Learning to be kind to myself wasn’t easy when I was in a negative space. When people talk about being self-assured and positive they often don’t talk about the brambles you have to cut through to get there. Maybe you’re lonely. Maybe you’re unhappy with how you look. Maybe you’re anxious. Maybe you’re all three. Maybe you spent your whole life thinking that you would be something and now the time is here and you’re nowhere in the ballpark. Hell, you’re not even in the ballpark parking lot. You’re, like, down the street at the gas station buying three of those giant kit kats and a slurpee, except they don’t have the flavor you want but you already made the trip out, so you’re like,

“whatever, might as well.”

Being positive and kind starts with being kind to yourself, but being kind to yourself starts with learning to be okay with what’s wrong in your life. That doesn’t mean accepting it, doesn’t mean ignoring it, it just means looking it in the eye and saying,

“You’re here. You’re a part of my story right now. And that will not change my direction.”

For me, it started with my appearance. I was in high school and I had long hair, acne, and a nose so big that I could’ve rented it out as a 1 bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen had I had the business acumen back then. But I was young and didn’t know anyone in the real estate business, so it would’ve been hard to get it on the market. I also hated my smile because I hated my teeth. I would avoid laughing, avoid smiling, avoid talking without having my mouth covered. Which led to me drinking a lot of coffee because that is the easiest prop to find to cover your mouth mid-conversation. Shout out to those TV actors that have to hide their pregnancy with big props constantly. It isn’t easy.

There came a day where I decided the jig was up and that I was going to be happy whether I liked it or not. And I knew that that started with being able to look myself in the mirror without recoiling in fear. So I sat with myself, mirror in front of me, and thought. What do I like about myself? What don’t I like about myself? What do I want to change? What do I not like that I can’t change and how can I be okay with that? The first thing I found was that my cheeks were adorable. No dimples, but cute in that hamster-that-shoved-a-whole-strawberry-in-his-mouth kinda way. And focusing on how much I liked those taught me a way to smile with my mouth closed, a smile I was comfortable with that felt natural.

After that, I moved onto my hair. I didn’t like it long, and, honestly didn’t even want it to belong to begin with. The only reason it had gotten that long was because I was too anxious to go to the haircutter. But I sucked it up and went this time and walked out with a hairstyle I enjoyed. Later on, in life I would learn to cut my own hair to keep myself fully happy.

The final and most crucial step with the mirror came with my nose. I thought that this would be the hardest pill to swallow when I started, but after appreciating my cheeks and changing my hair, this step actually felt… simple. I looked at my nose, large with plenty of counter space and a washer/dryer in unit, and said to myself,

“This is going to stay. And I am 100% okay with that.”

It was a wave of acceptance that I didn’t think I would achieve and that I definitely had not expected to happen so easily. But what made it so natural was having that autonomy over the things that I could change. Being able to edit the parts of myself that I didn’t like that I could change made it infinitely easier to accept the parts that I couldn’t. I didn’t have to be perfect, I just had to be the best version of myself based on what I wanted the best version of myself to be. Not what I thought anyone else wanted of me.

From then on I was able to look at myself and be kind to the boy I saw in the mirror. Not because he was drastically different from who he used to be: He just smiled different and cut his hair. But he was truly, authentically me now. Because I had chosen him. And that meant that I would protect him from the negativity in the world as best I could. Which meant putting positivity out into the world as well. And it meant that the world was no longer allowed to judge the bad parts of me, because I’d pardoned those parts already. They might not have been invisible, but now, and for the rest of my life, they were invincible.