I Am Learning That My Appearance Doesn’t Affect My Worth

In 2020, the pandemic hit us hard, and I know that it’s been a rough season for everyone. People stayed at home, trying to find new things to do for the sake of sanity; one of them was drowning themselves in social media. The last part was also my coping mechanism during the first month of the pandemic. I spent my everyday life scrolling mindlessly through TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and sometimes LinkedIn—and that’s when I found one specific thing that’d been my nightmare for the past few years.

Losing weight.

I remember vividly that my TikTok page was full of people doing the abs challenge, my YouTube recommendation was “I Follow (insert K-Pop Idol name) Diet Challenge and It Works!”, my Instagram explore showed girls in their best picture with comments full of #bodygoals.

Envy you.

My jealousy didn’t come from anything. I simply gave up on losing my fats—not because I didn’t try, but I’ve done so much. I’ve tried lots of methods and workouts for the past six years and nothing works. The scale didn’t bother to budge, the mirror didn’t seem to show any progress. It’s been stressful, and yes, I eat more when I’m stressed. “You need to lose weight” was not a motivation anymore–it was purely a pressure.

It was in late April when I tried yoga for the first time. My tired soul was afraid that this was not gonna work, that I’d end up with disappointment and a too-tired body. But deep down, I still had a tiny-weeny hope that maybe yoga would do something, I’d lose some fats, or at least get healthier.

Truthfully, I did lose some pounds after some time. I got slightly happier, but I shit you not, it’s nowhere near an easy road, from the food you eat, the workout you need to do consistently, and the chirps from your deepest mind. In the middle of my weight loss journey, people started noticing. Most of my surroundings were supportive, of course, and I’m grateful for that. They complimented me, said that I looked better, even asked me for my workout recipe. But my mind sometimes wandered to those old times when people dropped negative comments because of my appearance.

Sometimes, I couldn’t help but think that my worth was being determined by my appearance. That once I gained some weight, my value would decrease. That I’m not as good as other people if I can’t be as good-looking as them.

Accepting myself is not an easy journey. I got hurt and offended before I lost weight, and now, even a compliment sometimes reminds me of that phase. That it cost me some pounds to be appreciated, to be complimented. And I didn’t want to gain weight anymore because I thought I’d lose everything once I put on some pounds.

I kinda tried harder: workout five-six times a week, eat less, even finally touch some cardio workouts that I used to hate. To lose more weight. To look skinnier. To become more beautiful. But it didn’t last long–I got bored, burned out, and tired. The motivation was not about myself anymore, but about how I could fit society’s standard–and that’s exhausting.

I realized when a sudden thought came up from my yoga lesson: Don’t harm yourself, be it your body or your mind. I harmed my body by forcing myself to exercise more than my capability. I harmed my mind by thinking that I needed to fit the nonexistent beauty standard, to have a breathtaking appearance to be appreciated. It’s hard, yet I managed to convince myself.

The most important thing is not how to lose the most weight in the shortest time; it’s how to honor your progress, believe in yourself, and be consistent.

I reevaluated my diet plan—reduce my workout frequency and eat as much as I should. My weight scale didn’t change as fast as before, but the journey got more enjoyable. I promised myself that I’d be more considerate with my capability yet put all my heart into everything I do, including yoga. By doing yoga wholeheartedly, I also realized the truth behind a quote I often heard during my exercise: “Yoga is more than a workout, it is a work-in.”

Work-in is also about how to be kind to myself, to accept myself, my looks, my everything. To stop trying to fit the nonexistent beauty standard, to stop comparing myself to others. I’m not trying to scare you by being positive all the time, because yes, sometimes I’m still struggling with that, too. But one thing to remember: Each person has their own pace, their own goals, and their starting point. Someone might be on her fifth kilometer while you’re still on your second. Someone might use a car while you’re on your feet. The world is not fair, and it’ll never be. But the world keeps rotating, and others keep moving, so you should keep going, too.

You didn’t always feel like the day was yours, you didn’t always feel like the day would be a good one. You are allowed to feel down, to feel sad, to feel tired. Some days you may feel like you’re the prettiest human on earth, and the other days you may feel that you need to hide in your room because you feel bloated. Some days you feel motivated and do a workout for two hours, and the other days you may feel that all you need is just to lounge on your sofa with the tastiest snacks.

It’s okay. Your weight loss journey, even your life journey, is not always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it’s a thorn bush and thunder. Accepting yourself also means accepting your situation. You don’t need to always have a positive response. But you need to be present for yourself—to embrace your feelings, to respond accordingly, and to keep going.

Live your life like yoga. Accept yourself, honor your hard work, and value your journey.

All credit goes to my mother, who asked me to do yoga with her, who patiently guided me through those troublesome poses, who taught me to be present, who helped me to be more comfortable in my skin.