Love yourself! It will solve all your problems. They’ve been telling you that for years haven’t they. And you try, you try really hard! But you just can’t seem to love yourself enough to fix it all. Maybe loving yourself is just a distraction. Maybe it won’t fix a damn thing. Maybe instead of loving yourself, you should get angry at people who hurt you, and just find a way to be kind to yourself.
Love yourself they say, but it just sounds ridiculous! Love is for lovers and family, for our children and fur babies, love isn’t something we can feel towards ourselves. And even if it was something we could conjure up when necessary, how in the world would it fix our problems?
You can’t have a good relationship unless you love yourself first, you can’t get a decent job until you love yourself enough, people will treat you badly unless you love yourself. All things stem from self love apparently. However the problem is that how you feel about yourself doesn’t alter how other people treat you. It can’t change how much you, as a woman, earn at work. It can’t change rape statistics in your favour.
If someone is abusing you it isn’t your fault. You are NOT in charge of how other people behave. Self love proponents would have you believe that if only you could love your worthy self enough, you could just flick your hair and walk away contentedly into the sunset where your true love was waiting for you. However the rest of the world is screaming at you that you’re not worthy, so loving yourself to the degree the gurus suggest is unrealistic.
Turn on any television, read any website, drive past some billboards and you’ll quickly see that you have a LOT of work that needs to be done before you’re worthy of self love. You need less grey hair, you need invisible pores, you need breasts that point to the stars, you need less fat, more curves, thicker eyelashes, and you need the hairless body of a prepubescent child. Until you look like a supermodel, you’re not worthy of love – the television agrees.
Of course the proponents of self love would disagree with that, but here’s the trouble. The two factions are warring over your body. They are literally stealing your soul with their white noise whilst you blame yourself for not loving yourself enough.
Subconsciously, when you’re bombarded by all that noise, your brain thinks to itself “How can I love myself when I need to lose a few kilos?” Then when you find yourself dating (or married to) an arsehole, it’s because you didn’t love yourself enough to attract the right person. Therein might be some kind of solution, if we didn’t look deeper.
Realistically speaking if it was that simple, the women of the world would have done away with abusive relationships some time in the early 90s when the Self Love movement was hitting a radiant high. Unfortunately the self love movement doesn’t take into account the way women are socialised from birth to be forgiving, accommodating, loving, and self depreciating. Women are supposed to strive, above all else, to be likeable personally, and physically appealing.
We are born believing in ourselves, appreciating our bodies, and confident. Our socialisation takes that away from us at such a young age, we don’t even understand what’s happening to us at the time. Many of us don’t even realise that we went through this process at all, because we go through it at the hands of other people who also have no idea. People who may well have the purest of intentions, but are blind to the way these things impact on the lives of women.
So you reach for self love, you reach as high as you can, but you can’t quite grasp it. And you experience sadness and hardship, everyone treats you the way they always have, you don’t get a promotion, you have a car crash. Life is life, despite your desperate aspirations of self love. It must be your fault, you’re not loving yourself enough, you’re “allowing” people to treat you badly by not loving yourself enough. Maybe if you lost weight you could come to appreciate yourself more.
Here is a fundamental truth to digest. You are not responsible for the actions of other people. You are not “allowing” them to hurt you because you have failed at self esteem.
People do not treat you badly because you are “flawed” or because you don’t have enough self esteem. People treat you badly because THEY ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BEHAVE LIKE THAT.
Every minute you spend trying to love yourself more, is another minute you are too busy to think about the way the world has shaped your life into what it is today. It’s one more minute where you accept the blame for the actions of others, and the systematic oppression you face. You can’t love yourself out of oppression, but you can sure stay busy enough to avoid ever thinking about it.
Be kind to yourself. Being kind to yourself is reasonable. Speak to yourself, and about yourself in the same way that you speak about others, in the same way others should speak to you. That’s enough. Love is a ridiculous aspiration when it comes to yourself and believing that self esteem can alter the behaviour of others is patently absurd. How you feel about yourself can alter how you respond to other people’s poor behaviour, but there it ends.
If someone treats you badly, get angry at them! If you face systematic oppression (be it sexism, racism, or both, or more) get angry about it! Don’t look inwards for the solution, look inwards for the strength to speak up for yourself. Use your anger constructively instead of silencing it as an unworthy, unhelpful emotion. We have anger for a reason, it’s a vital human emotion and we need to harness it for our benefit rather than trying to drown it in unrealistic attempts to conquer self love. Anger won’t go away because you love yourself, it won’t go away until you find a way to let it out.
If women spent less time trying to make themselves likeable by liking themselves, less time thinking everything would be better if they could just love themselves, and more time expressing our valid anger, we might get somewhere. We might achieve some of the contentment and happiness we’re seeking when we try and force ourselves to love every single atom in our bodies, and we might not feel like such failures when we butt our heads against reality. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge your valid feelings, and most of all, pay very close attention to anyone who tells you that the problem is how you feel, rather than how they behave.
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