Recently there has been a rise in the self-love movement. A wave of ‘love yourself’, ‘embrace your natural beauty’ and ‘you matter’ buzzwords are hitting us from all angles. And while of course, I am all for this messaging, I think the way it is marketed can be a little… irritating.
And I say marketed because it seems a lot of brands are capitalising on the movement, joining in with the self-love mantras whilst simultaneously selling you their products (which always irks me, but that’s a post for another time). What annoys me about some of this messaging is the way it’s made to look SO EASY.
Like all we’ve ever needed in life was for some clothing brand to tell us to love ourselves and *poof* all of our insecurities disappear.
Umm, no. That’s not going to happen.
It’s great that so many organisations and brands are pushing a new message, one that’s telling us we are enough, but the reality is that this message can be very hard for some of us to swallow… and it takes a lot more than a few adverts to convince us.
Many of us have grown up believing we aren’t enough. That we’re not pretty / smart / creative / rich / nice / thin enough. That we are lacking. That if we only did X or Y, we would reach that goal of ‘enough’. So for the media to now turn around and say ‘love yourself!’ it’s no wonder we’re left shaking our heads in confusion.
For many of us, and especially those who live with mental health struggles or body image issues, self-love seems so far away it’s not even worth entertaining.
And this is what upsets me. While it’s great to promote the message of self-love, just shouting it from the rooftops isn’t enough. Learning to love who you are is a process, a journey. It takes time, it takes work… and we need to know the practical steps along the way to help us get there.
This is what we need more of. Education. Support. Help. Sure, the brands I guess are doing their bit by pushing a healthier message, but where is the support to help us get there? And the thing is, it is out there… It’s just not getting the attention or backing it deserves.
I personally believe there is a route to self-love and that if more of us took this route, our mental health would benefit. Of course I’m not going to say any condition can be cured with self-love alone, because that simply isn’t true. I just know that for many people, being able to love themselves hugely supports and improves their mental health.
So what is this journey to self-love? I’m certainly no expert and none of this is backed by science, it’s merely what I’ve noticed over the years having gone through the journey myself. An observation if you will. But here are my thoughts on the route.
I think the first step to loving yourself has to be self-awareness. Understanding yourself better, being in tune with what your body and mind need and recognising your triggers is essential. For some people this step may involve meditation, journaling or talking it out. For others it could mean long-term psychological support.
We all have different experiences and will all need different things to get us where we want to go.
When we’re aware of our needs and wants we can start to actively look after those needs. We can give ourselves permission to care for ourselves, learn when to slow down, how to set boundaries and be kind to ourselves. With self-care, we’re telling ourselves we’re worthy of being taken care of.
Illustration by Frances Cannon
Through self-awareness and self-care comes self-acceptance. That glorious feeling when you realise you ARE enough. When you’ve managed to drown out the noise of your inner critic and accept the person reflected back at you. You accept that you look this way, that you need X or Y to be happy. You accept and embrace every part of yourself (good and bad).
And of course, this is the lovely bit isn’t it? When you not only accept who you are, but you actively love who you are. You make no apologies for your presence, you take up space, you have a voice. You find your passions and pursue them. You wear whatever makes you feel good. You look in the mirror and smile because you know you are more than your physical body. You are complicated, multi-faceted and brilliant.
This is quite the journey and while it certainly isn’t possible in the space of a two-minute advert, it IS possible. And even when you get to the self-love bit, it isn’t something you’ll feel at full force every day. Emotions and moods change all the damn time. And some days, even when we love ourselves, we can get sick of being us.
But when you have reached that place of self-love, you’ll have that to fall back on. You’ll bounce back from bad days. You’ll have a foundation of love to rebuild on. But we often need a little help getting there.
Some self-love resources:
Courage + Spice podcast (And anything Sas Petherick writes/does!)
Self-Esteem Team (if you’re keen to develop self-esteem in teens and little ones)
Self-love events (I just searched ‘self-love’ in London, you can of course search anywhere!)
Practice You journal (I got this as a gift from my friend Zoe and am working my way through it and loving every moment)
Lyzi’s beautiful post on learning to love herself (her post inspired this ramble, so thank you Lyzi for reminding us it’s OK to be on a journey)
My guide to self-acceptance, self-love and confidence (sorry, had to plug myself just a little…)
These are just a few ideas to get you started. I guess what I want you to take away from this post is that it’s absolutely OK if you don’t love yourself. It’s OK if you feel like shit every time an advert screams at you to just ‘be yourself’. You don’t have to be there yet.
Just know that there are paths to get there and while they may take time and work, they are so worth pursuing. And never feel ashamed to reach out for help on your way.
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