Brain Food Column Month Six: Love thyself

Every month, Amerley Ollennu challenges you and herself to road-test research and healthy strategies to help change the way we misuse food once and for all


Brain Food Column Month Six: Love thyself

Am I a confident person? That’s a tough question. I can be the life of the party, flirt for England and welcome new people with open arms – and I truly believe I can achieve anything I set my mind to. However, my current lack of self-esteem has had an impact on my confidence levels and has seen me put off work opportunities, dating and more. Psychologist Elaine Slater believes confidence, in its purest sense, is ‘knowing what you’re good at, the value you provide, and acting in a way that conveys that to others’. Low self-esteem is intrinsically linked with a lack of confidence a belief that you are less valuable can leave you ‘prone to anxiety and depression, all of which can lead to the misuse of food’.

The challenge

Years ago I visited the Lefay Resort in Lake Garda and saw a doctor there whose words I’ve yet to forget (but have often not lived by). He asked me how I expect to be happy, and to achieve all I want to achieve, if I don’t love myself. He said I had to change the internal conversation I have with myself. When I look in the mirror, instead of all the negative thoughts that spring to mind I should replace them with positive affirmations. When I second-guess myself at work, I should ignore my self-doubt and trust myself more. I’ve tried this many times since my trip, but all too easily I’ve slipped back to old ways. This month I’ve challenged myself to get these changes ingrained for good.

The experience

I began my journey by identifying the things my lack of confidence had stopped me doing and delving deeper to figure out why. For example, I’d been putting off a screen test for a TV show because of weight gain, and would take longer than usual to write articles as I’d lost some confidence in my abilities even after a year filled with three journalism award nominations; I had also stopped dating, and going out to bars and clubs because I’d become unhappy with the way I looked. Once I’d identified my issues, I then created strategies to push me out of my comfort zone. As my trainer Dan Roberts says, I need to start ‘feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable’. I had already decided to go out more so made sure I had plans every Friday night. I stuck positive affirmations on mirrors in my house in a bid to stop negative thoughts I’d have when I passed one. Finally, I thought about what I really wanted out of life and set to work on a vision board.

The result

I loved creating my vision board – it helped me refocus on my goals and create new ones. It encouraged me start to say ‘yes’ to things again, and realise that life is too short to waste any time closing myself off from opportunities. When it came to my biggest issue – negative self-talk that saw me shying away from situations where I felt I would be judged on my looks – I saw improvements there too. I haven’t been miraculously cured but the positive affirmations have helped tremendously, as did clearing my wardrobe of the clothes I don’t fit into and finding new clothes I look good in. Making an effort with my appearance has helped with my self-esteem but it has also helped me accept myself and the way I look now.

Amerley Ollennu is Beauty and Wellbeing Editor. Find her on Twitter @AmerleyO