Self-love and self-development are so important for everyone’s long-term happiness and growth. But, I’m not here to tell you that you are gorgeous, flawless, and that it’s time to love yourself already. Otherwise, what self-development will you have left to do? Where will you go from here? It’s not that you aren’t all those things. It’s that everyone knows it’s not that easy to do and self-love doesn’t work in this way.
Self-love is a far more complex process than me just saying all these words to you. Interestingly, self-love has become such an abstract thought with hundreds of meanings behind it. It’s so personal and can mean something entirely different to every individual. These are just some thoughts that I have gathered on this topic that I’d like to share with you.
What is Self-Love?
Today, it’s become very confusing for people to fully comprehend and practice the concept of self-love.
You’ll go onto social media sites and find a flood of people shouting at you. Shouting, “love yourself” and preaching body positivity. Telling you that you are perfect and to be who you are and to never change. These people don’t know you, have never met you, but somehow think you’re perfect. It’s sometimes nice to hear those words. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty sweeping statement for one to make about another person that they have no idea exists.
Then, you’ll go to the Supermarket the next day. The first thing that you’ll see plastered across the magazine aisle are headlines screaming at you. Revealing “how to lose ten pounds in two weeks”, “best and worst celebrity summer bodies” and “low-carb recipes to get you beach body ready”.
This seems utterly confusing to me and I’m sure you’re thinking the same. On one hand, you are being yelled at to accept and love yourself. Yet, on the other hand, all this conflicting information is being thrown at you. To change your body, what you eat, how you exercise. Particularly for the younger generation who are still incredibly impressionable, this contradictory information will continue to mess with their minds. It is “peer” pressure at its finest, and can be very damaging to people’s self-esteem. How are they to know what is the right thing to think or follow?
Women’s Body Confidence
What I found particularly troubling was coming across an article from 2015, discussing how women feel about their body. A baffling eighty-four percent of women in the United Kingdom are not body confident. What shocked me further, was that thirty-five percent of women believe that dropping a hefty two stone is what will make them happy. This is the world we live in and honestly, it’s sad. We need to alter our influences and mind-sets. We need to find acceptance and be our true selves without extreme judgement on ourselves and others.
You may sit and ask yourself, “when will I find true happiness within myself and love myself for who I am?” In my experience, there is no concluding destination where you are one hundred percent satisfied with yourself all the time. Personally, I don’t think that that exists. Perhaps there are people who believe they have reached that point which is completely fine. Nevertheless, to me, it’s unrealistic as there is always room for growth and self-development, whether you’re sixteen, thirty or fifty.
Self-Love is Active Not Passive
To me, self-love is not a passive development, rather, it is active. What I mean by this, is that self-love doesn’t just happen instantly. Just because someone tells you to love yourself or that you are beautiful doesn’t mean that you love yourself then and there. We aren’t light switches, we can’t turn on and off our feelings when it comes to self-love. Instead, there will be actions, big, small and personal to you that you need to take for you to achieve this over time.
For example, small actions could include cooking yourself a hearty meal, hanging out with friends, going for a walk or getting your nails done. Then, there are far bigger actions. These could include forgiving yourself and letting go from and of mistakes you have made in the past. Or, leaving a toxic relationship. Also, it may be being honest with yourself about what you want for your future; career-wise, friendships and goals, for instance. I think figuring out what’s preventing you from achieving these things and working on what you could do to make them happen, is great for self-development.
Moreover, self-love is not just a feeling or static emotion. You need to do things that make you happy – that is the active part of loving yourself. In turn, you will feel the emotion of loving yourself too, the second part. At least, that is how I look at it.
Self-Love is Not Just About Your Body
Self-love is not only about your body contrary to what some believe. Nowadays, people are so heavily concerned with their body and face. Less people are spending their time and energy on working on what’s inside and their personality. It’s not to say that wanting to look and feel pretty is bad, it really isn’t. Trust me, I love looking beautiful as much as the next girl or guy. For all that, you can continue to make an effort in your appearance, if that’s what you want, whilst still focusing on bettering your mind.
