body right can be incredibly empowering. However, do it because you want to. Do it because you love being healthy. If you prefer to eat a different diet, then respect that and be confident in your decision.

10. Face your fears

[Image Description: Man wearing brown leather shoes stands on an object at a height.] Photo by Dalton Touchberry on Unsplash
[Image Description: Man wearing brown leather shoes stands on an object at a height.] Photo by Dalton Touchberry on Unsplash
Again, this is easier said than done. However, facing your fears means confronting whatever is stopping you from being confident and believing in yourself. Getting back control means attempting to eliminate irrational fears. Conquering your fears can help you gain a great deal of confidence because you feel more in control. Although this is difficult to do, there is an immense amount of self satisfaction and confidence that it will bring.

11. Step outside your comfort zone

[Image Description: Person wearing gold wedding band grasps onto another hand for comfort.] Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
[Image Description: Person wearing gold wedding band grasps onto another hand for comfort.] Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Whether it be trying a new food, or quitting your job to pursue your real passion, do it. Doing something you’re uncomfortable with will only make you more comfortable with it. Being comfortable with the unknown is confidence. Knowing that you can take on anything in your way is confidence. And by stepping outside of your comfort zone, you can do exactly that.

Everyone works in different ways, these are just some tried and tested ways that helped me on my journey of rebuilding my confidence.

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Love Wellness

My mother never knew how much she hurt me, but I’m taking back control

Like most little girls, I grew up watching my mom get ready when she’d go out to parties or dinners with my Dad.

It was a ritual.

The makeup, heels, dresses, and perfume. There was something so exciting about watching my mom transform.

But there was another side to this ritual that wasn’t so glamorous.

I loved watching my mom get ready, but more often than not, her time spent getting ready was very stressful. Searching for an outfit looked more like unraveling a closet. Every outfit revealed some flaw that I had never noticed before: “this shirt shows my back fat;” “I have too many lumps for this dress;” “this dress reveals my cellulite;” on and on it went. Although she looked perfect to me, she had an entire list of things she now needed to fix. “I’m going on a diet on Monday,” she’d say, or “I can’t continue looking like this.”

[bctt tweet=”We have the power to set up an entirely different foundation for the next generation of women.” username=”wearethetempest”]

And so I’d watch my mother get into these cycles like many women do: the house gets filled with green food and a miserable woman for a week. Then I’d watch my mom give into a piece of cake or bread. She’d then conclude that dieting doesn’t work—although she always tried again—and life is too short to stress about food, which is true.

When we’d go shopping, my mom would pick up jeans in sizes too small for her and stare at them in admiration. “I wish I could be this thin.”

When I did the same thing, my mom would roll her eyes and say, “You’re perfect, sweetie.”

But her actions and her own body image issues told me differently.

When I was 10 I remember staring at the mirror and pointing out my own flaws. “When I grow up I’ll be a size 0 and be thin and beautiful,” I said to myself. It wasn’t until a decade later that I realized that was the day I stopped loving myself.

[bctt tweet=”When we’d go shopping, my mom would pick up jeans in sizes too small for her and admire them. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Generation after generation, we’ve unintentionally passed down these poisonous actions and negative words to our daughters. And now we see an epidemic of young women struggling with self-harm, anorexia, bulimia, and myriad other self-esteem issues. Yet we wonder where it all went wrong.

Although most of our mothers are amazing superwomen, most have failed to teach us to love ourselves. There is a right way to take care of your body, there is a right way to respect it and there is a right way to talk about it. Unfortunately, most of our mothers were never taught how either.


As a millennial woman, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be growing up in a generation of women who’ve become awakened to these issues. They’re changing the conversation over women’s rights and bodies. We are at the cusp of changing and easing the societal standards set on all women.

[bctt tweet=”Our mothers are amazing, super women, but, most have failed to teach us to love ourselves. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

We have the power to set up an entirely different foundation for the next generation of women. One where they’ll get the opportunity to grow up without staring at the mirror and looking for their “flaws.” A future where they will be focused on their passions and interests instead of being hyper-conscious of cellulite and jean sizes. A future where their future and their bodies get to be their own.

It starts with a conversation. It starts with complimenting a skill over a look. It starts with speaking kindly to and of yourself. It starts with forgiveness.

So yes, our mothers were wrong. But now we can have our cake and eat it too.

Beauty Lookbook

I brainwashed myself into believing I am beautiful

Each week, my inbox is filled with emails from girls who all ask the same thing: “how can I become more confident in myself and the way that I look?”

Garnering the confidence to be a “plus size” model or an ambassador for a brand that promotes a healthier, more diverse image was not the insurmountable feat than it might seem to most. In actuality, once I surrounded myself with the right people and images, loving myself and my body came naturally.

The first thing I do for these girls who write me is to drive home not just how ridiculous our nature to compare ourselves to other people is, but I also try to highlight the often overlooked and very real fact that beauty is subjective. It was only in understanding just how varied and diverse forms of beauty are out there that my confidence in my own differences grew. It made me stand proud rather than cower in fear of being called “ugly” or “fat”.

