#SelfLove Series: The Language of Confidence

I’m going to begin with a  Mean Girls reference.

Remember when Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) stands in front of the school’s population of young women in the gym and demands, “you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores”?

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via teenvogue.com

Mean Girls is a goldmine of fantastic points, but this one is particularly valuable to me, because it speaks to a major facet of self-love and confidence.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You get out what you put in.” So when you tell everyone that you “have no chance at getting the job” or that you’re “ugly” or that you’re “not good enough”–eventually, with enough repetition, they might start to believe it.

Or worse–you might start to believe it.

Too often, I’ve used self-deprecation to fish for compliments, for reassurance. I turn to my boyfriend, poke at bits of post-dinner pudge around my waist, and wait for him to tell me that I am beautiful. I whine to my friends that I’ll never get a job until they tell me that I will, in fact, get a job. But this sort of tactic makes me reliant on other people to determine who I am. It also–and Ms. Norbury would agree–gives license to these people to treat me as badly as I treat myself.

I’ve come to realize that the language that we use to describe ourselves and to speak to ourselves not only reflects our self-image, but shapes it.

We must not underestimate the power of our own words. I mean, have you ever read The Little Engine That Could? “I think I can; I think I can” took that train all the way up the darn hill. If we took that kind of initiative to be our own cheerleaders, who knows how far we could go?

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via // Slightly creepy cinematic rendition of The Little Engine That Could. 

 

One of the things that I’ve learned while applying to jobs is that, in life, we must advocate for ourselves. Sometimes, we must speak up on our own behalf and make a case for why we are even “worth” other people’s time and energy. We must persuade people of our uniqueness and our strengths.  Other times, we must speak up for what we think is right, just, or else we’re just waiting for other people to change the world for us.

Though self-deprecation might get us a forced compliment here and there, and though complacency might feel safer, we can’t always depend on others to do the gritty work for us–to fuel our confidence, to motivate us, to make our decisions, or to transform our visions into realities.

Why should we wait for other people to give us the green light and tell us that we’re beautiful? Why should we wait for other people to tell us that we’re smart, talented, and promising? Sure, it’s much easier–it’s so much easier to go out into the world when we have people cheering for us on the sidelines. And yes, it’s beyond difficult to maintain this love for ourselves when mass media and mass ideologies tell us that we shouldn’t. But we’ll never get anywhere if we don’t believe in ourselves and our voices enough to take that first step. We have to give ourselves the green light; we must tell ourselves that we can, we will, and we are. By doing that, we can [re]claim the power that we’ve surrendered to others–be it the ubiquitous “media” or our family and friends–to decide who we are and who we want to be.

As with all things “confidence,” this is all much easier in theory than it is in practice. However, if our thoughts and beliefs are the foundation of our actions, then theory is a good place to start. So is language.

Now, I turn this to you. Think of five positive words that you’d use to describe yourself. Then, put them in a sentence–rather, a statement–that asserts who you are. This is mine:

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This is my mantra. This is my truth.

My identity, my say.

#SelfLove Series: Curly Hair, Don’t Care

I’d just gotten back from a beach day with friends. My skin radiated with sun kisses, and sand clung to my toes and my clothes–little hitchhikers, traveling with me from Malibu to the Valley. When I stepped into the foyer of my house, flip flops flapping against the hardwood, my mom gasped.

“What?” My first thought was that my skin was flaming with a sunburn that I had yet to feel. I touched my cheeks.

Mom began to laugh in shock. “Your…hair…”

I ran to the bathroom, prepared to see seagull poop crusting on my scalp, but instead, I saw–spirals. Spirals upon spirals, floating about my head like an auburn halo.

Curly hair.

Here’s the thing: aside from a brief period of toddler curls, I had spent most of my childhood with straight hair. Glossy, soft hair that I could twist into various do’s and run my fingers through as I pleased. It wasn’t until puberty commenced (circa 4th grade) that waves began to ripple through my quaff. Then those waves transformed into frizz. A lion’s mane. Little did I know that all this time, this frizz was actually a bundle of curly-q’s, just waiting to sprout.

Like your average adolescent with underdeveloped self-confidence and the weight of Unattainable Beauty Standards sitting on her shoulders, I hated it. I wanted to rip it out, chop it off. I had convinced myself that my supposedly unorthodox hair would prevent me from ever being “pretty,” because most of the beautiful girls and women that I saw on TV and in the pages of Tiger Beat that I was (allegedly) supposed to aspire to had long, straight hair. All of the girls in school used their flat irons religiously. Not to mention, according to Tumblr, “naturally curly hair” was supposed to look like this:

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Lies.

So, I hid my curls.

In sixth grade, I wore my hair in a ponytail virtually all of the time, even when I slept.  I took it to the next level in seventh grade–the age of the bun, during which my mom often joked that I looked like a granny. I managed a slightly more attractive half-up, half-down look from eighth to eleventh grade, buying bedazzled clips from Claire’s in an effort to beautify the bird’s nest. (I have not included pictures of these awkward phases in order to avoid severe embarassment.) None of these were hairstyles to me. Rather, they were my attempts to control the uncontrollable, to rebel against nature’s way.

Then, my mom took me to her hairstylist.

Apparently, all of the years of ponytails and buns had caused significant damage. My hair was breaking off. I guess nature was conducting its own rebellion, each broken strand a statement against self-hate.

“You need to let it down,” the hairstylist insisted as she snip-snipped at my dead ends. “No more hair ties.”

I stared at the mirror. My curls reemerged, expanding in volume after years of restraint. “Okay,” I mumbled. At the time, it’d felt like a defeat. Soon, however, I’d realize that it was the first step towards self-acceptance.

step. Even after I let my hair down (literally), I had to learn how to love it, even when other people didn’t. When people told me that I looked unconventional, I had learn how to take it as a compliment. When boys told me that they weren’t “into” curly hair, I had to learn how to shake it off. When people claimed that my curls concealed my Japanese identity, I had to resist the urge to think of them as a biological mistake. When family members insisted that I straighten my hair for special occassions (or even permanently–yes, I’ve been offered chemical straightening “as a gift”), I had to remind myself that curly hair is a gift.

I’ll repeat that: my curly hair is a gift.

Now, I regard my hair as  a trademark of sorts. The wild spirals enhance my personality and my distinctiveness. People tell me that they can spot me from far away because of my hair, and I love that. I am identifiable–and that’s a powerful feeling.

It may seem absurd that I’ve spent the last 600+ words talking about my hair. But it’s so much more than that. I’ve learned how to love and embrace this somewhat unique part of myself, even in the face of judgment. I’ve tested the resilience of my confidence, and I’ve realized that believing in my own beauty is more important than conforming to a media standard. I’m finally comfortable with being a little different–unconventional, even–as long as that means that I’m being myself.

For some more curly hair love, read this and watch this: