It’s a myth that people are just born with confidence.

Your confidence is something that is built on many factors. Small to big interactions can shape how you feel about yourself. I spent a large part of my life without confidence. Bullies and the images of what “beauty” or “health” looked like kept me reserved and feeling powerless. I just hoped one day I’d wake up and finally love myself.

But like in any relationship, it’s hard work. Love can be inconsistent, but it’s extremely rewarding. Patience has been key. I respect my time and understand I’m just as strong when I’m feeling down.

I’ve come to learn that there are some key factors that’ve helped me get to where I am today. I want to share them with you, in the hopes that you, too, can find them helpful on your journey to build confidence and experience all that self-love has to offer.

I think one of the hardest parts of blogging in the plus-size world as a size 22 model was realizing most models aren’t plus size. A not so well-known fact is that most models pad. For those who don’t know what padding is, it’s when a smaller size model (like size 10 or 12) will put padding under their clothes to appear curvy or thicker.

For a long time, I believed in order to be a beautiful plus-size woman, you had to be born with a slim neck, thin face, and flat stomach. Don’t be fooled! The media is still pumping out unrealistic body standards. They’ve literally created another cookie-cutter standard, just slightly bigger. All women aren’t created with an hourglass figure, and that’s OK!

The people you surround yourself with will also make a huge difference in the way you view yourself and others. I’ve constantly sought out people who have a positive and open mind. I know that without the relationships I’ve formed, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Support is something everyone needs. You can get in many forms — friends, family, even an online community. You know your people when you find them.

I know we’re all super into our online fix, but like I said above, finding proper representation is key. There’s so much room for negativity online. I urge you to follow at least three people online who give a positive message about anything. Realizing that there are other people out there who think and feel the same way as you is always reassuring. It will also boost your confidence.

This is a huge one for me. My lack of confidence never allowed me to invest the effort or time to be involved in the beauty and fashion arena. Once I understood what I was seeing was a front and I began surrounding myself with more positive people, everything changed.

Investing in yourself means freeing up your mind for more positive thoughts and actions. You can do anything you set your mind to. Give yourself a break when things are rough, but don’t let those thoughts occupy valuable mind real estate.

Self-investment can also be a nice treat for yourself. You want that swimsuit modeled (or “meant”) for a different-sized gal? (Whatever that means, anyway!) Get it and rock it the way you want. Make yourself a priority, and watch it pay off.

It’s so hard to move forward with so many people weighing you down, using your weight as a conversation starter. Critics come in many shapes and forms, from trolls and unsolicited “health” advice, to even snide comments from family.

When a stranger’s words bring me down, I think, what does their opinion mean to me? Where’s this comment really coming from? People often insult others because they’re feeling insecure themselves, or they simply don’t understand someone else’s point of view. Use this knowledge to help others understand and help themselves. And as the old saying goes: Kill ‘em with kindness.

One of the hardest things for me was to put myself out there. Without confidence, it feels like everything you do is a risk. Boredom overcame the fear. I was bored of the same dull outcomes and put myself out there to see what would happen.

This is especially relevant when it comes to shopping. I constantly find pieces of clothing I’m afraid of but absolutely love. If you find a piece you love, don’t just glance over it and kiss it a sweet goodbye. TRY IT ON! You’d be surprised how good something looks on you when you accessorize with a little confidence.

I know how hard this one is. As humans, we constantly need to compare ourselves to others. This is one of the biggest things that can bring you down. I know some social media can make you think of #goals, but as my dad says, “All that glitters is not gold.”

Some media is made to show a sunny, easy life. But as you and everyone else know, that isn’t true. People are all on their own paths and will excel at different paces. Follow your own journey to greatness.

Creativity stems from effort and care. And being a more creative person will give you more confidence. To be creative means to use your imagination and produce original ideas. When you create your own way to do things, there’s no right and wrong. There’s just YOU. Whether it’s the way you put together an outfit or how you decide to do your makeup, find a way to make it your own!

I realized a long time ago that I have the power to perceive situations however I please. I also came to understand that when I’ve given something my all and can’t do anything else to change it, I have to make peace with the situation and move on.

Dwelling on situations, past or present, will only add stress and sadness to your life. You’ll become a more confident person the moment you realize that you have the “power of perception,” even in situations in which you may feel the most powerless.

When you stare at something long enough, you’ll find always flaws. Realize that you see your body in the most detail the most often — meaning you likely have taken the time to pick apart every little thing. The average passerby doesn’t have this time, and won’t likely notice the tiny details you criticize about yourself.

It’s OK to note opportunities for yourself to improve. But don’t let yourself be so critical that you make unrealistic expectations for yourself. You’ll go crazy trying to live up to them.

For every part of your body that you’d change, find one thing you’re grateful for. Realize that vanity is a luxury many people in this world aren’t afforded. You’re beautiful how you are. This requires you to realize that beauty is more than skin-deep. Count your blessings for what you have. You’ll feel less of what you don’t!

Natalie Johnson is the founder of Shameless Creature, a blog she started in 2016 to help bring positive and beautiful vibes to the plus-sized community. Shameless Creatures covers travel, fashion, and lifestyle, and was created to break boundaries in the plus-sized blogging world. Join Natalie as she dances, dines, and explores new worlds and people shamelessly as a plus-sized woman.