By Alexandra Hochstetler
Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana for 2013
Hold your breath. I’m about to discuss the MOST talked about issue in our society today: self-image. We’ve all struggled with our self-image at one point in our lives. It’s an undeniable fact of life. But the great thing is, your self-image does NOT dictate your life. So many of our youth today grapple with the ideals society portrays, and fall into states of depression and anxiety. The problem here is, people spend so much time worrying about their own personal image and how it looks to everyone else, and not enough time really focusing on self-improvement and self-love. One of my favorite blogs is called Positively Present, and this next quote is their take on the definition of self-love.
“Self-Love is: Releasing shame about our past and the limiting beliefs that keep us stuck. Seeing ourselves as beautiful and valuable, with all our flaws and weaknesses. Accepting ourselves more and judging ourselves less. Forgiving ourselves for our mistakes instead of being hard on ourselves. Minimizing the need for approval to feel more confident. Letting go of the comparisons that keep us feeling inferior. Feeling complete so that we no longer look to others to fill a void within ourselves. Finding the courage to share our authentic selves for deeper connection with others. Learning to take care of ourselves instead of putting everyone else’s needs first. Believing that we’re valuable so we can live lives we love” – Positively Present
Okay, so that’s great and all…but what does it mean?…and how can we teach it to our youth? (and to ourselves!)
- Releasing shame about our past and the limiting beliefs that keep us stuck. – I am SO guilty of this. It’s so difficult to let go of things in our past, but sometimes it’s necessary to do. We need to live in the present, and plan for the future. NOT dwell on the past.
- Seeing ourselves as beautiful and valuable, with all our flaws and weaknesses. – This is huge. Our society needs to WAKE UP and start valuing the uniqueness of the individual. We can’t feel this way about ourselves until we start to see ourselves as we see other people: beautiful, unique, and strong.
- Accepting ourselves more and judging ourselves less.– Not everyone is good at math or athletic. They may be artistic or good with human relations. It’s okay to be different, and it’s even better when you can realize it.
- Forgiving ourselves for our mistakes instead of being hard on ourselves. – Hey, everyone eats that piece of cake at 1:00 AM. Everyone has foot-in-mouth syndrome. Does that define you? No, absolutely not! So forgive and forget.
- Minimizing the need for approval to feel more confident.– Hello America. Yes, compliments and approval are nice, but we need to start giving them to ourselves too!
- Letting go of the comparisons that keep us feeling inferior.– I’m not as good as Sally at athletics…but I sure do bake like a professional. We need to be okay with telling ourselves these types of statements.
- Feeling complete so that we no longer look to others to fill a void within ourselves. – We are our own biggest support system. Fundamentally, we were designed to be self-sufficient. While others may add in their own support and help to build us up, we are responsible for keeping our 2×4’s in good shape.
- Finding the courage to share our authentic selves for deeper connection with others. – Everyone has a unique ability. Imagine if we all recognized our own abilities and started using them to their full potential. Can you image how wonderful the world would be?
- Learning how to take care of ourselves instead of putting everyone else’s needs first. – We were each given one body. One body that is responsible for keeping us alive, and that allows us to do things for others. We need to remember not to put the cart before the horse, America.
- Believing that we’re valuable so we can live lives we love.– WOW. Imagine how much happier everyone would be if they felt VALUABLE and knew they had something to contribute to this world. Realistically everyone does and we need to figure out what it is, because until we do, we will never be happy with our lives.
There’s my two cents on this issue (or ten cents). But I wrote this blog because this is an issue that weighs heavy on my heart. Bullying, depression, anxiety, social media abuse, risky behavior are ALL a defining part of the youth today, and need to change. It all starts with you. Loving YOU, recognizing your strengths, and using them to better yourself and others.
Alexandra Hochstetler is a college freshman at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana double majoring in Biology and Medical Humanities and minoring in both Chemistry and Spanish. Originally from Middlebury, Indiana, Alexandra was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana for 2013. Learn more about Alexandra here!