I initially started writing this post a month or so ago one night at my parents’ house, and gee I must’ve been in a subconscious bad mood or SOMETHING – because what started off as an idea of promoting positive body image and self love turned into almost a rant with some very unproductive dot points. So let’s start fresh, because reading what I previously wrote makes me want to roll my eyes and tell that girl to cheer up and stop making silly excuses.
As you’ve probably noticed, self love was one of the biggest trends of 2015, with it still going strong this year – or at least that’s how it’s felt on my instagram feed. Gone are the days of crazy fad diets and intense exercise routines to simply look good and achieve that unobtainable Victoria’s Secret Angel body; now replaced with more practical lifestyle changes that are not only supposed to improve your health, but make you feel all glowy inside and out.
It’s certainly an improvement from the days where a teatox was the latest craze, and every second women’s magazine had some kind of cover story revolving around “How to lose weight fast” or “How to look like so and so”. Hell, this is still happening. I’m not naive – tiny waists and thigh gaps still sell in the fashion world. But thankfully, a worthy competitor has arisen that is encouraging gals and women alike to love the bodies that they are in. That yes, there are things you can do to have a healthier lifestyle, but encourages only that which helps you have a healthier mind as well.
Self-help books have become oh so chic again, but this time round they have cuter covers and catchier titles, that target all women as a way to improve themselves to be the best that they can be, rather than to fix what they feel is broken. Now, I am all for self-love and positive body image, but I still have that little voice in the back of my head saying “are you really desperate enough to buy that?” when I look at the enlightenment section in my local book store. Is that my Mean Girl talking? Probably. But she does raise a valid point – at what point do I have to decide that I’m unhappy with who I am and want to feel better about myself?
Loving yourself ultimately leads to self-confidence, which is turn is (unfortunately, always) linked to body image. So essentially, in order to love yourself, you have to love and accept your body, which can be really fucking hard. We are bought up to compare ourselves to everyone and everything. Who’s the smartest in the class. Who’s the fastest runner. Who has a nicer car. Who has a better job. Who looks better in that outfit. This internal commentary is on a constant loop in the back of our minds, and can easily turn a normal day into a shit one. School is the absolute worst for this, and I for one and am so so fucking glad that I don’t ever have to repeat high school again, purely because of how self-conscious it makes you feel. Once you graduate and get out of your home town, you almost become a phoenix and can be reborn if you choose. You can dress how you want, or wear your hair how you like, and pick who you share details of your personal life with. It’s totally liberating, and really helps you grow into your own.
So a few short years after my graduation, in rolls the self-love trend, saying how important it is for us to take a step back and have some much needed ‘me time’ and learn to love ourselves again. Because as 21st century women we are bombarded with ways on how to look better or eat better or be better, and everything has turned into one giant competition with yesterday’s self. Now, we are being encouraged to take a long bath and take ourselves out to lunch and write ourselves a love letter. Sounds corny, right? Well, it seems to be working, with these self-love and happiness coaches popping up left, right and centre offering us life changing advice and teaching women to become empowered in their own skin.
Have I actually ever read any of these books or attended these courses? No. So I can’t comment on any personal experiences or what they have done to change my outlook on life. But it has got me thinking about how we really all do need to be a little kinder to ourselves. Sure, we might not be doing the best that we can in the exercise department (i.e. using shopping as our cardio) or losing our way with this year’s goals, but if you’re alive and healthy and have a job and enough free time to do the things you enjoy, then you’re doing A-OK in my books.
For me, self-love is more about acceptance. Accepting who you are as a person and accepting all the flaws that come with being you. I once read this quote that went along the lines of “if you were a character in a book then the reader would love you for all your little quirks and flaws” and I thought that it was such a sweet and charming way to look at things, because that’s why I usually fall in love with characters in books. The messier and more complicated the better. The crazier the past, the more mysterious they are. And no, you’re life isn’t some dreamy novel with a perfect ending to each story. But it’s a nice thought to have that if someone else out there was reading your ‘story’ they would fall utterly head over heels for all the things that make you you.
So next time you’re feeling crap or flat about yourself, maybe have a look at some of these gurus’ websites – or if you’re not falling down that rabbit hole just yet, try doing a basic mediation session (some are as little as 5 minutes and can do wonders for your mindset) to try and clear the yucky feelings from your brain. I know from personal experience that when you’re feeling shit, EVERYTHING just seems unappealing, but I tell you what, if you own a bath tub frigging get in that thing and SOAK. I can’t think of anything that a long, hot bath with some good music won’t fix, even if it’s just for a little while.
All in all, I’m still very much on my self-love journey. I am totally guilty of being a lazy little shit and considering self-love to be “treating myself to some Thai takeaway” or “buying that cute top that I’ve wanted forever”, because it’s so much more than that. Ange from The Gratitude Project has a really sweet 30 Days of Self Care challenge, that is not only free when you sign up to her mailing list, but super easy to follow if you’re willing to dedicate the time to it. And you should girl. Because nothing ever bad came out of having some good old-fashioned “me time”.
Till next time,