May 18, 2016

Hi there!
My name is Annika, but my friends call me Anni. I live over at allthingsanni.wordpress.com and I was absolutely THRILLED when McKay asked me to write a guest post for her blog. She didn’t give me a topic or a word count so who knows where this post is headed…haha
So first off, I want to give you a short and condensed history of McKay and Annika. I met McKay on my third day of college, back in the Summer of 2013 at Brigham Young University. We weren’t actually roommates until that Fall but she was from Texas so we obviously hit it off in like the first 5 seconds of knowing each other.
You learn A LOT about people when you live with them. I’ve had probably every experience in the book…weird boyfriend encounters, friends dating roommates, awkward PG-13 moments… all worthy of laughing and crying when I think all of them over. But living with McKay was 100% pleasant for me. We shared a bathroom and I remember always seeing positive reminders all around the mirror when I was getting ready (in her adorable and Pinterest-worthy handwriting of course). We hung a huge Texas flag in the window because 3/6 of us in that apartment were from Texas (yes I know that reduces to a half but I am leaving it there for effect). I remember carving pumpkins around Halloween and dancing to Beyond 5 in the living room with McKay and always feeling like I could be myself around her. She would come visit me a couple times that following semester after we lived in different apartments and I would always be so happy to hear that she was dating someone that treated her right and commiserate with her about the struggles of being a 20-something trying to succeed in the world.
McKay and I drifted apart from no choice of our own but just because life got so busy after freshman year. We lived with different people and in different places and as genuine as the “we need to hang out soon” messages were, we discovered the struggles of studying and prioritizing. Of course we would obnoxiously comment on each other’s Instagrams (because she really is the cutest there is) but both of us had a lot going on. I remember texting McKay a couple of times and checking in as often as I felt prompted too but always wishing I could be in her life more. It was heartbreaking to see her experience several devastating losses over the years that followed our freshman year but knowing how strong a capable she was. I remember thinking how awesome it was that she was a RA for the dorms because of the great example and role model she could be for those girls coming to college, fresh and trying to find themselves. I was delighted to see her start writing about things in her blog and loved that I could feel like I was part of her life again when I read her entries.
A lot of the things McKay writes about strike a chord with me. As dumb and cliché as it may sound, I have done a lot of “finding myself” in the past couple of years and I love how raw and honest McKay is about things going on in her life. I hope I can add to the essence of her blog as I share a couple more of my thoughts to hers!
I want to talk 6 TRUTHS I LEARNED WHILE LEARNING TO LOVE MYSELF. These thoughts are going to be very haphazard so I apologize in advance…haha here we go.
People will be uncomfortable when your words match your actions.
I’m a people pleaser so I spent a lot of time planning parties and trying to be friends with everyone during my first couple years of college. People would be really surprised that I wasn’t as “hardcore” as I acted once we got started talking. Despite the fact that I was only in my freshman year, I was already friends with the closest thing BYU has to a fraternity, was a parties every other weekend, somehow making friends who owned cabins in Park City and condos in Vegas, getting front row seats at college sporting events and concerts, and working my way into dating athletes and the “Provo-famous” at BYU.
The people I hung out with were saying more about me than I was for myself. People were genuinely surprised to find out that I had a 4.0 in high school and perfect seminary attendance. I always felt like I cared more about school than my counterparts and even with all the goofing off freshman year, I worked harder behind the scenes than anyone I knew. It gave me a sort of pride that I was hanging out with Provo’s finest and that I could charm people with my merits on the side, pretending that my scholarly habits came naturally. I would never lie about what I had and hadn’t done but the crowd I hung out with, the music I listened to, the parties I went to…everything I did sort of filled in the blanks in my personality where I had left it open to interpretation.
By sophomore year, I started to see that this gap between how I was portraying myself and what I really believed in needed to become smaller. My roommates and I again found ourselves among the elite of Provo…between being roommates with a model, a dancer, and a photographer, it wasn’t hard to find something to do on the weekends.
My first major deciding moment came when we found out one of our friends was involved with drugs. The decision was easy for some of us but harder for others as we decided how to handle things with this individual. He had already been reported to the Honor Code office at BYU so we weren’t at obligation to report him, but this was my first major run-in with choosing to hate the sin and not the sinner. Not doing drugs had zero blurred lines for me, I knew that was wrong…but I knew that even though I needed to treat this person with love, I couldn’t continue to associate myself with this individual at the expense of my character.
While this was happening I also had one of my best friends tell me that he wanted nothing to do with me and that I was a horrible friend to him and was flaky and changing into someone that people wouldn’t like. It was really hard for me but I continued to pretend like nothing was wrong even though on top of that I was dealing with really heavy things with people close to me, including suicide, abuse, and intense grief just to name a few. While this wasn’t my attempt to be “fake” per say, I was definitely not vocal about my struggles and paraded myself as an optimist because I thought that was what I was supposed to do when things got hard.
