Monday, April 16, 2012

Oh Self-Love!

Ok, I can admit it. I made that title line a little suggestive to catch your attention. Did it work? Great! But bad news...the subject of this blog is actually self-esteem. Sorry, to have to break it to you this way. I hope you'll stick around.

Anyhoo, I've been thinking a lot lately about truly loving yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. 

Truth is, accomplishing this task is much easier said than done. Everywhere we look we're told we're not good enough. Women especially feel this pressure as the images we see of female bodies in the media are so often distorted and photoshopped beyond recognition and touted as "perfection." So trust me when I say, I know that it's not easy to get to a place where you do feel comfortable being you, you love who you are, and you're totally happy just existing. It's not something that can come naturally when the dominant voices remind you that you're too fat or too ugly or too dark or you're body isn't good enough or that it's just wrong.

However, against all odds, some of us do find the ability to love ourselves--or at the very least to accept who we are. I've been thinking lately about a really positive outcome of getting to this point: Loving yourself really does grant the ability to love others. You've probably heard a million times that you have to "love yourself first to love others." It's become a cliche, but when you break it down, it does kind of make sense. I'm not going to talk about romantic love here (but I do think there is that element to it.) Rather I'm talking about loving others in the context of not viewing anyone with hate, contempt, jealousy, or as a threat. 
When I think about my current life, I see many big differences between who I am now and who I was 3-10 years ago. One that stands out the most is that I just don't feel threatened by other people now like I used to. You see, I had internalized the message which told me I wasn't good enough. When I met someone (usually a girl) who was drop dead gorgeous, thin, charismatic, or just plain awesome, a piece of me hated her right off the bat because of my own low self-esteem. I perceived her as a threat instead of a potential friend, by no fault of her own.

Like I said, my judgement passed on other girls was a symptom of believing that I was really inferior. I thought that girls like this wouldn't like me and that I had nothing in common with them. Basically, by assuming that stereotypically attractive women and I couldn't be friends, I bought into the narrative that big girls aren't worthy and that hot girls are bitches. And this was all still happening after I began identifying as a feminist and thinking critically about these very issues. My beliefs and judgments were guided subconsciously by persistently low self-esteem. I didn't really know it, but I couldn't be open to friendships and connections until I loved me.

Fortunately, I feel that I have arrived to a place where I can say I am comfortable and proud of who I am; emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I am, of course, a daily work in progress and I falter and fuck up. But part of loving me means that I accept these mistakes and challenge myself to be better.

As a result, I feel I am much more open and friendly to women who I might have otherwise viewed as a threat. The socially ingrained tendency to be catty and pick apart other women's looks and behaviors started to wear away. Because of this, I was able to form some friendships that I might not otherwise have been open to. When I stopped being threatened by someone really cool and attractive, I gave people the opportunity to show me who they actually are. My comfort with me is often mirrored by other people's comfort with who they are and everyone's true colors emerge. 

I'll be honest, meeting new people does not come naturally to me. While I am an extrovert who craves the attention and energy of socialization, I thrive most when I am with people that I trust. I will always have a level of social anxiety when I meet new people, but accepting myself has helped this improve leagues for me and granted me the possibility to much more easily meet people where they are not keep other women at arm's distance. Sure sometimes the new people I meet actually do suck, but I let them prove that to me instead of making unfair judgments.

This is all pretty touchy-feely for me, which isn't exactly in character, so I'll go ahead and wrap this up. But I guess what I'm saying is that loving yourself is great not only because it makes you feel so much better but also because it allows some pretty cool people into your life.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post and I can relate to this so much. I think for the most part, I have learned to love myself. This wasn't always the case though. You are right that when a woman doesn't love herself, she is always on the defense when it comes to other girls, seeing them as competition, a threat, and often evokes jealousy which then brings out hateful thoughts and behaviors. When you love yourself, you see people as equals and nonthreatening, so there is no need to feel catty towards them.


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