The path to self-love was fraught with second guessing.
Loving yourself is hard. Like, really really hard.
While I appreciate all those slogans out there telling people they should love their bodies or faces or minds, those slogans can also be damaging for their simplicity. They make it seem like it’s just a matter of flipping a switch in our minds, putting down magazine covers and hugging ourselves in the mirror.
It’s especially hard for women who are conditioned from a very young age to believe there’s always something about ourselves we should be improving. Our boobs may sag a little too much, we may be too political or outspoken, we may not have the right kind of deodorant or too much (read: any) body hair.
I’m not perfect. I’m pretty far from it if you compare me to magazine covers. I’m both a woman and fat, something that only seems to be okay if I’m working to “fix” it. And I’m not. It took a long time for me to love myself how I am, and I still have days where I look at myself and wonder why anyone sees anything worthwhile. It was a lot of “fake it ’til you make it” in both my mind and actions. Instead of looking at my sagging stomach and curling my lip, I’d pat it and compliment myself on how soft and warm I am.
I had to learn to ignore the things other people would say. Something as basic as eating in public can be anxiety inducing. Any time someone would giggle around me, I’d turn and look, assuming they were laughing at me. I remember sitting in a fast food joint when I was extremely poor, having pooled together the last of my change to get a burger there, only to turn around and find two teenage girls laughing and pointing at me while snorting like pigs.
Learning to love myself involved a lot of ear-plugging. I had to teach myself how to drown out all those voices and listen to myself. What did I really want? Who did I want to be? There’s nothing wrong with changing parts of yourself, of course, but it should be for you. Not for a magazine cover, or because of what some asshole in third period said about you 10 years ago.
I made it through. I learned to find what’s valuable about myself.
But now I don’t believe that anyone else does.
See, the cost of my evolution was dismissing the opinions of others. I no longer care if some stranger calls me a whale or makes a snide comment about how maybe I should order a salad, but I don’t care because I don’t believe them. They only see one part of me, they don’t know anything about my life, and there’s also usually a degree of their own insecurities injected in each jab. Finding my own value involved a lot of soul searching that they can’t possibly see.
But that also seems to apply to people who are interested in me. I’m aware that from the outside, from the perspective of the standard world view, I’m not traditionally pretty or attractive. That doesn’t mean I’m without value, and it doesn’t mean that people can’t find me attractive, but I never quite understand it. I don’t trust it.
See, I conditioned myself to see my value only at the exclusion of other people’s opinions. I can believe I have value, but I have a hard time believing other people can see it. Or maybe I have a hard time believing people’s first taste opinions of me before they’ve sampled the whole platter – I have plenty of issues and plenty of baggage. How can someone say that they find me attractive without knowing about all of that, too?
It just goes to show I still have work to do when it comes to accepting myself. It’s a lot easier to see things in black-and-white than to actually measure the ambiguous space in between. Loving myself isn’t a matter of either doing it or not doing it. It’s not even a matter of deciding if I’m worth it or not. I’m discovering it’s mostly about learning that some people in the world are just jerks, and about learning how to absorb that in healthy ways.
I need to learn how to open myself up to some of that criticism again. Not because I deserve to have bad things said about me, but because if I block out all incoming feedback, I miss out on some pretty great stuff too. Imagine how many opportunities I’ve missed out on, how many great people have been shut out of my life, simply because I didn’t hear them.
It’s hard. It’s going to be harder than learning to love myself, I think. And I expect to come out bruised. Bruised, but better.
Image via giphy.com.
Comment: Do you ever struggle with trusting what others say about you?