During the following summer, I worked really hard to get into my program and do well at my job while I was at school. Since these type of things are more respected in college I had no problem putting my passion in them but within the next year had to learn to learn that as I worked to perfectly align my passions and actions with my words, people who weren’t trying to do the same would be weeded out of my life as I tried to bloom where I was planted. I became very unapologetic and 100% truthful about a lot of things in my life and made a lot of people (especially the guys I dated LOL) very uncomfortable.
I don’t need to apologize for who I am. I spent a lot of time feeling embarrassed about things I said and feeling dumb putting my efforts into getting to know the wrong people. The same friend groups I had brought together were beginning to fall apart and some of my friends would even wait until my ADD/anxiety/depression caused a meltdown and blamed things on me.
I was pretty much cut off from most of the friend groups I had either because of false rumors or lack of effort and I struggled thinking that I must be undesirable in some way or these people would still be my friends. The reality is when you start living a life where your words line up with your actions, people feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t make anybody right or wrong, it’s just like fitting a square peg in a round whole. This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in learning to love myself. If I’m a “square peg” who still loves the “round hole” friend group, it’s all good! I just need to recognize that it will be a lot more comfortable for me to fit in a square hole, where I don’t have to compromise my shape and feel I fit in.
Pay attention to the way you talk to yourself.
I’m recovering from a serious illness right now and I’ve really had to work on this one. Some days I will tell myself I’m pathetic for looking gross or not having enough energy to get up and brush my teeth until 1 o’clock in the afternoon. This is not who I am but a circumstance I’m in right now yet I can work myself into a tizzy and start telling myself I’m ugly and must deserve to be sick, etc. If you believe that words have the power to hurt other people, you have to believe those same words you speak to yourself have the power to hurt you.
Everyone finds a different way to see themselves in a good light, but often this is a cycle of positive and negative self-worth that we continually have to be aware of. The important part is that you don’t dwell in the negative. For me, I have post-it’s on my desk that read motivational things like “You are enough” and “Don’t quit your day dream”, etc…just little things that remind me how great I am and how great God has made me and that my failures don’t make me a failure. SUPES IMPORTANT Y’ALL. Pinterest is great if you can’t think of anything to start off with. Printables are darling (*shameless and unsponsored shout-out to McKay and her Etsy shop*) and even just a little framed picture in a dollar store frame next the door can be a priceless reminder that whatever happens on the other side of the door that day has zero consequence on your worth.
It doesn’t have to be post-it’s. Just whatever works for you. I also have a box of letters and thank you notes I keep close to my desk and have put tag on the special ones that have heartfelt compliments so that I can read them on bad days to remind myself that those qualities are still in there somewhere. Sky’s the limit. If a poster of Harry Styles on the ceiling makes you feel good about yourself, then you go girl. Honestly with that new haircut I wouldn’t blame you. Okay, moving on before I write 3 paragraphs about a boy band because that is McKay’s area of expertise J .
You may have to forgive people who won’t or can’t forgive you back.
OH BOY did I get a crash course in forgiveness this year. I could write a whole section on this, but I have learned that when we do not deal with emotions as they are happening or shortly after they will resurface later, and often in a way that we have much less control over. As part of taking the reins on some health problems this year, I started seeing a counselor and found that years and years of trauma were being triggered by some of the experiences and behavior I was dealing with in my friend group. Instead of dealing with these things as they were happening, I was realizing I would have to go through trauma recovery and learn how to process these things. Like anything in life, this takes practice and I acknowledge that every situation is different. My parents raised me as perfectly as they know how and I love them very much, possibly more than anyone else in my life, but there were things about the way I grew up that made it hard to express emotion. Many people come from more complicated situations than mine: unwanted pregnancies, broken homes, exhausting work/school schedules just to keep a steady income, and the list goes on and on. Some situations make it very hard to seek help and I just want to say I acknowledge that. With that being said, if you have the means and believe that counseling is something that would help you (more insurance companies cover it now YAY) it is definitely something I would suggest.
Anyways, back to forgiveness. Both through counseling to digest some traumatic experiences, as well as my religious beliefs, I have learned that a healthy part of learning to love yourself is learning to give up the parts of you that are still attached to negative experiences and forgive those who were involved. Forgiveness takes many shapes and forms but I find it is only effective when done with pure love as the only intention. From experience, I have found that most of the people I have reached out to and made aware that I felt hurt have responded with love and even at times admitted to misunderstanding. Sometimes I haven’t gotten the apology that I was hoping or even a response at all but you have to remember that everyone is on a different path (remember the words and actions we talked about before?) and every situation is different. One universal thing I have found is that when love is the intention, we will feel at peace and be able to love ourselves better, even if the other person responds with hate, or withholds love until a later time.
