In a world of perfectly proportioned, airbrushed images of perfectly gorgeous women, it’s easy to look in the mirror and get discouraged. This can be exaggerated if you’re struggling with your gender identity and aren’t comfortable in your body to begin with.
Because trans* people have so little representation in the media, it can be hard to love yourself when you can’t see yourself anywhere else. While it’s natural to want to better yourself, it’s important to remember that even though you may not look like Beyoncé, you’re ***flawless all the same. Here’s your guide to learning to love your body—stretch marks, dimples, bushy eyebrows and all.
Kanye West may be controversial, but he gets at least one thing right: Acting like you’re the best is the easiest way to make you feel like you’re the best. When you’re feeling bad about yourself, just tell yourself how great you are. Sooner or later you’ll start to believe it! Post that selfie, compliment your own outfit and walk down the sidewalk like you own it.
It’s easy to pull a Mean Girls and stand in front of the mirror bemoaning your man shoulders and weird hairline, but obsessing over your perceived flaws is no way to better your self-esteem. Instead, find three great things about yourself every day—you made someone laugh, you aced your chem test, your eyeliner wings are perfectly even. Before long, you’ll start noticing the good before you even think about obsessing over the bad!
Find people like you in the media
When you turn on the TV or flip through Vogue, it can be hard to find someone who looks like you, and that can be really isolating. While we still have a long ways to go in terms of representation, shows like Orange Is the New Black and other queer-friendly TV shows are setting a good example by showing developed characters who share your skin color, body type, sexuality or gender identity. Your school might even have LGBTQ+-focused classes where you can learn more about gender and sexuality and start to realize how totally normal it is to not be cisgender or straight.
Don’t overthink it
Feeling like your identity doesn’t match your body or thinking you need to conform to a specific way of expressing yourself can be suffocating, and dealing with those feelings can take a very long time.
“I think it's mostly due to a very strict gender binary with strict rules of gender expression,” says Sarah, a non-binary college student.
Whether you’re transitioning or not, it’s important to remember that it’s your body and no one else’s; It doesn’t matter what other people think about your appearance.
“Gender and bodies and expression are all such different things, and even though it's hard to accept certain things about your body sometimes, ultimately, you have to remember that as long as you feel okay in your body, it doesn't matter what others think,” Sarah says.
You may be skeptical of this one, but trust us! Every time you go out, notice something nice about everyone you see or talk to, and don’t be afraid to share it with them. Once you notice how gorgeous or stylish or smart everyone around you is, you’ll realize that you’re someone else’s everyone. Someone else walking around campus is going to notice something awesome about you, even if you aren’t feeling it.
Surround yourself with positive people
This might just be the most important piece of advice you’re ever going to get. Friends are supposed to support one another, so if you feel like you’re being attacked or brought down every time you hang out with your bestie, find people who are going to lift you up and encourage you to be your best version of yourself. If your friends don’t support your sexuality or gender identity, it’s definitely time to get out of those friendships; Their toxicity is just going to lead to self-hatred unless you realize that they’re the ones who need to change, not you.
Treat yourself like a friend. When you’re down, comfort yourself, and when you’re up, applaud yourself. Part of this is, in the wise words of Donna Meagle, treating yo self. Buy the dress that makes you feel sexy and confident, or let yourself have a cupcake after a hard day. You have to be your own best friend sometimes, and letting yourself have some quality self-care time is a great way to start to feel better about yourself.
Loving yourself might just be the hardest thing you ever do. When you’re repeatedly told that your body is wrong or that your gender is unnatural, it can be a constant battle just to remember that your life really is worth something. Your relationship with yourself is the longest one you’re ever going to be in, so you have to make it the best one you’re ever going to be in. You’ll thank yourself later!
Think you might be suffering from an eating disorder? The National Eating Disorders Association has a free and confidential screening to help you determine next steps. If you're looking for more information, be sure to call the NEDA helpline. Looking for ways to help spread the word? Find out how you can get involved on your campus.