In the last couple of years, I have become mildly obsessed with the idea of self-improvement and growth. It started with messing up my mental health by going off medication when I was already becoming increasingly miserable, while stuck in a job I had outgrown. I spiraled and hit a low spot like I hadn’t in years.
After the denial, wallowing, and making my family and friends miserable, I finally picked myself up, got back on meds, went back to therapy, and found the courage to leave my job and leap headfirst into the unknown.
It was terrifying, to say the least, as I left the comfort and familiarity of a company I had worked for just shy of ten years. I took a considerable pay cut but gained so much back in terms of quality of life. For the first time, I was working Monday through Friday, with weekends, evenings, and holidays off. I felt like I suddenly had so much free time; it was exhilarating.
Once I saw (or was reminded) I could make significant changes, I was hungry for more. I started reading self-improvement books. I had always laughed at the idea of ‘self-help books’ in the past. They were often the butt of many jokes on tv and movies. Their titles, ever corny, seemed a desperate thing to do. However, I have always devoured articles on psychology and making positive changes in my life, so why not make a move into books?
I quickly read books like “Girl, Wash Your Face,” and “Girl, Stop Apologizing.” After finding these books from Rachel Hollis incredibly helpful, I moved onto “You Are a Badass,” and “Unfu*k Yourself,” which were a little more aggressive in pointing out a very simple truth: if a person is unhappy, it’s essentially their responsibility to change.
Between my reading and therapy, I finally accepted that the core of my unhappiness stemmed from my unhealthy thought processes. I was limiting myself and making myself miserable because of the way I thought, the false convictions I held, and fear.
As my mental health improved, it was only a matter of time before I’d start working on the physical. One of my insecurities for years and years has been my skin. I hate my pores. I’m oily. I break out. Thanks to birth control, I started having cystic acne on my face, neck, and back.
Still, knowing all of this, and working in the beauty industry for several years, I never really had a good skincare routine. I’d start to get on track and then fall off, going back to not even washing my face at night. When my skin was already problematic, sleeping in my makeup was sure to make it better, right?
Towards the end of February 2020, I went for a facial with a woman I had worked with years before. I went in armed with a list of concerns and the goal of getting down to wearing just tinted moisturizer or not wearing makeup and feeling good about my skin. We discussed at-home care, some products I could buy from the spa, or things I could pick up at Target. She focused on my skin concerns during the facial, and afterward I bought a couple of products from her.
For the first time ever, I started a real skincare routine, one that involved cleansing my skin every night, serums, and doing masks regularly. Over time I have incorporated more products into the line up to address different concerns. Between the new routine and the pandemic keeping me at home 85% of the time, I never wear makeup anymore. When I do go into the office, usually the most I’ll do is fill in my eyebrows (ok I really like having eyebrows and God kind of forgot to give me much in that department), some mascara, and maybe eye shadow. Granted, half my face is covered with a mask, and when Covid is behind us I don’t know if I will be as ballsy but for now, it works.
Nowadays, my skin is practically glowing and so much smoother. My pores are smaller because they are not filled with all the crap I didn’t wash off. The redness and irritation is generally behind me. The idea of not washing my face at night appalls me. The only times I had skipped my nighttime routine have been when I was sick and maybe one or two other random nights. Even so, as there isn’t makeup on my skin, it’s not so bad when I have missed.
Inspired by the day by day changes routine provide, as the weather started to warm up, I started walking more. I know that walking is the best exercise there is, that if I walk my dog, he is less annoying to me as he gets to burn off energy and that moving my body consistently is good for me. I walked close to 40 miles in May and gained 7 pounds. I was deflated.
At the beginning of June I had my physical, the thing I dread every year because I knew I’d be told my cholesterol is high, eat more fresh fruits and veggies, get 25g of fiber a day, and exercise. I’ve heard the same story the last five years at least, nod my head, and ignore it. I’ll try here and there but eventually go back to my bad habits of being a couch potato with a ‘treat yourself’ mentality regarding food and beverages, living on takeout because it tastes good and it is easy.
This year I took a slightly different approach. I mentioned that I’d been exercising more and gained weight. I told my doctor I was frustrated. We had a really good talk and agreed to keep up the exercise, and I’d start counting carbs. Now, I’m not saying this is the thing to do for everyone. I’m not endorsing a diet or one way of being. Counting carbs was a determination that my doctor and I made. She recommended an app, and I started using it that day. I started tracking my food, and it was eye-opening to me what I had been consuming. As I made changes to my diet, I started feeling better. My sugar levels were no longer crashing, leaving me sweating, anxious, nauseous, shaking, foggy minded, and otherwise feeling like garbage. The weight has been coming off slowly and steadily. Yes, I still eat carbs. I’m just more balanced now in my choices. I’m making an effort to cook more at home, even if dinner is chicken and a veggie some nights.
I’m feeling more comfortable in my body not just because I’m losing weight, I hate diet culture and the idea that thin is the only way to be beautiful. I’m feeling more comfortable because I feel stronger and healthier. I know that I’m not abusing my body as much as before. I know that I’m consistently making better choices for myself. I still eat ice cream several times a week because delicious food is a huge part of enjoying life, in my opinion. Some days I’m over in my tracking, some days I am under. The most important thing for me is finding balance and seeing that again; consistency pays off.
I’m finding that I don’t need to complicate everything. What works is simple consistency mixed in with some old fashioned trial and error. It’s the small things we do regularly that impact our lives, not the big things we do on occasion. I don’t need to drop loads of money on facials and treatments to have good skin, that helps, but it’s the at-home care that makes or breaks it. I don’t have to do crazy, intense exercise to find health, simply moving my body regularly is what counts. I don’t have to follow some restrictive, guilt-laden eating plan, just use moderation and listen to what my body needs.
As I conquer each small arena of my life, I’ve been meaning to change; it inspires me to tackle another thing and another. Eventually, I’ll end up being the person that I am meant to be.