Self love is a difficult concept to grasp in our judgemental age of selfies and vines. It’s difficult enough, I think, to fully love yourself and all that you are, without a thousand eyes watching you from behind a screen, able to stare long enough to notice your eyeliner is wonky. So why is it then, when we do appreciate ourselves enough to snap our new outfit or newly-passed driver’s license, that we will inevitably get someone call us vain or cocky, as if self love is a bad thing? I honestly believe it’s because we’re all as self-conscious as each other, and we don’t want anyone to know, so we’re immediately on the defence. When and if I ever get anyone calling me out for self love as if I were pointing a gun, I think to the phrase my mother once told me:
“those who are hurt hurt others.”
If someone is going out of their way to put you down for loving yourself, then, chances are, they do not fully love themselves – therefore we should not retaliate with screenshots and indirect tweets, but balance out their defensiveness with kind words and thoughts. After all, we all know the pain of not loving ourselves, so we can all sympathise.
Think for a moment – if we were to all focus on our own self love and being comfortable with who we are both physically and as a person, surely we would all end up a lot happier? At the end of the day, what does it matter to you if that guy wears a fluorescent pink tracksuit or if that girl constantly posts her artwork? Good on them! Congratulate them for loving themselves because heck we know how tough that journey is! Treat their positivity with kindness, not jealousy. If you see someone post a selfie and you get upset or angry, take a minute to think why you feel this way – is there any point taking it out of the person behind the selfie? No. It’s your own demons that are causing you this pain and you alone are responsible for them.
Now I know loving yourself is easier said than done. It’s easy to say, “you’re amazing!” “you’re gorgeous!” “you should love yourself!” when in actual fact, if it was that simple, the world would be a lot nicer and we would inevitably be a lot happier. I know it’s not easy to suddenly accept how you look and who you are; we spend our entire school-life (and if not beyond that) re-inventing ourselves and re-inventing ourselves trying to discover which version we like best, that half the time we don’t even know who we are any more. Breathe. Take a minute to yourself to just be with yourself, and breathe.
What makes you happy; what do you enjoy doing? Ok, well that’s something about you that you know. Do you think you’re a good person? Yes? Great! No? Here’s some tough love for you that I know helped me: if there’s something about you as a person, regarding your personality and how you treat others, that you don’t like, you have the full power within you to change it. So start now. Be nicer to that teacher at school, to that boy in the corridor, spend more time on the maths questions you know you can do, save that bit of money you’re constantly spending each month. Do it! What’s really stopping you other than you?
But listen now, because I don’t want anyone overthinking my words here. If what you don’t like about yourself as a person is something that is a result of a mental illness, then the words above do not apply to that. Yes, of course, if you think “actually, I CAN tackle this,” then that’s fantastic news! However, if you’ve tried and tried to speak up in class, snap out of that bad mood, ignore the voices, ignore the urges, and you just can’t beat it, then do NOT beat yourself up about this. A mental illness is just as disabling as a physical one and just because you’re not puking your guts up doesn’t mean you are not sick. It’s ok that you feel this way. Well, it’s not ok, because I’m sure it sucks, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re trying and trying and feel like you’re getting nowhere. You’re doing great. Getting out of bed? Amazing! Going through a whole lesson? Amazing! Take baby steps and remind yourself that it’s ok to feel this way, and that it won’t last forever. I wish you all the best of luck in loving these parts of you, because it’s going to be one tough journey. But it is so worth it.
In regards to how you look, self love is really rather difficult – I know! But something you must remember is this: if someone judges you based on your appearance or doesn’t like you because of it, if they make fun of you because of something a trivial as a zit – they are not your friend. They do not care about you, and you deserve better. You have the full right to rid your life of toxic people and I urge you to do so, for your own sanity and peace of mind. The moment you start accepting that you deserve better, better people begin to enter your life. And surrounding yourself with the right people for you will help so much with your confidence! But at the end of the day, it’s only you that can accept who you are and love yourself fully. It will take time, so start small. Start listing all the positive things about your face that you love – like your lips or eyelashes – and eventually you’ll be able to list of every inch of your beautiful self.
Remember though, life is so much bigger than this one moment. What you’re feeling now, all that self hatred, although important to you (I’m not denying the importance and significance of it), it IS so small compared to the entirety of the world. Now I’m not saying that this makes your suffering or feelings any less because that is not the case – if it is important to you and makes you upset then it is important. End of story. I’m just saying that when in the depths of self-hatred, take a walk. Breathe in the air provided by the universe for you and watch how funny it is when dogs walk. How cute babies’ laughs are. You are so much more than this body you’re encased in and if you are kind and think beautiful thoughts then beauty will radiate out from within you. You do not see yourself when you are laughing all crinkly-eyed and open mouthed. You do not see your chest rise and fall when you are sleeping. You do not see the ways your eyes light up when you talk about something you’re passionate about. So stop judging yourself so much, when you barely see you.
You are a beautiful creature of the earth and you have every right to love yourself.
Photograph by Nicole-Shola Edwards