I love myself. Try to say it to yourself. It’s not that difficult, right? Now, mean it.
For some of you, it may be tough. You could be searching for reasons why or inventing justifications – and maybe coming up empty. If you read our last blog post, you’ll know that your mindset leads to a lot of the anxiety and stress that you have to deal with every day, and that over time, added stress leads to a host of problems, both physical and psychological. That post was specifically about taking control of your mindset in order to overcome shyness and anxiety through the clothes you wear. But before you put on a new pair of jeans or t-shirt, you’re going to have to be comfortable with who you are; the way you act, the things you do, and how you interact with the people around you.
Five years ago, a now Grammy-rich artist dropped a song called “Hiiipower” on his Section.80 release. It was a culmination of ideas found throughout the mixtape, and it marks a key movement of the same name, with the three i’s representing heart, honor, and respect. The Hiiipower movement, as Kendrick Lamar and crew describe, is a response to the destructive nature of our generation.
While I completely agree that there are key markers of the outward destructiveness of our generation, I’ve always focused on our own internal destruction; how our own thinking can be the thing that causes us the most harm. How we have to have internal resolve before we can have any external resolutions. For me, Hiiipower is first and foremost an internal movement.
Thinking about and acting on the three i’s has helped me deal with a lot of internal issues, especially related to social anxiety. As the three i’s gave me a sense of internal discipline, I’ve grown more focused on the things I had to do and less concerned with perceptions and judgments.
So what are the three i’s? These are already very loaded terms, with as many definitions as there are shades of skin. Let’s focus on more internally-focused descriptions.
Never give up. See the challenges in your life as trials, not obstacles. Dare to prove people wrong. It’s hard to talk about heart without sounding cliché. But having heart is the first step to attaching yourself to the HiiiPower mindset. It is understanding that even though the road you travel on isn’t smooth, you have to persist in order to reach your goals. For someone dealing with social anxiety, heart could be standing up for yourself, trying a new clothing style, or speaking in front of a group of people. While the initial anxieties might stop you from trying, learning to push through the difficult times (through hard work) makes you grow a little stronger every day.
When you have heart, you start to feel a sense of power through discipline. With this power, you begin feeling an inherent sense of right and wrong. This is an essential facet of honor (and not far off from a common historical definition). It’s having dignity and being unwilling to compromise that dignity for any reason. It’s always keeping the fire in your heart burning, even when those around you aren’t as strong. You don’t want to take the easy way out, you want to give the best results. When you strive to be uncompromising in your beliefs—especially in the face of adversity—the honor that you bring to the table will be unmatched.
In some social situations, your honor might be what saves you. According to more recent research, "middle adolescence is an especially significant period for the development of the capacity to stand up for what one believes and resist the pressures of one’s peers to do otherwise." While it happens at all ages, we’re exposed to the most social pressures in our teenage years and up to our late-twenties. Those are the times we’re really trying to discover and establish who we are, so two things happen: the first is that we’re “confused,” and may not know the “right” way to go; the second is that we’re constantly bombarded by others’ definitions of what’s “right” or “cool.” Having a set of principles that you follow—even when the whole picture isn’t clear—can be a big source of reassurance, helping you navigate not just what’s right or wrong objectively, but what’s right and wrong for you. Honor can help center you when the world spins blindly around you.
Although last on the list, respect (and especially self-respect) is probably the most important step in empowering yourself and overcoming one’s social and personal issues. Building respect should always start from the inside – once you learn self-respect, it is much easier to project it outwardly. Sadly, a lot of us do the opposite and think of ourselves last. Here’s an example: think about how you’d feel flaking on plans with a friend, or being late to a commitment, something you promised you’d do. Now, think about how many times you promised yourself you’d do something (that benefits you), and you didn’t follow through?
It’s really not fair to yourself. If everything you have (or don’t) is a result of the things you do, then doing nothing for yourself will get you nothing. At the end of the day, while it might be that nobody has your back, you’re always there for yourself. Or, you should be. If you’re always there for yourself, everything you do goes more smoothly. It’s especially relevant for those dealing with social anxiety, because it can give you the confidence to speak or act in the way that you want, without worrying about how you’re being judged – if you’re comfortable with and believe in what you’re thinking, negative judgment will matter a lot less. Once you have respect for yourself, it’s much easier to have respect for others. Just as you understand that you have goals, sets of ideals, and paths unique to you—you’ll begin to see that others are dealing with the same processes. As you respect yourself and others, the feeling spreads, and it causes others to respect you.
Heart gives you the courage to push through difficult times. Honor gives you the conviction to keep pushing, even when doing otherwise seems easier or more fun. Respect—especially self-respect—gives you the understanding that there are paths we define for ourselves, and we should allow each other to walk our own paths. But it all starts with you – show your heart, hold onto your honor, and give respect to yourself and others wherever you go. Build yourself into someone you love, and start by loving yourself.
As I said before, I hold onto the three i’s with a vice grip. They help define who I am, and I’ve used them over and over as a source of empowerment, especially as I’ve faced new challenges and situations. I take them with me wherever I go, keeping them deep inside. But as I realized just how much the three i’s have helped me—to understand and love myself—I wanted the world to know. This was the inspiration for our "i ❤ i ❤ i" design, which you can find on our shirts and other products. I wanted people to ask me what the design means (which itself was a challenge, as I’ve always hated the spotlight). I want people to know how important the three i’s are, and that they start inside of you. The message was always the same – I love myself. And once you learn what that means, you can love yourself too.