We are all our own biggest critics – it is true, but beyond that, our ideals are also shaped by the world we see around us. We don’t just wake up one day and decide that feeling confident, sexy, and worthy of love is a class of experiences only deserved by a few elite. Instead, we have learned over decades of being fed streamlined images exactly that which we are supposed to find beautiful. When I came to this realization about four years ago, I made it my personal goal to de-brainwash myself of unrealistic standards. I embarked on a complete media detox. I un-followed, unfriended and unsubscribed from all the media outlets that were feeding my inferiority complex – this was the key to my beginning to feel more confident.

[bctt tweet=”It was only in understanding just how varied and diverse forms of beauty are out there that my confidence in my own differences grew.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Changing the way I felt about my body wasn’t just about unfollowing certain companies, brands and celebrities on social media, it was also about following the right ones. I figured that if the media is so powerful at conditioning us to unrealistic images, then surely, the same power could be exploited to condition us to a more achievable and inclusive standard of beauty. It wasn’t an immediate change though, it took me months to properly detox and retrain my brain, but eventually, I began to change my thought patterns and taught myself to consume a different type of image – one that was more like me.

[bctt tweet=”I embarked on a complete media detox” username=”wearethetempest”]

When we realize that no one, not even supermodels, look like supermodels, it is a lot easier to come to grips with the fact that we will never look like the images we see on television or in magazines. I work in entertainment, which is often an aspirational medium, but I am able to separate what is real from what is not, and I could not feel more empowered.

I wrote in a recent article about the importance of seeing examples of ourselves in the media, and I am so grateful that I get to be a part of this newfound body-positive revolution. Through my writing and my modeling, I am able to align myself with brands and people who share my vision, and together, we are helping to saturate the market with more size-inclusive and diverse imagery.

[bctt tweet=”The world around us is filled with so many real examples of beauty and no two are alike.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I think now, more than ever, we have access to such a vast array of beauty from around the world that we needn’t just seek it out from one source. If I were to constantly compare my looks to the tall, slender and fair skinned model, sure, I’d be in a pretty disappointed place. It was the most sobering realization when I came to understand just how ignorant and narrow-minded I was being in my perception of beauty. Therefore, I always encourage my followers, like myself, to consume media from outside Western culture. The world around us is filled with so many real examples of beauty and no two are alike. After all, the women we love – our mothers, sisters, friends, and wives look absolutely nothing like anyone in the media.

Aren’t they the most beautiful women of all – inside and out?

[bctt tweet=”There are more than 7 billion representations of beauty in this world, never forget that you are one of them.” username=”wearethetempest”]

If we can see so much beauty in others, why not in ourselves?

I don’t think I am beautiful, because I think supermodels aren’t; I think we are all beautiful in our own way. I would be amiss to say that looks don’t matter – because they do – but they are only a part of the package, and it is a package that has endless possibilities and many facets. So to build upon on Anita Roddick’s sentiments, there are more than 7 billion representations of beauty in this world, never forget that you are one of them. Expand your sense of beauty and open the bounds of what you consume to include the contents of the globe rather than the contents of a magazine.

You just might see yourself reflected back.

Gender Love Inequality

I’m missing my confidence

I recently read an article in The Atlantic titled “The Confidence Gap,” which touched upon a lot of issues that I’ve been thinking about as I prepare to leave school and head into the “real world” in June. The main point of the article is to explore reasons for why women are lagging behind men in leadership positions. The writers, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, explain “there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology.”

Women are more likely to attribute their success to luck (being at the right place at the right time) rather than to their own abilities. Women not only underestimate their abilities, but they only feel qualified and confident enough for opportunities “when they are perfect…or practically perfect.” It is this lack of confidence and the desire for perfectionism that prevents women from getting as far as they can in life. However, the article acknowledges that if a woman is confident and assertive, “she risks being disliked or even—let’s be blunt—being labeled a bitch. The more a woman succeeds, the worse the vitriol seems to get.” Thus, women are often stuck in a Catch-22 in which they aren’t succeeding as much as men because they lack confidence, but when they do gain confidence, they are viewed in a negative light.

The words of The Atlantic article are highly pertinent to my own life; often times I don’t take risks or hold off on opportunities because I’m afraid of not being good enough. I’m incredibly beaten up when I fail or when I make a mistake. Additionally, I attribute failures and mistakes to my own capabilities; it is rare that I will blame my failure on an external factor even though there very well may be one. Even outside of the realm of personal disappointments, I find that I often lack confidence in daily situations, such as having extended conversations with strangers or answering questions in class. I’ve had numerous conversations with my husband about this because he’s the confident and social one in our relationship.

He’s given me many tips but the one I find myself most using is a fairly simple one: just count to three. In graduate school and now in client meetings, my husband often just counts to three before answering a question or making a comment because if he waits too long, he will start to overthink and doubt his response. I’m slowly adopting this strategy and I must say that the payoff is tremendous; sure sometimes I may not have anything brilliant to contribute to a conversation but there is a certain pleasure that comes from speaking up.

I think one thing I’ve taken away from the article and my husband’s advice is hesitation does not lead to success and being smart is not enough. You need the confidence to take risks, go with your gut and simply be undeniable. Plainly said, “women need to stop thinking so much and just act.