Ah, self love. I feel like it is such a buzzword nowadays. But does anyone really know what it means?
Since we are currently in ‘love month’ and have recently celebrated Valentine’s Day, and 100 posts on the blog, I’m feeling all of the love lately. I thought now would be the perfect time to dive in to the self love movement and talk a bit about what this movement gets wrong, what self love could actually look like, and how you can get to that point.
A quick google search of the words “self love” brings up millions of hits, along with countless suggestions of how to practice self love. A recent article on Forbes even notes that Pinterest searches for “manifestation” and “self love” have increased in the pandemic. There are so many options out there about ways to cultivate this self love. Options range from stop comparing yourself, don’t listen to the opinions of others, make mistakes, let go of toxic people, put yourself first, be kind, love others, be accepting, love your body, be spiritual, forgive yourself, be creative, find your happy place – the list goes on and on. Some of these suggestions may be helpful for some people, and some I may have even perpetuated myself. Unfortunately, many of these options are simply suggestions and often don’t really dig in to the how of getting there.
If these aspects are not a conscious habit of yours, and you have unconsciously been doing the opposite for years, how do you reverse it? For example, how can you stop comparing yourself if it’s something you have done your entire life? Many of these options are much easier said than done. This lack of providing real concrete steps on how to achieve self love is one of the problems with the movement: focusing on these aspects with no indication of how to actually achieve them can feel superficial and difficult to grasp. To me, self love seems to be a lot deeper than that.
Furthermore, what happens if you try all of these different options to achieve so-called “self love”, and you still don’t feel it? Then what? Are you then considered a “failure” and will never achieve “self love”? Obviously, that is not the case. Everyone is capable of reaching towards self love, and I think this highlights another aspect where the movement falls short: self love looks different for everyone. Perhaps for some people, that self love does come from some of the examples mentioned earlier. Perhaps for others, taking on these examples doesn’t bring them any closer to self love. And for others still, a combination may be needed. It really varies by person and I believe it is up to you to determine what aspects will lead you towards self love.
This brings me to another big problem that I have with the self love movement: many of the suggestions within this movement seem to be focused on the fact that self love is something you can achieve, as some sort of final destination or end point. Rather, I believe self love is instead a continual practice, a process, and a journey that doesn’t really have an end. Perhaps the reason that end does not exist is because we are always changing and growing as our lives change, and with each new change brings new aspects of our selves that we need to learn to appreciate, in all of its complexities.
Admittedly, I’ve thrown around these words of “self love” a lot, without fully diving in to its complexity. I’ve claimed to love myself and be a part of the “self love club” even though there have been so many parts of me that I’ve disliked and been critical towards. How can I claim to be a part of this movement without actually doing the internal work to get to the point where I truly love myself? And if this is the case, then what does my journey towards self love look like?
To me, self love is all of those little moments. When you make a decision that will be beneficial for you, whether now or in the future. When you extend grace to yourself, when you do things right and when you mess up. When you choose to partake in something that brings you joy a little bit more, rather than engaging in toxic practices. When you can accept yourself as you are while also striving for the future.
I am in no way at the “end” of this journey and maybe I’m not even halfway through it – but it is a journey that I have started on, and a journey I am looking forward to continuing. Focusing on these little moments for me has been a big step forward in that journey. Finding those times to extend grace, joy, and acceptance while simultaneously finding new ways to move forward in the betterment of self; acknowledging these complexities, sitting with these dichotomies, and knowing that some days are better than others; it is all a part of the journey. This journey of self love is complex, and captures all of these small moments, added up together.
Just when you thought I would tell you how to get to the point of “self love” – I can’t! I truly believe it is a journey that I am currently in the middle of, and I believe this journey does look different for everyone. My path will likely not be the same as yours, and that is okay. I don’t think we will reach that end point or final destination where you can fully claim self love, as I think it is more of a continual practice that changes as we change. Perhaps self love is something that we need to practice everyday until it becomes a habit, something that feels as natural and common as brushing your teeth when you wake up.
Though I acknowledge this journey will look different for everyone and each person is at a different point on that journey, perhaps I can share some more tips on how to start this process. Start by consciously telling yourself that you are enough. You do not need to change yourself to be good enough, you are as you are. Start by looking in the mirror and saying “I appreciate you.” Start by making the decision that is best for you. Start by doing the things that bring you joy. Start by appreciating yourself in the good and the bad. Start by acknowledging that you will grow and change, and that is okay – but you can accept the you that you are today, while still holding space for the you that will be in the future.
Remember that self love is a journey rather than a destination. It will continue to ebb and flow as we change and grow. Keeping these aspects in mind throughout my own journey has been deeply beneficial for me moving forward, and I hope that it will be beneficial for you as well, wherever you are at on your journey.
Do you have thoughts about self love or your own journey that you would like to share? Let me know in the comments! <3