Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A Few Thoughts on Self-Love

The first photo of myself I can remember loving, double chin and all.   
June is the first month is the first I've been home from college in quite a while, and as such I've had a great deal more time alone with my thoughts than I usually do (the other day I was so overwhelmed by my wandering mind that I quite literally burst into tears... more on this another time). I'd say I live pretty much entirely inside my head, and if I don't communicate my thoughts and feelings it can all get to be a little much. Sometimes I'll be on the train, or watching a YouTube video, or reading a novel, when a thought crosses my mind and I just need to write about it in some way or I think I might explode. So I thought I'd share some of that here, just fragments of what I've been thinking.

This month I've been thinking a lot about self-love: what informs self-love, what promotes it, how it functions in today's society. I've read a number of articles with varying titles: 20 Ways to Practice Self-Love and the like. It seems that mass media wants women to exist in a self-perpetuating identity crisis. We're told to love ourselves, and then bombarded with messages of what we should eat, wear, buy and strive to be (very rarely should we strive to be ourselves, according to the articles I've seen). That said, I had the sudden realization earlier this year that without trying or even really thinking much about it, I found myself very much a promoter of self-love and respect, because I honestly do love myself, and I don't think it's nearly as challenging as mainstream women's magazines want us to believe.

In my experience, no guide to self-love will ever be effective. It's as simple as it sounds, really: the key to loving yourself is just to love yourself... and everything that it encompasses. There are no steps to take. It's as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Love the best bits, love the imperfections, love the parts of yourself that you're working on, love the fact that you are trying and love that you will keep trying no matter what. Love everything that you are, always. If you're struggling with body positivity, just remind yourself that your body is capable of climbing mountains and carrying you through your life. Start right now, and never stop. Swap negativity for love, and don't look back. Don't ever become angry with yourself, don't regret decisions that you consciously made, and don't compare yourself to others because this only leads to toxic downward spirals.

One harsh truth I've learned, and I'm glad I've learned it early in life: you need to look out for yourself, because sometimes you're the only one who is. While it is important to surround yourself with positive people who promote self-love, it needs to come from within first.

Once you make this commitment, the opinions of others seem to pale in comparison to how you feel about yourself. On days when getting out of bed and putting two feet on the floor seems like a daunting task, remember that it was you that made it through every tough day you've ever had before. Love and embrace that. Love the courage it takes to keep moving when things are hard, but also love the courage it takes to speak up and say "I'm not okay and I need some help." In my experience, that's the hardest part of all. And that's when self-love is most important.

On a wider scale, I think that accepting everything that you are has hugely positive effects on the people around you, and every interaction you will have for the rest of your life. If you're comfortable in your own skin, and you're comfortable making mistakes and even embracing them, then others around you are more likely to be as well. That's some of the most positive change you can promote, and it all starts with you.

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