Dear Women, Stop Trying So Hard
“You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” —Louise Hay
Looking back on my life, I came to realize that I spent quite a large amount of my precious time trying.
Trying to be perfect. Trying to be appreciated and liked by everyone else around me. Trying to fit in with different groups of people so that I could feel accepted and included, and gain some sense of belonging. In reality, I was using others as an instrument to get what I wasn’t giving myself: love, appreciation, self-care, and self-respect.
I can recall my desperate efforts of “making myself beautiful,” while I was hiding behind tons of makeup. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against being feminine, and I am still using makeup, but I no longer look like I am wearing a mask.
The Old Me used to put on lots of makeup as a daily practice. My face looked no different if I was attending a wedding or going to the gym. The idea of meeting someone that wasn’t close to me (family members or close friends) in all vulnerability scared me to death.
But here’s what I didn’t know at the time and what I know to be true today: In reality, it wasn’t other people I was scared of. It was all about me. I used to perceive myself as not good enough, often making myself small so others would feel big around me. I called myself names (“Stupid me!”, “Me, again!) and put myself down, unable to acknowledge myself for my achievements. I thoroughly took myself for granted. The only thing I wanted was to be perfect.
Today, I know beauty is entirely subjective and shaped by our minds. Things are as they are: not ugly or beautiful, not normal or abnormal, and we all perceive reality filtered through our own lenses.
The same thing is valid for people. We don’t see others as they are; we see them as we are, and everyone is a reflection of ourselves.
Carl Jung called it the “mirroring effect”: Everything we either like or dislike in another is a reflection of Self. How could we even see it otherwise?
My journey to self-love started with the transformational mirror work of Louise Hay. The exercise she offers is very simple: Take a mirror, look into your eyes, and say “I love you.” Start feeling that loving energy in your body, going deep inside your heart. I know it doesn’t sound complicated, but if you haven’t had a harmonious relationship with yourself for years, it’s very hard.
“Loving myself? Isn’t that supposed to be selfish? Isn’t that coming from my ego? What am I doing here? I am turning into a narcissist now?” That’s how the voices in my head sounded at the time.
To me, that was a very uncomfortable exercise to do, but I decided to repeat it every single day. You see, new habits are learned by practice—and that’s exactly what happened. After a few weeks, watching myself in the mirror and saying “I love you” didn’t feel awkward any longer. Not at all. It was natural, warm, and cozy.
Embracing myself with love and compassion was one of the most beautiful gifts I have offered myself. It felt transformational from the inside out, like a rebirth. So I stopped wearing that heavy makeup mask. I didn’t need it any longer. Today, I put on a very light layer of makeup, and when I go grocery shopping or for a walk, I don’t wear any.
If you can find yourself in this sharing, here’s my longing for you: Stop trying so hard. Other people’s opinions of you are nothing but perception, filtered through their own lenses, expectations, or belief system. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Know you are worthy and beautiful, not because others think so, but because you choose to believe it. Decide you are gorgeous, and see what happens.
Previously published here.