As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Aerin Ogden is from Lehi, Utah. She graduated in Communications at Brigham Young University, and loves to write about her ideas and experiences on her own time. Currently she helps Utah Addiction Centers with their outreach initiatives.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
Honestly, I’ve always loved working with people. Additionally, I’ve known many people who have struggled with anxiety and depression who haven’t been aware of all the resources out there to help them. Struggling with anxiety myself, I found help when I looked at psychiatrists and medical solutions. Because of this, I’m very passionate with helping other people become aware of the wonderful organizations out there dedicated to helping people recover.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I’m just working with Utah Addiction Centers to get the word out about all their wonderful services. We’ve been looking at PR and SEO opportunities so people can easily find them when searching for rehabilitation centers. It’s been an amazing opportunity, and we’ve seen some cool things happen already.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
Like I said before, I struggled with anxiety. I would get so anxious about the future and because of it I’d quickly fall into a spiral of beating myself up. I felt like I was never good enough to who I wanted to be. I hated myself for feeling so down and anxious all the time. I felt so small in a big world and felt like I’d never get to where I wanted to be. I hated my anxiety panic attacks. At the beginning, I would keep these attacks and hurtful feelings and thoughts to myself. I wouldn’t even tell my roommates and on some occasions I would tell my family. But a lot of the time I’d find a private place and just cry and break down. Then when I was done, I’d return back to life trying to hide my weaknesses. I hated feeling weak and didn’t want anyone to know about it.
Well, because I kept hiding them my negative thoughts became more frequent, and before I knew it I was constantly feeling inadequate and not good enough. It got to the point where I didn’t want to be here anymore. I had to hit rock bottom before finally realizing I needed help. I called my dad and he came and gave me counsel to seek outside help. At first I was very apprehensive because I’ve heard about awful medications and treatments for anxiety and depression. However, I found council and started seeking help.
I started attending group therapy and realized I wasn’t alone with my problems. There are actually many people who have similar feelings and struggles. I also learned there were many people who had it so much worse than me. After that, I started receiving medical help from a nurse practitioner. Before I was getting help I was in denial that I had anxiety and issues. But when I started getting help, I started accepting the fact that I had anxiety. Getting help was my first step to accepting it was okay that I was anxious.
After getting help, it’s been easier for me to love myself. I know am okay that I have anxiety, because I know I’m not alone. Additionally, the help I’ve received has given me opportunities to identify strengths that I didn’t even know I had. It’s been hard work to try to better control my negative thoughts (because they haven’t all disappeared). However, I now can better recognize them when they come as half-truths and can tell myself that it’s just my anxious self coming out and that it’s not necessarily true. As I’ve received help, focused on my strengths, been careful with social media, and have stopped dwelling on the past, I’ve been able to love myself more fully.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
I feel like media has a huge role in this. I love social media, but I’ve really had to limit myself with it because every time I go on and see people’s perfect profile pictures, inadequate feelings begin to creep in. When we look at social media, we see people as their best selves, and reality is warped. We don’t have to completely shy away from media, but I think it’s important we recognize that it’s not 100% reality. That famous blogger has days where they don’t do their hair and makeup. Additionally, just because someone looks good doesn’t mean they actually feel good. I’ve known a few people who were very beautiful, but very unhappy because they struggled with eating disorders. Eventually their disorders ate away at their appearance as well.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
Loving yourself doesn’t only affect yourself, but it affects more people than you think. Many people don’t’ realize that being self-critical can bring others’ moods down as well. Your family, friends, and co-workers can all be negatively impacted from your self hate.
Also, when you learn to love yourself, you learn to love others as well. You can’t sincerely have compassion and show love to others if you don’t love yourself.
Additionally, loving yourself brings more confidence and happiness into your life. This is going to sound cheesy too, but you are just way happier when you feel good about yourself.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
So I’m currently single, and let me tell you it’s not very fun. Sometimes I feel like people think that a relationship is better than no relationship. I’ll admit I’ve had this thought while dating guys before. However, I’ve seen that if you settle for anything, there’s a good chance in the long run it’s going to cause you to be stuck in a hurtful situation. I’ve seen many relationships where people have been abused by significant others. Additionally, I’ve seen other relationships where people have never been satisfied, and although they’re in a relationship they wonder if they could have been better off. My advice is not to seek any relationship, but a relationship that will make you a better person. Seek someone who sees you for the amazing person you are and who you admire as well. It’s a long and hard wait, but I know it will be worth it!
When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times, self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
See my previous example of how I had to deal with anxiety. I think I had to ask myself in that situation “Do I need help?” When the answer was yes, I knew I needed to start a long journey of recovery. It was hard to go out of my comfort zone, but it seriously changed my life.
