Mental Health Blog

Why is Self-Love So Complicated?

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Self-love has always been challenging for me, personally. Over the past year, I have embarked upon a journey to learn how to love myself for who I am. It has been a difficult process with a lot of setbacks that have always brought me back to square one of wondering: why is self-love so challenging? Self-love is an area with many aspects to it, from body image to personality. There are various different reasons why loving yourself is so difficult as a teenager, such as comparison, social media, negative self talk, past experiences, perfectionism, and fear of vulnerability. In our world, there are many aspects of life that could hinder someone’s self confidence.

In my personal experience, self-love has been incredibly hard because I tend to compare myself with other people in my life. These comparisons range from wondering why I am not as good at math as other people, to comparing my body to what I see on social media. I often blame myself for “not being as smart” or as “good-looking” as other people, while not seeing the bigger picture of what is going on in another person’s life. However, I have gotten better over the past couple of months at not comparing myself to others by redirecting my thoughts to focus more on the positive aspects of my life and the things I’m good at, instead of only looking at areas of growth whenever I catch myself comparing.

Another factor that has really affected my self-esteem is perfectionism and unrealistic standards. I tend to have super high standards in all areas of my life, especially academically. Even though I get relatively good grades in all my classes, I still have unrealistic expectations to do better and get perfect marks on all my assessments. However, I’ve come to realize that this is unrealistic because even the most intelligent person in the world will experience times in their academic career where they may not perform as well as they’d hoped. Additionally, I have unrealistic expectations to give 200% in everything I do and always be at the top of my game, which is also unrealistic because unexpected things happen that can get in the way of performance.

This has been a common occurrence over the past few months as my family and I have been preparing to move back to Hong Kong, which has come with some unexpected challenges of finding a school. During this time, I had to put my energy into studying for entrance exams, writing essays, and attending interviews. As a result, I couldn’t put in all the work I would normally put into school, and I would start negatively talking about myself because of the guilt I was experiencing for not putting in my normal 200% into my academics.

Lastly, my past experiences have really taken a toll on my ability to love myself. All throughout primary and early secondary school, I experienced bullying. While a lot of these comments were made over three years ago, there are times when I still have insecurities about what people have said about me. Even though I am not the same person I was when the bullying was occurring, I am still very affected by these comments.

While self-love has always been challenging, there are many reasons why it’s particularly difficult nowadays compared to the past. Social media and unhealthy comparisons, both with body image and in one’s own life, contribute significantly to this challenge. Many people, especially teenagers, grapple with negative self-talk and internal criticism, which can severely undermine self-esteem. This internalized voice acts like a constant bully, always present and difficult to silence, leading to serious consequences for mental health and self-esteem.

Perfectionism is another common struggle, and it’s something I personally contend with as well. It involves idealizing perfection and feeling worthless if those standards aren’t met, thereby profoundly impacting self-esteem. Moreover, it can lead to frustration with oneself when expectations, even if unrealistic, aren’t fulfilled.

Self-love is undeniably a complex aspect of life, and many people find it challenging. It’s an ongoing journey throughout life, requiring patience and compassion towards oneself. Though it may be long and arduous, it’s an essential journey that’s worth undertaking.

Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.