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Opinion: Relearning self-worth during a pandemic

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Juanita Phillips/The Review
In a time when it may be harder to feel positive, self-esteem may be more difficult to prioritize.

BY
Staff Reporter

Over the course of this year-long pandemic, it’s no surprise that most people’s lifestyles have dramatically changed.

Some who regularly got to go out and travel are now stuck at home, confined to their rooms. Even as the nation starts to open back up, not everyone is back to their routines. Students who normally walked to class every day are now in a dorm room almost all day, and it is expected that this may take a toll on their ability to be active.

Although there is no singular entity to blame for this change in lifestyle, it is hard not to feel guilt about not being proactive regarding your physical health. The compulsion to put energy into being more active is one that you may feel but not be able to act on due to other mental or emotional stress that is brought on by what’s happening around you. Truthfully, I believe that feeling this way is normal, and it is hard to act to correct it.

Regardless of the reason, a change in activeness may result in changes to your body. It’s no secret that “pandemic weight gain” has been affecting tons of people. Some may subscribe to the idea that weight gain is inherently bad or unhealthy, and this belief may be cause for a drop in self-esteem. Others may unconsciously subscribe to this idea, and although they might make efforts to not be self conscious, the culture around weight gain may be too ingrained in them to stop their self-esteem from dropping.

It’s important to note that gaining weight and having your body change in appearance is completely normal and that everyone is worth the same regardless of the size of their body. Nonetheless, in a time when it may be harder to feel positive, self-esteem may be more difficult to prioritize.

Over the course of this pandemic, a lot of things have changed in my own life and in the way I see myself. I have gained a substantial amount of weight as I haven’t been able to exercise and get out as much. At the beginning of fall semester I even tried to start working out, but as my mental health declined, I did not continue my new routine. All of the clothes that fit me before the pandemic were now tight and ill fitting, and I took it to heart. 

I started to feel bad about myself for this completely normal and justified event in my life. I couldn’t even go to the store to get properly fitting clothes because the dressing rooms were all closed, and I wanted to stay inside as much as possible. Online shopping was a dead end for me as well because I did not know my new size, and I couldn’t try things on — and looking online for clothes only made me feel worse. So, as this pandemic has gone on, I have worn the few clothes that do fit me and felt the growing dread of post-pandemic life, where my body looks different, and I feel bad in anything I try to wear.

Usually, confidence in my outward appearance helps me to be confident and assertive while achieving my goals, whether they be academic or extracurricular. I know that when I feel good in my skin, I feel good about taking charge and working hard. But, a subsequent consequence of these recent feelings has been a drop in my assertiveness and in my ability to be a team leader.

Fortunately, I was not alone in this. Many of my peers and other strangers online communicated that they had very similar experiences and feelings to mine. What I discovered through talking about my feelings was that the feeling of unworthiness because of the way I viewed myself was not accurate to the way that I actually existed in the world. I learned that despite the way my weight gain was perceived, I am still worthy, and I do not owe anyone any type of appearance.

Learning this was hard and is something that I am still working on, but if anything, this pandemic has given me a lot of time to get to know myself, and working on my self-esteem and self-worth is one thing that I have benefited from. Now, as more clothing stores open back up, I have found my new size, and I am working on getting some new clothes that make me feel better about the body I am in.

Loving yourself and working on how you feel about yourself can have a real positive impact on your life. Finding things that you like about yourself and being grateful for those things is a great way to be more appreciative of yourself. It is so easy to slip into negative self-talk, especially about our own appearance. But, your appearance, especially your weight, has no bearing on how worthy you are of loving yourself. Your weight has absolutely no “good” or “bad” value to it, it is simply a part of you. If you practice self-love by affirming yourself and appreciating the things you like about you, you may start to have more positive feelings towards your life.

Hopefully, when the world is fully open, even if I am not able to embrace it head-on with full confidence, I will be able to start to assert myself, and that will be enough.

Sophia Johnson is a staff reporter for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at sophianj@udel.edu.

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