MY BODY IS NOT THE PROBLEM: my mindset is the solution to my own problems.

Imagine a snowball, tumbling through the fresh white snow, growing with each and every turn. With every layer of fluffy cloudlike crystals added to it, the snowball gets bigger and stronger. You try to pick it up, but it gets too heavy to carry and you drop it on the ground. You notice it doesn’t even crack, its layers of protection acting like its shield. This snowball has now established a sense of permanence. This snowball is like your self-image. When you hear people comment on your body image based on society’s standards again and again, it starts to feel like reality. Every comment adds a layer of insecurity, and it starts to permanently reside in your brain. It makes you believe that this is your reality. 

Growing up, I was always considered to be tall compared to my peers; I was always back and center in all of my class photos. But I was petite, some may even call me skinny. I was okay with being skinny since I was told that this is normal in my family line; everyone had a high metabolism growing up and I’d gain more weight with age. 22 years passed by and that saying had not held up its end of the bargain. 

When society sets certain standards of beauty, repeated exposure to them on social media makes us believe that a certain body image is what is considered “beautiful”, and we consciously or subconsciously start to judge other people based on this standard. I stopped growing tall at 5 ft 3 but my weight always remained between 90-95 lbs. I was considered underweight, but I felt healthy. I ate whenever I was hungry. I maintained a healthy lifestyle. I never felt like my weight was compromising my health in any way. Yet, this standard of beauty set by society welcomed comments into my life such as being called “anorexic”. 

This picture was taken in 2019 when I felt most insecure about my body image. I was called skinny several times to the point that it stung. My smile through my pain is not an invitation to people’s opinions.

At a certain point, these comments added layers of insecurity to my own self-image, which grew bigger and bigger with each comment made. And sooner or later, I’d convinced myself that maybe there was a problem with my weight that was beyond my control. I have been doing everything right for my health, but everyone else kept noticing something that I wasn’t noticing myself. As time went by, I felt more and more discontent with my body image, and more self-conscious about how skinny I looked to others. I even consulted a doctor with a fear of something being wrong with my health and was told I had a clean bill of health. The stress from this made my appetite shrink, making me truly concerned for my health. 

Over the years, the comments changed from “are you anorexic” to “you should be grateful you’re that skinny” which made talking about having a negative body image taboo. I was told I was ungrateful for not appreciating the way I looked by half of society, while the other half told me there was something wrong with it. Imagine what it feels like to not feel comfortable in your own skin and not be able to talk about it to others because of a fear of being judged. That was until I told myself enough is enough. This is my life and I need to work on building up my own self-confidence without listening to comments being made by others.

Changing your lifestyle after years of consistent habits is tough. The first thing I had to do was understand my personal goals. I did not want a standard of beauty to affect how I see myself but I had to be realistic with what I wanted for myself, for my self-confidence to grow. So I created a list of goals for myself, with goals based on how I wanted to feel rather than solely how I wanted to look. One of the things I wanted to work on was feeling stronger both mentally and physically. I wanted to have a healthy BMI as I was currently considered underweight, but I wanted to gain that weight in the form of muscle. In order to attain this goal, I had to learn how my body works, and understand what fast metabolism meant for me. 

I tried to do my own research on how to attain a healthy BMI but at this point, my appetite was bad due to stress and my constant working out was working against me. I felt like I was not making any positive progress toward my goals which made it even harder to break out of this cycle of negativity. So, I took the most difficult next step: I reached out for help because I was not sure what measures I needed to take to reach this goal.

A resource I reached out to was Coach Rajan from Level “Upp” Performance. I spoke to him about my goals and went through a program with him that required me to perform strength training 3-4x a week and consume 3000+ calories a day. By working with a personal trainer, I became more aware of what is necessary to become stronger: understanding how macros matter in your diet, what types of exercise work with my personal goals, and the power of consistency. Even though I know society creates an unrealistic standard of beauty, I went on my own fitness journey to restore my self-confidence, purely for myself and for no one else. Even if I continued to look skinny by the end of my journey, I wanted to feel stronger and in turn, happier with myself. 

Whenever I feel unmotivated to work on myself, I remember the girl that was torn down by her surroundings and the words that cut through her like a knife. I remember how I felt at one of my lowest points when I was struggling with body image, and I remind myself of how I felt at my strongest mental health point. To keep myself in check with my goals, I started an Instagram page @alys_goals for accountability of my goals and to track my progress along the way. It is so easy to fall out of a pattern with your goals when other parts of your life take over but reminding yourself of why you started working on yourself is your strongest motivator to keep you going.

These pictures were taken 1 year apart. I’m smiling in both pictures but I can tell you that the picture on the left shows a version of me that was conscious of how I looked because of how skinny I appeared to the public eye in a saree. I am “skinny” in both pictures but the picture on the right shows a more positive version of myself, still progressing towards restoring her self-confidence but feeling more confident in wearing a saree.

It has now been 2 years of consistently working out and maintaining proper calorie intake to sustain my lifestyle. I understand how my body works, what exercises I need to do for my personal goals, and the power of self-confidence that keeps me going every day. I now have a BMI of 19.5 and feel strong in my own skin. I have broken my big snowball and have learned to accept the beauty in the pieces that follow. I was able to reach out to resources I identified would help me best at a time when I was at my all-time low. But that doesn’t mean this is a one size fits all model. You know yourself best, your motivators, your barriers and you know what can work best for you to reach your goals. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of how you look, but what matters is what you think of yourself. You set your own standard of beauty. You have the power to restore your self-confidence. It’s only one step away. 

*Disclaimer: All of the information, opinions, and views provided in this post are based on my personal experiences. Reader’s discretion is advised related to any of the views presented.



