Self love. Yeah, we’ve been hearing a lot of it going around lately. The chatter about it i mean. Not the actual self love. Because by the time we actually hear it enough to pay attention, we’re already a couple steps behind, aren’t we? You see, since we’re born and the way we’re raised, we’re taught a different definition of how we can come to love ourselves. And it starts early on, right from our education. Getting great scores in Mathematics and Accountancy means that you’re smart. You gotta love yourself if you’re smart right? Doesn’t matter if numbers make you miserable and you would rather get lost in the rhymes of Wordsworth.
Or maybe you’d love yourself more if you looked better? Had a lot of friends and were quite popular? Maybe that would fill up that void you feel inside. That’s gotta be it, right?
Or perhaps it’s about loving the right person. The right “kind”. Equally amenable, great family, perfect profession and correct gender. Because loving is important, but only when it’s deemed appropriate by complete strangers that make up something we call a “society” God, that sounds like a lot of work!
But certainly, if you have all of this you must love yourself. Even when all the right things feel absolutely wrong. I mean the world thinks you have a perfect life and it does look surreal on Instagram, so surely you’re the one that’s mistaken? Despite the fact that it feels like a job to get out of bed and act the way you’re supposed to in order to justify the perfect life. The perfect role.
But what if, and humor me here for a minute, you were to question the very definition of what the world perceives as perfect? What if you started deciding your actions based on what makes your stomach do a backflip, even if that means you’d have lesser people in your court. Reading more, listening to music in your room instead of going to a social event week after week because you’re expected to or because you need to please someone or the other?
Saying adios to that high paying, blood sucking job and instead going for one that pays less but that you can’t wait to get to? Canceling a hangout to sit alone in a cafe with just your thoughts and your coffee. Making friends based on how they make you feel over how they make you look?
If you ask me, that sounds much less exhausting.
I know this because I’ve been there. I’ve been so exhausted. We all have at some point.
Here’s the thing though – everything takes work and learning. Or in this case unlearning. We’re not only the product of our actions but the actions of generations that came before us. Decades of toxic teachings in the name of what’s “proper”. A facade that we carried on for years. Because let’s face it, people-pleasing starts at home with trying to win the approval of our elders and loved ones. So try…and try hard so that the sins of our previous generations don’t translate into the punishment of those who come after us. Or even those who stand with us.
Understand that self love isn’t always what people tell you it is. Because just like our experiences, the definition of love is different for all of us. So maybe loving yourself means dressing up your best and taking yourself out to a treat after a hard week. But it could also mean staying in your bed in pyjamas and allowing yourself to drop the charade and cry because you feel like shit. Acknowledging that you’re only human and it’s not the end of the world. Being kind to yourself first.
It can mean hitting the gym for that body you want and it can also mean having a night of binge eating and not feeling guilty about it.
It can mean following the conventional definition of love, but it can also mean creating one of your own.
We’re in a crisis of self love because most of us were taught to look for it in things that didn’t matter. Not in the long run. Not by a long shot. But maybe we can change the rules, or better yet, remove them altogether. A little bit at a time. And hopefully someday we step out in a world that understands love for what it truly is. Something beyond definition or boundaries and restrictions.
Oh, and in case I wasn’t clear before… FUCK “proper”.