self acceptance + self love in college

Self love is defined as the regard for one's own well-being and happiness. I probably hear this term at least once a day. It is so hard to believe that truly loving ourselves is something that each and every one of us can achieve one day. I know that self love is a journey. I know it is a process of trial and error and self recognition and awareness, but achieving full acceptance of oneself is something that is possible for all of us.

I have always struggled with accepting myself. Whether it was grades in high school or my body and weight, I always seemed to find aspects of my life that I was unhappy with. Once I would work on loving one thing about myself, I would somehow come up with another to dislike and focus negatively on. It was a never ending cycle.

Once I graduated high school, I spent a lot of time preparing for a new life in college and hopefully starting over with new habits and routines. Leading up to my move, I was eager and scared for what life in college would have in store for me.

At first, I did well. I was eating really healthy and starting to workout more. But as my days were consumed by school work and adjusting to living on my own, living in a new city, and living without my seeing my family every day, I realized that I grew more and more out of touch with overall awareness of myself as a person. I got so caught up in making sure that I was making the most out of my experience, that I lost track of my goal of working on myself as a person, both mentally and physically. I had several breakdowns in college because I didn't seem like I was worth anything anymore. Going from 4 years of involvement in clubs and extracurriculars, being known as the ASB girl, getting straight A's, and knowing everyone on campus, to no longer having any of those outside identities was a huge wake up call for me. I no longer had ASB or CAT or NHS or my gpa to define me, which was both a personal blessing and a curse. I had to make something of myself now. I had to find something about myself that I liked and that actually did define my worth.

I had a huge problem comparing my college experience to those of my friends. It seemed like all of my friends were thriving at their schools by rushing, joining clubs, teams, and other activities, while I was struggling trying to find my new identities and passions. I was still losing sight of my goal that I had set from the start- to work on myself and accepting myself physically and mentally.

It seemed that right before COVID, I was finally in a really good place. I started to love where I was at and love the people I was with. I packed up for spring break, unknowing that by the end of that week, I would be forced to move out of my my house on the beach and say a big "see you later" to all of my friends. I was really confused because all of the hard work I had been doing as I worked towards a better me seemed like it was going to be completely reset. I didn't know how I was going to handle the idea of quarantine and national lockdown.

It's so funny to write this with the hard days of quarantine past us and look at how much growth I experienced during those months that, in the present moment, seemed to be so difficult and lonely. I genuinely feel like I am a better person now than I was before the shelter-in-place.

For 3 months, I created a healthy relationship with my body, mind, and spirit.

I started working my first job, finally saving for and investing in my future.

I started this blog, which is still such an unorganized collection of my thoughts, but nonetheless, something I have fun doing.

I took the leap of faith and started medication for my acne, which is something that has always taken a toll on the relationship I have with myself.

I began fueling my body with nutritious foods and developing healthy eating habits.

I went dairy and gluten free, which is something I have always wanted to do, but never really had the willpower to do so.

I began working out every day, and giving myself those rest days when I needed it without feeling guilty.

I spent time with my family and reconnected with my sisters, making memories and binging Schitt's Creek and Stranger Things together.

I actually ended up losing 10 pounds, that I unknowingly had gained during those months in my first year of college.

Long story short, the transition to college was not the easiest for me. While I scrolled on Instagram looking at all my friends thrive in their experience, I was struggling with emotional battles and obstacles of my own. If I would have known, that in just 6 short months, I would be locked in my house due to a global pandemic, I would have probably freaked out and ended up in a darker place than I already was.

But I have slowly grown to love the girl I see in the mirror each morning, complete with the acne on my face, the couple extra pounds in my stomach, and the work going on inside of my heart.

I know the past 5 months haven't looked anywhere close to what we thought they would look like, but I pray that you have learned how to love and accept yourself in these moments. Like the transition to college, quarantine was a hard thing to grow accustomed to, but my hope is that each one of you can wake up, look at yourself and smile, and praise yourself for even getting out of bed.

Life has the potential to be beyond beautiful; all we have to do is take the energy we use to criticize ourselves and manifest that into momentum to make our lives better and happier. Start with yourself and be gentle with yourself. You're doing everything you possibly can.

xoxo ash

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