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I CAN BE ANYTHING I WANT TO BE: The problem with conventional systems and the positive shift in your mindset.

Imagine this: You’ve graduated from university, started working at your dream job, and are earning a decent salary. You studied a topic that was not finance-related in school and now the people around you are playing the stock market, buying property, and starting “side or main hustles”. You thought your role was to go to school, get a degree and you’d be set for life, but inflation is rising faster than your salary and it isn’t enough to cover the bills. To top it off, OSAP comes knocking at your door asking for loan payments and you find yourself struggling. 

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Photo by Elisa Ventur

Here’s a harsh reality: School does not set us up with the financial literacy we need to navigate life. 

While our education system may benefit us in setting us up with a future career that allows us to financially support ourselves, it limits our knowledge to the specialties we choose to study. 

There’s rigidity in the structure of our education system which limits us from learning more day-to-day life skills and we are told to pick a career path as early as the age of 14. 

Moving into university, our course options become more and more limited, leaving less room to explore other topics which may enable us to develop financial literacy. Not to mention, many finance courses are restricted to students within the business field and require many prerequisites you may not have. 🙁

What’s one thing I’ve learned through going through this process of schooling? School doesn’t teach you how to be financially free in life, to make money work for you, to colour outside of the lines and think outside of the box with life. 

We’ve been cultivated to colour inside the lines with a fear of failure if we even attempt something different. We have conditioned ourselves into thinking that we can only be successful if we follow the path school has set out for us. How many times have your parents told you, the only way to succeed in life is by going to university and getting a degree? Well, you got that degree, but now what? The system gave us the path to making money but has failed to teach us the life skills we need to navigate what to do with that money. 

What if this conventional way of thinking is not the only option for us? What if there’s a way to be a specialized professional while also becoming more financially woke and integrating that into our lifestyles: to be a scientist while also being an investor, an artist while also owning a business, an engineer while also being a property manager?

Life presents so many opportunities to us, that we don’t have to limit ourselves to one thing, one profession, or one lifestyle. We live in a time where information is present at our fingertips at no cost. We have access to information that our parents may not have had at their time. We have the ability to learn more about financial freedom, even if that is not related to the profession we chose in university. 

Your mindset is everything. It’s not too late to become more financially woke. Step out of that comfort zone and take active steps to develop your financial literacy. We tend to lean towards safety and security because that’s all we’ve known. It’s also much easier to blame the world and society for the conditions they put you through, rather than seeing that negative mentality in yourself. So here are some steps to follow to make active changes in your mindset: 

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Photo by Randalyn Hill

Change your mindset from a deficient, negative standpoint to a positive, enabling one.

You want to own a house? Instead of telling yourself you can’t afford a down payment because society has made it unaffordable, start reading about mortgages, loans, and down payments. You want to start your own business? Instead of telling yourself you can’t because you didn’t study business in university, start reading about the basics of it and connect with people who have built their own empires. We are stuck in a mindset which never allows us to completely feel empowered to be different and fulfilled. We are constantly competing with others and ourselves for a better position in life. This is called the rat race cycle. A great starting point that helped me with learning about the rat race cycle I was stuck in myself was the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki.

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Make active steps to learn about your financial interests!

I went to university to become a Registered Nurse and I thought that was my highest point in life as school had taught me. I was stuck in my own rat race cycle of wanting to move up the ladder in nursing, get promotions, and study more to make more money. But my biggest disconnect in life was my lack of financial knowledge which limited my future goals of owning a business, owning real estate property, and investing. I felt that I was constantly chasing bigger goals in my career which led to less satisfaction every time I achieved the next milestone. And with inflation on the rise, living paycheck to paycheck became a bigger problem. I was making active income, but I didn’t know how to make money work for me, passively. So that’s exactly what I did: I researched what I needed to know to reach my goals and identified my knowledge gaps. Everyone’s goals may differ from one another and everyone’s path to achieving these goals will be different. Identifying what you need to do and know to reach your goals is the first step you need to take to get out of your rat race.

Use the resources at your fingertips.

There is an abundance of free courses online that you can use to enhance your knowledge of financial literacy. One course that helped me learn about personal finance is McGill University’s free Personal Finance Essentials course which breaks down complicated financial topics into common language for us non-business majors. If you’re more of a visual or auditory learner, use YouTube videos, Netflix documentaries, or podcasts to enhance your understanding of topics. If you’re more of a read/write learner, find books available that provide you with education on what’s needed to reach your goals.

Photo by Benjamin Riot
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Photo by charlesdeluvio
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Photo by Arun Prakash

Connect with your influencers.

I reached out to individuals who I felt were successful in my goals and I asked them to have coffee chats, to pick their brains on understanding how to follow in their footsteps. LinkedIn is a great resource to use to reach out to people with similar interests. The people who are successful in their fields have gone through your current struggle and can provide insightful advice on the steps you need to take to attain your goals. 

Believe in yourself!

I told myself not to be afraid of failure because the only way to be different, explore your interests, and get out of the rat race cycle is by taking risks and believing in your abilities.

It comes down to this: the school system may not have set us up with the life skills we need for financial freedom but as cliche as it sounds, if there’s a will, there’s a way. You just have to ask yourself the right questions and look for opportunities to learn how to achieve your financial goals. Never lead your life telling yourself you can’t do something, always look for ways around meeting your goals. Ask yourself the right questions: “How can I achieve this? What resources can I tap into to learn about my options?” There’s no limit to learning and I truly believe your mentality in life shapes your actions, your motivation, and your drive for change. 

*Disclaimer: All of the information, opinions, and views provided in this post are based on my personal experiences. Reader’s discretion is advised related to any of the views presented.



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