Envy Not Enemy to Self Esteem

Rachel Jin, Staff Writer

Back in November, I wrote an article on self esteem. I distinctly remember lying down across all three back seats in the car, the middle seat belt painfully digging into my side as I let spill through my computer all of my feelings about beauty, about body image, about myself. I remember offering various advice, telling people to accept themselves, because beauty doesn’t require perfection.

Afterwards, I felt kind of like a hypocrite.

Since then, I have not counted a single day where I have not stood in front of a mirror, criticizing everything about myself.  While I watched a recording of the Victoria’s Secret Swim Special, I was doing push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches, in hopes that I would at least end up somewhat like them. I have been on juice cleanses and crazy diets. I have closed my eyes while brushing my teeth in the mornings, just so I didn’t have to appraise the hot mess that stared back at me in the mirror.

I don’t even eat lunch at school anymore, instead fasting with a bottle of water and some chips.  Though perhaps that also an issue of laziness.

I once came across a speech given by Cameron Russell, a former Victoria’s Secret model, titled, “Looks Aren’t Everything–Believe Me, I’m a Model”. I clicked on the video button to discover a 9 minute rant by a tall, stunning woman, with mile-long legs and perfect hair, complaining about her life, complaining about how models were insecure, complaining that she got everything she could possibly want, but it was because of her looks and not her brain.

While the live audience sympathized, I only found myself growing more and more infuriated. I felt as if this person had no right to complain about herself, to complain about the beautiful hair and tall, lean body that I could only dream of obtaining.

So when I scrolled through my La Puma articles last month and came across that long tirade about self esteem and empowering women, I opened it with hopes that the November 2014 me would offer present-me some consolation.

She didn’t.

Though the inspirational speeches, articles, and even books out there are plentiful, self esteem isn’t something that other people can give you. It’s hard to take advice on subjects like this, because the only advice that’s really true are the most cliché: everyone is beautiful, everyone should accept themselves, etc.

I believe these things.

I believe the validity of the statements, and I believe that they’re true. But I don’t believe in them. They don’t make me feel any better. Because I can’t just accept myself whenever I want to. That’s not how this works.

And when I do get to some level of self-confidence, there are always things at the top of the ladder waiting to knock me back down. Case in point: a few weeks ago, my friend and fellow journalist Isabel asked me to do a photo shoot with her, since she was both passionate about (and very good at) photography. We were out in the woods, and I had made the mistake of not bringing any makeup brushes or necessary tools for a glam-fest.

After doing some improvising with a small (okay big) eyeshadow palette we took some fun pictures. I was impressed at the results. Of course, I’m no Adriana Lima, but I felt pretty good about those pictures, pretty confident about myself. And then Victoria’s Secret decides to post an absolutely flawless picture of Candice Swanepoel in a stunning emerald green bra and gold vest (both of which I really want, by the way, if anyone’s feeling generous), and I was humbled once again.

I don’t actually hate models for being so beautiful. I consider them an inspiration. Not just household names like Gisele Bundchen and Cara Delevigne, but less renowned models like Carolina Sanchez and Marina Nery. They serve to remind me of what I’m not (tall, leggy, perfect hair, the works). No song, book, or film can change that.

Beauty means confidence.

I stopped caring about my appearance afterwards, so I guess that problem went away, which actually gave me a huge confidence boost. But confidence also means coming to terms with insecurity.

This doesn’t mean standing in front of a mirror, pointing out everything you hate about yourself, which, obviously, will just make you feel worse.

Maybe I’m wrong and you don’t have anything you’re insecure about at all (kudos to you, by the way). But if you do sometimes feel a twinge of envy watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, accept that envy.

Rather than just push away all your insecurities like they don’t exist, recognize them, know that they’re there. You have to know who you are before you can change who you are.