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Self worth

Guest Posts

Being a good girl in 2017

Performance anxiety is a word I hear many young women around me, myself included, use very often. Living in a society that is characterized by speed, success and increased individualization it’s not so surprising.

It’s primarily young women who suffer from this type of stress. The experience of high demands and low self-esteem seems to be some of the causes.

I guess most of you have heard about the “good girl”- syndrome? Something I myself can identify with. Which has made me start thinking about the factors behind it. How young girls are characterized the role of being a responsible and caring person. And this starts already in preschool, where they are taught to be calm, nurturing and kind and are often rewarded based on their presentations, which in the long run can lead to difficulty distinguishing their performance from their value as a person.

My own performance anxiety and my need to be a “good girl” has given me many sleepless nights. I can lie in bed all night long, planning and preparing for the upcoming day, since I want to be in control of any situation. I need to be, so that I can do a good job and make everyone around me happy. In social situations, I am often the one who takes responsibility as well. If I see someone sitting by themselves I walk straight over to them and start a conversation. Include them and make them feel seen. In a constant need to make the people around me happy.

Exhausting you might think? Yes, it is…

I remember last year, when I received the results of my exam at the University. It turned out to be far from what I wanted and had hoped for, leaving me with the feeling of being a complete failure. In that moment, I lost myself a little. My mom tried to comfort me, saying it’s ok not to walk out of there with top results when you have a fulltime job on the side, but in my head I only heard one voice: telling me I was useless. I forget all the factors in my life playing a huge role in my performance on this exam. All I could think about was that I didn’t do well enough, I wasn’t good enough. But the results of my exam doesn’t define me as a person, now does it? It doesn’t define more than my performance right then and there, that Saturday in April.

The statement “good girl” sounds negative in many people’s ears, and for good reason. Our need to be on top of our game all the time, achieve everything we set out mind too, be kind, be caring, be the best. I know exactly how it feels. But at the same time, I have started to reflect upon my performance anxiety and see what it has given me; A job where I am appreciated and been given a lot of responsibility. Friendships that are as deep as they are, thanks to all the commitment I have been putting in them. People who feel loved because of my caring nature.

I think it’s time to fight back

I think it’s time to fight back against the negative meaning this statement has been given and instead lift all the talented young women who struggle daily for a better society. Be proud of the high-performance person you are, but never forget that it’s more than okay to fail. I truly wish more people who recognize themselves in this will settle with the fact that: you are not your achievements, you are so much more valid than that <3

This post is contributed by Anja Hertzberg, who works as a preschool educator in Stockholm/ Photo cred

Be Inspired

Embracing my own power – This is my story

Looking back on the last 13 years always makes me a little sad. Not because I didn’t have a nice life, filled with friends, boyfriends and family. Not because I didn’t have a roof over my head, an education or a job. No, it makes me sad looking back because I spent years of my life at war with myself.

I began hating my body when I was around 13 years old. I gained a lot of weight, really fast and spent the next 3 years hiding in oversized clothes, laughing away comments thrown my way. Food became a comfort and I pretty much ate everything I could find, and of course refused to exercise. But this all turned when I turned 16 and got sick. I couldn’t eat for days, and I lost a lot of weight during those weeks. When I finally got better I realized how good I felt, having lost a few kilos, so I decided to lose some more. And some more. And it didn’t stop.

My health didn’t matter, as long as I looked good.

As it happens for many girls I got obsessed about my looks, wanting to be skinnier and prettier. My health didn’t matter, as long as I looked good. The more compliments I got from the people closest to me, the more obsessed I got about looking even better. So, I stopped eating. Breakfast was switched out with water and cigarettes became my main diet. I started working out like crazy, practically living at the gym. During the same time, I partied a lot, since alcohol seemed to help, distracting me from my painful inner war. My body could of course not handle it, and I ended up fainting almost every time.

During this period, I was so unhappy. I was thinner than ever, but my body couldn’t keep up. I was sick all the time and had no energy. On the outside I looked happy, but on the inside I was tearing myself apart. I spent the majority of my time lost in self-critical thoughts, hating my body and constantly comparing myself to others. I lost myself on the way and even more, I lost good friends.

My turning point came, but when I look back at it today I am not sure what it was. I remember my mom pushed me to eat, my best friend at the time too. But what turned my switch? I really can’t say. But something happened and I started to eat regularly again and gained weight. But that’s when the real struggle began for me. Because the negative and destructive thoughts wouldn’t go away. My head continued a war against my body, the only difference now was that I ate.

Not being able to love myself is one of the most painful things I have experienced. Not feeling worthy of somebody else’s love, always thinking I was inadequate. My low self-esteem destroyed many good relationships and turned me into a very jealous person, leaving me heartbroken more often than I can count.

As I got older, I found myself in a relationship that was on the tipping point because I still thought I wasn’t worthy of love. I talked myself down in front of this man day after day, until one day he had enough. He told me to stop it. That he didn’t find me attractive anymore because I was so insecure. It may sound terrible, but I guess that was just what I needed. Because then and there I decided enough was enough. I was so ashamed. Hearing something like that from someone you love so deeply does something to you.

So how did I free myself at last? I embraced my own power!

I finally found the will to change. And not through a new diet, but by chancing my way of thinking, my language of communication and my relationship with my own heart and soul. By slowly challenging my mind I learned that kindness and self-love does so much more than all my hatred ever did. I slowly began to love myself. It didn’t happen overnight and I still have days I criticize myself, quietly or out loud, but the difference now is that I know I am worthy, and I know it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.

