Whenever I think about Self-love, I imagine Julia Roberts riding her bicycle in Europe and eating hella food in “Eat, Pray, Love.” Confession: I love this extremely-white and unrealistic movie for me (she made Europe look so fun).
Look, I definitely bought into this whole Self-love movement. I’m all about women’s empowerment and healing but, yeah this whole loving yourself thing was (and is) extremely hard. I’m still waiting for my how-to guide but that’s besides the point. First of all, love is a strong word. It’s easy to play tug-of-war with Self-love and Self-hatred. For example, one day I could be loving on myself because I’m in a super productive mood, and the next day I’m hating on myself for sleeping until 4 p.m.
Eventually, the inner-critic in me starts telling me that I’m doing Self-love wrong because, Self-love IS productive… right? It’s buying things to help you relax and it’s spending alone time with yourself right? These are the ideals I became fixated on for months. My ego however, kept telling me I was a failure every single time I didn’t feel that intense and passionate chemistry with myself. I started a riot with Self-love on days when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed or comb my hair. I criticized myself for wanting affection and attention from others because I should be able to do that for myself! I screamed and fought with my insides over how annoying it was of me to want more than materials to soothe me. I couldn’t believe my face masks, bath bombs, and lush products were NOT working 🙄
It wasn’t until recently that I came to this conclusion: I honestly don’t know how to love myself. I’ve only every heard others force-feed the phrase to one another on “off” days. I’ve only ever seen it commercialized and branded, in the name of “women’s empowerment.” I’ve seen the phrase be worn as a band-aid; a quick “fix” of advice. I’ve seen it thrown around and mis-kept, as if love isn’t one of the most sacred forms of intimacy. I’ve seen it lodged in between instagram posts about trauma, abuse, and normalizing AI.
“Self love is easy and obtainable!” that is the narrative I was sold in 2020.
2 years later, I’m here to say that I want my damn refund.
The Truth About Self-love
Just a day before August, it was like the everything clicked for me and the stars aligned. If you don’t already know- ya girl be going through it. So this whole breakthrough I had was huge. So of course the first thing I did was run right to twitter to share my thoughts.
Long story short, there are LEVELS to this. Because of the popularity of the term “Self-love,” I forgot that Self-care exists, Self-compassion exists, Self-esteem exists, Self-confidence exists and (my personal favorite) Self-acceptance. Those are the ingredients for Self-love.
Again, love is a strong word. It’s powerful and healing, but it’s also not really that easy to understand. Especially if you have trauma or mental illnesses. That’s why I think Self-love is more effective as an idea, rather than something that could be put into practice and maintained. However, I think Self-care can be packaged. I wish they would’ve used that for their marketing campaign instead. Labeling face-masks as care is a lot more reasonable (to me) than labeling them as love. Love is complicated. It can’t be bought or sold so I guess that’s why I was confused at first.
On the other hand, maybe this was all implied. Maybe I’m the only one who was confused about Self-love having ingredients… I’m not sure. I just felt robbed of something when I saw and heard the phrase everywhere- as if it was easy and obtainable in 90 days. I completely forgot about acceptance.
The Key to Self-Love is Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance is step one. Once you embrace and accept yourself as you are right now, that’s when you can begin cultivating Self-love. It doesn’t have anything to do with changing yourself. That’s right, no dying your hair, shaving it all off or buying a $2000 ticket to Dubai. It’s literally sitting with yourself and your situation and saying: this is what it is and it’s all mine. It’s holding yourself accountable for all that is you and reclaiming your autonomy. It’s celebrating your humanness by letting yourself be. Just be.
One of my favorite quotes/affirmations is: “I accept the things I cannot change.” And when it comes to Self, there is nothing that needs fixing, there doesn’t need to be a quick solution and impulsivity doesn’t need to be involved. By accepting yourself, you are committing to love. You are reaffirming who you are by actively being compassionate and gentle when life gets overwhelming.
Here are some ways that I choose to practice Self-acceptance:
- Journaling about it. Whenever I start to feel any doubt, worry or stress, journaling really helps to get those thoughts out on paper. I always remind myself of what’s not benefitting me vs. what is. For example, the state of the world makes me really depressed, so when I remind myself that my time here is limited and precious- it helps me actualize and accept that I’m here right now because I’m supposed to be. I also make sure to remind myself that I am not my emotions.
- Being kind to myself. Honestly this one is pretty difficult. It’s hard not to compare your life and habits to someone else. But it’s really important to actually just let yourself feel your feelings instead of locking them away. I noticed that locking away feelings only makes them rot, grow and/or pile up. So when they finally come out it’s like the worst possible scenario and the next thing you know, you’re in Walmart having a full on panic attack.
- Embracing what makes me unique and special. It’s asking yourself: who am I? What am I made of? What is my family made of? What are my people made of? Then answering in love and in kindness because we are made up of all of the good things to (despite maybe focusing on the bad).
Self-acceptance is active. It is the route to being yourself, authentically, and unapologetically. It is the door that leads you to Self-forgiveness, Self-confidence, Self-compassion and Self-approval. It grants you the ability to manage your emotions effectively and most importantly, it widens your capacity to experience and be present in joy.
Just like Self-love, the journey to Self-acceptance is not easy. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of positive reinforcement tactics and a whole lot of patience. I’m learning every single day how important it is though. How important it is to let your true self free. As cliché as it may sound, being yourself should be the goal. Being exactly who you are when people are watching, but especially when all the younger versions of you are watching.
Your Angel, Ash ❤