I also really like asking the question on occasion, “How can I be better?” I like this question because it’s not “What are my faults,” “What makes me a bad person” “What are my weaknesses” etc. It’s along the lines of “I’m doing good…but what I can do to be just a little bit better?” When I have this attitude, I have more of a desire to change and feel a lot better about myself while making those changes.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
I think it’s super important to realize how unique you are. I think when you understand that there is only one of you in this world who has your experiences, feelings, and personalities, it’s easier for you to be alone. When you love yourself for your differences and uniqueness, you don’t have to depend on others to lift you up.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
When you can self-love, it’s easier for you to love and accept others for who they are. Instead of feeling like everyone has to fit the status quo, you start seeing everyone for who they truly are. I also feel like when you have self-love, you are more vulnerable and honest with others. Telling others the good and the bad and being honest with them will take your relationship with them to the next level. I can tell when people aren’t being honest with me, and when that happens a part of me closes up to them as well.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I think we need to give sincere compliments more…I’m not talking about “I like your dress.” I’m talking about REAL compliments. When someone told me that I was a fun person to talk to, I felt more confident in myself. I hadn’t even realized that strength before! I think it’s hard to identify our strengths. So if more people would help me identify them by complimenting me, I think that would be so helpful. This year I’ve really been trying to not give half-hearted compliments, but sincere and personal compliments to others.
Also I think it’s okay to post a picture of you on social media without make-up on. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing more normal day-to-day pictures of people on Facebook and Instagram. ?
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
- First of all, instead of regretting and dwelling on the past, I look forward to the future. I used to be super bad at dwelling on my mistakes in the past. I played basketball in high school, and when I would miss a shot or get a turnover, I would beat myself up for the next couple minutes. I wouldn’t move on from it and that in turn would affect my performance. Luckily, thanks to coaches and hard work, I got to the point where if I made a mistake during a game I would literally tell myself “move on.” This has helped me not only in basketball but in life as well.
- Recognize a negative thought. When I struggled with anxiety I would be pummeled with negative thought after negative thought. I had to eventually learn to identify that these thoughts just weren’t all that true. If I started going down a negative road, I would immediately stop and try to fill myself with good positive thoughts. This was and still is super hard to do. But because of this practice I can recognize when I’m not myself.
- Keep an affirmation journal. I once had a leader challenge me to keep a journal and write down something I did well or a strength that I saw that I had every day. Because of the challenge, I decided to start writing down what I was proud of, what I loved about myself, and what I did that made me feel good. Believe me, I remember the first day I stared at a blank page for 20 minutes. I may have had to have a friend help. Honestly I would get frustrated because I felt like I had nothing to write about! But, I started writing one or two things…and then day by day it got easier and easier. Now I could write an entire page if I wanted to!
- Understand how social media affects you. A few months ago, I chose to go off social media for an entire week (that’s 7 days). When I did that, I started realizing just how much time I spent on social media. Additionally, I started noticing how much better I started feeling about myself. I don’t know if I ever compared myself to anyone that week! After this experiment, I decided to keep track of the time I spend on social media. I still go on it, but I try really hard not to stay on it for excessive periods of time.
- Love others. I know when practicing self-love helps others…but I also believe loving others helps me have self-love for myself. When I think outside of myself, I’m not as concerned about my appearance. I’ve been trying to give sincere compliments to others and have been trying to develop meaningful relationships. This in turn has brought me so much happiness and satisfaction. I seriously love my friends, and when I take the time to go out of my way for someone, I feel very good about myself. Doing the small things like holding a door, sending a text, giving a compliment, writing a note, and delivering cookies make a big difference in not only others lives for your own as well.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
My cousin has written a blog all about accepting and loving yourself as a person. She talks about her journey of loving herself as a student, cheerleader, and now a mother. I seriously love it, not just because she’s my cousin, but because she’s very honest and sincere. Hearing about others struggles and journeys really inspire me. http://www.embracingessence.com/
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
Guys need to be more vocal about the non-outward things that make a girl beautiful. I thought it would be amazing to interview and video guys (especially celebrities and influencers) and ask them what makes a girl beautiful on the inside. I think it would be super cool!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
“It is not what you are that holds you back, it is what you think you are not.” -Unknown
We need to stop thinking that we aren’t good enough. Those thoughts are what really hold us back from our true potential. Everyone has amazing strengths and can make a big difference. We need to stop hating ourselves for our weaknesses, and need to start loving ourselves for our strengths. When we focus on what we CAN do and not what we CAN’T do, we become our best selves.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!