My story isn’t special. Sadly, there are thousands of people out there who have gone through, or go through the same thing, fighting a battle against their own body and mind. And this is what made me want to start up Best of You. I want to show people that they can be healthy without being extreme and that health doesn’t mean abs and a tight ass. It has absolutely nothing to do with your looks. Being healthy first and foremost means being happy and grounded, and most importantly: loving yourself and finding what feels good. Why spend time hating something as holy as your body, curvy or not? Because in the end you and your body is all you got, and you’re pretty damn awesome! Skip the hate, skip the restrictions and have fun instead. As Dalai Lama once said: “Happiness is the highest form of health”, and I couldn’t agree more. I will never regret that I freed myself and embraced my own power, even though the journey was long.

By: Henriette Danielsen, Editor in Chief / Photo cred: Anja Hertzberg


The push I needed

Going through a burn out is like having a concrete door slammed in your face by the incredible Hulk, crushing your beliefs, hopes and self-esteem on the way. However, if you pay close attention, you will notice that the draft eventually opens numerous other doors you had no idea were there.

It took me two and a half years to be able to tell my story without shaking or tearing up. Maybe therapy would have been cheaper after all. But this journey was much more fun. Today I am thankful they pushed me to leave. Because in the end, they pushed me to live.

After my two first years in Stockholm my contract ended and since I refused to leave this great city, I found myself on the job market. After three restless months, I found the perfect job in a French company. A small team that would be like a family, loving and supporting, a nice central office to which I could walk or cycle, flexible timetables, French & Swedish bank holidays, good benefits, interesting tasks and responsibilities, an office job but with exciting projects. I was over the moon. And like everything else in life I cared for, I gave 100% to it. I worked my ass off, not only because I wanted to prove myself, not only because I feared to disappoint them or to fail, but mainly because I enjoyed my job. How lucky was I? I never said no, I never disagreed, hell, I never even really shared my opinion now that I think about it. Not at the beginning at least, and then it was too late. They had gotten used to me being available, reliable and quiet. But they did not reward that, they used it. Until worn thin.

Only after many months I started to understand things were wrong. No, it’s not ok for your boss to come in every morning, have a good look at you and grade your outfit on a scale from 0 to 20. No, it’s not ok for your boss not to be able to inform you of your budget for the year. No, it’s not ok for him to only do business with people he can get favors from… and that was just the top of the iceberg. There are so many components to that story I do not want to bore people with.  But basically, what had started as a great career opportunity slowly, but surely turned into a trap, a well I was falling into deeper and deeper with no way out. With my colleague, the only other sane human being in that office, we went from multi-tasking to survival mode.

This lasted for two very long years. And not only did it impact every cell of my being, it impacted my relationships with the outside world. I had lost so much: my energy, my positivity, my desire to improve, interest in what I was doing, my will to even try… and I didn’t leave that feeling at work, I took it home with me every night, burdening my partner with it, feeling helpless and misunderstood.

At that moment, when I sat at my desk and looked through the window down at the street four stories below as the only way out, I knew it had gone too far

It’s so hard to explain what went wrong. The primary definition of a burn out is to cease to function as a result of excessive heat or friction. That was it. I ceased to function as myself. When my colleague left to save her skin and sanity things took a turn for the worst. Of course, I was blaming myself. I have never ever been suicidal. Never. But at that moment, when I sat at my desk and looked through the window down at the street four stories below as the only way out, I knew it had gone too far, so I acted. Well, I spent a night on my sofa crying over the phone to my sister. The following weekend I heard the most beautiful words “you will never have to go back there again” coming out of a doctor’s mouth. It was over.

It was. Not completely though. I quickly realized I had lost more than a job. I had zero energy, no self-esteem, my confidence was completely shattered and even the early spring in beautiful Stockholm was not enough to make me stay. My partner and I had discussed going away for a while and this was the perfect timing to leave.

Since I had nothing left to give, I took a chance.

We ended up being away for more than two years. Two years during which I slowly relearned how to trust myself again, to trust others and to feel I was worth more than a 16 out of 20 for my outfit. I discovered my limits, mentally and physically and pushed them. I tried and did things I never thought I could do. Never thought I even wanted to do. I trekked to Everest Base Camp without a guide or a porter, I ran a (very long) half marathon in Bangkok, I waited tables, rediscovered to simply deal with people, and gain someone’s trust. I made friends again, I explored new interests, I learned to leave it all behind, I travelled until I got sick of it and then some more. I climbed Machu Picchu, I watched the sunrise over Taj Mahal in India and over Ankor’s temples in Cambodia, I discovered yoga on an island in Thailand, I took a cooking class in the Vietnamese countryside, witnessed political history in Myanmar, swam in gorgeous waterfalls in Laos, dived in Indonesia, lived off a van in New Zealand…

I did all this. But what is more important is what it did to me. I discovered a whole new world out there, and most importantly, within myself. I found answers to questions I did not even know I had.

To people who know me, I probably haven’t changed much. But to myself, I have. I have learnt what they do not teach you in school: there is not one path, one straight line. There is not one answer, but there is only one life. Try out, play hard, discover. You can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do. Work hard, learn to say no, be kind, and be respectful, to yourself and others. Learn from everyone and everything. Look at what you have accomplished and realize how great you are. Leave behind the people who do not see that. And the most important rule of all: do not wear a watch waiting for the perfect timing; wear a compass, because you never know where the wind will take you.

By: Morgane Oleron / Photo: Private