Loving myself has been the hardest challenge that I have faced in my life so far.

Most students are able to tell you about all the difficulties that they faced when making the transition to college. For me, this past year I struggled a lot with my self image. When you’re thrust into a new environment and a new way of living paired with the ubiquitous fear of not knowing your place in the world, it can be a lot to bear. Maybe putting my problems into the scale of the world was a bit much, but nevertheless it was the root of a lot of my insecurities.

I found myself constantly comparing myself to other people in my life, asking questions that weren’t giving me answers that satisfied me. Why is this person doing better than me in school? How come they have more friends? Why are they better at talking to people? Why do they seem so much more confident than I have ever felt?

Anyone that knows me well will tell you that I am guilty of getting stuck in my head about everything which leads to overthinking, self-doubt, and self-sabotage. It is easy to compare yourself to others and only see what they have and what you do not. It is easy to focus on what you perceive as flaws instead of being grateful for what you do have.

For me, the best outlet was talking to people that cared for me. I knew that what I was doing was unhealthy. What I realized through these conversations is that everyone does the same thing. It is inevitable that people compare themselves to others around them. It’s human nature. But the ultimate challenge that comes with that is learning to practice gratitude. It is so easy to see what you don’t have, that it often becomes difficult to remember to appreciate what you do have.

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes using people around you as inspiration to get to a place that you want to be is not a bad thing. It is good to surround yourself with people who are high-achieving and are striving to be the best versions of themselves because it can motivate you to do the same. But don’t confuse that with having to be the same as them. Instead of asking “Why don’t I have what they have?” you should be asking yourself “What do I have?” and “How can I use that to make me even more successful?” It’s about appreciating your own attributes and strengths and learning how to use and build upon those to be happy with who you are.

Every person is different which means that your path to success and self-love and all that is not always going to look the same as those around you. Each and every person in this world has something to offer, and when you realize that, it really opens up your perspective of yourself and the people in your life. It sounds like a cliché, but it is so true.

Like everyone else, I have days where I find myself feeling down and getting lost in my head. It is okay to doubt yourself because that’s natural. But when you have those moments, remind yourself that it’s okay to feel that way. Don’t try and shut it out. Acknowledge it. Keeping track of my thoughts in my journal or going to my favorite spot at the beach just to be alone and check in to see how I am feeling has helped me a lot.

It took me a long time to love myself, and it’s still something I am working on today. It is a lot easier to say something than actually put it into practice, but awareness is the first step. It is hard. But it is something you have to continually work on and eventually, you’ll get there. I believe in you. :’)