Is it crazy that it’s taken 30 years for me feel truly comfortable with myself? I can’t help but get upset when I look back over the years at the absolute hell I put myself through – both physically and mentally – in a desperate search to achieve whatever I defined as perfect at the time. Reflecting on what self-love means to me, this week I decided to turn the camera on myself, literally and figuratively, in a series of self portraits.
I know these ‘self-love’ type conversations can put people off, but more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon – because it works. And because it’s important: you really can’t show love outwardly until you focus inward (I was trying my hardest not to quote RuPaul here, but you get the idea).
Self-love can be hard to find, however, as if you don’t feel it to begin with, attempts to discover it are fraught with difficulties. And when you’re fighting against yourself, you might feel that the changes you need to feel comfortable will never come fast enough. You’ll burn out, and become angry and upset at failure.
While making change may take commitment to start, it’s consistency that’s needed to finish. If you begin your journey from a place of love and acceptance, that consistency is much easier to achieve. Saying to yourself, ‘I’m not there yet – but I’m on my way, and that’s OK’ is a healthy place to be. Failure is not a flaw; it’s a stepping stone.
There’s a reason for the old adage, ‘someone who has never failed has never tried hard enough’.
Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it. – Maya Angelou
I’ve always been pretty open on this blog, especially about my weight struggles growing up. I was a large kid, tipping the scales at 17 stone with a 40+ inch waist due to a mix of genetics and lack of a healthy relationship with food. It’s taken a LONG time to get to a place where I can truly say I’m OK with my body.
I remember when the slightest dig at my body would make me spiral, I was so conscious and hated putting myself in a position to have it critiqued. I’ve put it through some insane things, from every single diet you can imagine (Dukan, check! Weight watches, check!, juice cleanse, check! Atkins, check! I even gave up solid food for over a week while doing Beyoncé’s tree-syrup diet – I know, insane).
But now, even though I still have things I would change (of course I do, we all do) I can wholeheartedly say that I love my body. And it’s only since being at peace with my own body that I’ve affected any real change in it.
Your sense of self starts young
One area of my life I’ve never spoken about before was my childhood. It wasn’t the most idyllic. A barely-there father who seemed hell bent on destroying the family, left us in a council-run ‘halfway house’ type place just to get away, and me with a lot of anger as I entered my early adult years.
This anger affected a lot of relationships, and I’m forever thankful for those who stuck through it with me as I worked out my shit. It took a long time to let it go. I had unfairly high expectation on others and what I wanted from them, clearly trying to fill the gap previously left. Accepting I had these flaws was also an issue: I didn’t want to accept that I’d come out of my childhood damaged. I wanted to have defeated it and survived unscathed.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that this hangover from growing up trickled out into the rest of my life, affecting my view on the rest my life and that only by addressing these issues that I was able to move forward.
Self-acceptance isn’t easy, it’s long-term practice. It’s also a balancing act; self-love and self-hate are both equally self-centered acts, and both can have poisonous consequences when taken too far.
Five simple ways to practice self-love
1. Build a support group
People are important. Surround yourself with people that value everything you are, as you are. And don’t be afraid to cut out those who don’t.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
It sounds like the most cliched phrase on the planet, but it’s SO true. I mean, break it down and actually think about it; how would it even make sense to compare? Different lives, background, social and financial circumstances out of your control can affect us and they have no bearing person to person. you can even go down to the simple level of genetics. It just can’t be compared.
3. Create a self-love routine
Whether you can spare five minutes in the morning, or can managed an hour a day or once a week, dedicate time to yourself and looking after yourself. Whether that’s simply switching off and doing something you enjoy, or meditating or indulging in some pampering. With self-love it’s important to understand the motive. Jonathan van Ness, the new hero from Netflix’s new Queer Eye reboot, nailed it perfectly when he said ‘It’s about self-care, not vanity. there’s a difference’. Self-love is about giving your body the care it deserves, inside and out.
4. Be your own biggest fan
Cosmetic surgeon and author of ‘Psycho-cybernetics‘ Maxwell Maltz said “If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone.” I think that just about sums it up. Be comfortable with yourself. Champion yourself and believe in your own goals. Don’t critique them based on other’s opinions.
5. Hold your own well-being in as high regard as you do others
We are all worthy of being treated well. But you have to set the bar. If you set a standard of care for yourself and an expectation or your own worth, people around you will pick up on this and act accordingly. If you don’t show people what you’re not willing to put up with your how you’re willing to be made to feel, people take advantage. Willingly or not.
Thus ends my ramble (sorry!). Maybe some of this will resonate with you, but this was on my mind this week and I wanted to share it with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-love/care or whatever you want to call it. Do you think it’s all BS? Or can it have tangible affects on your life?
You know the drill, comment below!