Don’t forget to forgive yourself too! If you really love yourself then your self will love you back! Listen to the Biebs y’all.

Ignorance is not bliss.
If you are still reading I promise to make it worth it! Haha…
Okay so I am friends with a lot of sweet and naïve people who radiate light, but also ignore a lot of the darkness and bad things in this world or get uncomfortable when they are brought up in conversation. This is a tricky subject but I think it is impossible to fully love yourself when you are in this mindset.
Obviously there is a place and time for everything. For example, if you were talking about raping your friend and make a joke about it, I would not make a strong case that you are loving yourself and definitely have issues loving other people. But, if you were raped and felt comfortable and were at a place that you felt you could share that with someone who understood or perhaps had gone through the same thing and could help you understand and process what you had been through, then yes I would consider that a productive way to talk about rape. See the difference? We good? Good.
One subject that makes a lot of people uncomfortable is pornography. Both men and women experience exposure to pornography at varying levels. In our day and age, it is more likely to be a question of “when” rather than “if”. I could write a novel on the evils of pornography, but I will spare you that and say that this is one of the topics that cannot be ignored, both at a global and an individual level. I have gotten to the point where I can spot pornography addictions pretty quickly in the people I date and my friends and it saddens me greatly because I see people that are ignoring their worsening problem rather than trying to find a way to fix it. By partaking in filth, they are slowly buying into the idea that they are only worthy of filth without even realizing it.
Obviously people don’t become porn addicts overnight, but by becoming aware and learning and talking about these problems in the proper context we can find the little ways we can act and change before it snowballs into a bigger and more intimidating problem that may take years and come at a great expense to reverse.
This could potentially be a controversial topic, but if you’re interested, take a look at my opinion on kissing and how it can lead to more serious addictions if you aren’t careful about it.
See? Something as simple as controlling a little kiss can potentially save you world of hurt and make it a lot easier to love yourself.
Comparison really is the enemy of happiness.
In all of these areas I’ve talked about already, the key is to not compare the speed, timing, or accuracy of your progress with anyone else’s. You will find that we are largely a “filter” obsessed society. Not just our social media is filtered. The parts of the stories we tell and the parts of ourselves we chose to highlight and expose are often not true to the reality who we are and the situations we go through. We aren’t lying, we just “filter”. Much of the “progress” we sense others are making is actually filtered. Just like processing a photograph, the finished product may resemble our lives, but not be true to them in their entirely. We often compare the way our picture turned out with other people’s pictures. We have to remember that if a photograph were only highlights and brightness we would likely not even be able to make it out. The combination of highlights and shadows, variations of brightness and darkness, all of those things contribute to an interesting picture.
Our pictures are our pictures and different people in our lives will notice different things about them. In loving yourself it is important to accept your unfiltered life and be okay with people not understanding or appreciating what you present sometimes. Appreciation, especially in art, is all about understanding. Your life could be a Monet or a Picasso; some people are going to look at you as a masterpiece and others will question your methods but the reality is that both are considered art. You need to love you as if you were the only painting in the gallery, meaning you need to aim for being 100% comparison-free, so that you can then learn to be happy and appreciation sharing that space with other pieces of art (aka people).
No pain, no gain.
I work with athletes and so I feel the sports references coming on haha…but since this is on the verge of being a small novel I will just say that the experiences that stretch us are for our good. That does not mean that all our experiences will be “good”. When thinking about pain and how we can love ourselves in spite of the pain we are experiencing, I like to think of rubber bands as an analogy. As a kid, in my house we used to have huge bags of all kinds and sizes of rubber bands. Like hair elastics, the more we used them, the more flexible and comfortable it was to use them and the more useful they were to us. Everyone we come in contact with is a different size and is learning to be stretched in different ways. Some people are well versed in pain and have become so flexible that the area they encompass is very large and impressive. However, all those rubber bands, small or large, are useful and perfect for some purpose. We must not compare our progress or pains with others. To love ourselves, we must realize that we are who we are, and also that the stretching will make us more useful and adapted to whatever purpose we need to accomplish.

Well, now that I have used office supplies as an analogy, talked about pornography and photography in the same post, and referenced Harry Styles’ haircut and a Justin Bieber song, I think my job here is done. I am so grateful to McKay for this opportunity even though I’m sure she had no idea what she was getting herself into…haha.
Good luck on your path to learning to love yourself! It’s long but 100% worth every step, even the backwards ones!
Xoxo <3 Anni

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