Society is so clued up on superficial ideals that people forget that working on themselves is the most important thing to do. We should be concentrating on improving ourselves in terms of learning and becoming sharper and kinder. Although, I’ll be real with you, nowadays, perhaps someone that is, by society’s standards, pretty and has the “ideal” body, some things may come easier to. By no means is this a guarantee and it does completely depend upon the situation. However, in some respects, I’m sure many of you do agree with me here.
The type of person that you are will shape your life so much more than the way you look. It’ll shape your relationships, friendships and even work life. People who truly love you won’t care if you put on some weight or have a few spots. You don’t need to seek approval in this way from people who cherish you. What they will care about, is the effort and time you make with and for them, that’s the important thing.
What I’m trying to say is that self-love and self-development is about you as a whole, not just your body.
Self-Love Comes with Ups and Downs
You can love yourself and still have a bad hour, day or week. A time where you don’t feel content with your body, face or mind. Maybe you just said something to your friend that you wish you could take back or an exam went badly. It doesn’t mean that you don’t or will never love yourself. You’ll get to a place of contentment again, sooner or later. Self-development takes time and you will learn.
Self-Love Involves Acceptance and Refusal of Acceptance
I think it’s vital to find a balance between accepting parts of you that you cannot change, such as a disability, while also understanding that there are some things you can change. See, what you have to accept is okay and it makes you unique and beautiful. Conversely, you can refuse to accept that you are by nature, a short-tempered person. Instead, you can choose that that is something you want to work on, as perhaps you don’t like the after-effects your temper has on yourself and others.
I’m all for body positivity, don’t get me wrong. You should be proud of your body, it’s the only one you’ve got and that in itself is quite remarkable. Nevertheless, this phrase is so commonly thrown around nowadays. So much so, that when someone says that they want to lose some weight, eat healthily or exercise more – change their body in any way – some people will immediately attack.
I’ve seen plenty of social media influences get such abuse. For instance, “you’re putting out the wrong image to your young followers” and “you aren’t loving yourself for who you are.” Yet, influencers aren’t the only people that are spoken to in this way because hundreds of celebrities and members of society are too.
I want to add a disclaimer here. Of course, when I say anything to do with losing weight, eating more healthily and exercising within this article, I mean doing so steadily and healthily. Not in a way that pushes people to a point where they could damage their health. Healthy self-development is key and is so fulfilling when done properly and with a good self-support system.
Do What You Feel is Right For You
Regardless of other people’s opinions, if losing some weight, eating more healthily or exercising more makes a person happy, then doesn’t that show self-love? Isn’t that promoting self-development in the best way possible? People don’t stay the same their entire life – that’s unrealistic and unhealthy. You don’t have to live with things that you don’t feel comfortable with; growth is crucial.
Plus, it’s your body, no one else’s. So, don’t over-think their opinions, it’s not worth the hassle.
You’ll Always Be Harsher On Yourself Than Others Will
You will always be harsher on yourself than other people will be. Think about it. A friend may come to you and tell you they have gained weight and think they look awful. You don’t even see it. You aren’t even trying to be nice for the sake of it by saying that. Regardless if they have gained weight or not, you don’t care and think they still look amazing. Or, your friend expresses to you that they have made a mistake but when they tell you it, it’s not as big of a problem as they had lead on. We all make mistakes and your friend is still a good person despite the little fault they have made. You don’t look at them differently and you still love them.
Hopefully, you can comprehend what I mean when I say that, as I’m sure you have been in that position too. People truly aren’t paying as much attention to these “faults” of yours than you think. They’re paying attention to all the good things about you – your bold red hair, your beautiful smile. Not the fact that you’ve put on a few pounds, that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I promise, just be kinder to yourself.
Don’t Try to Be Someone Else
Of course, it’s fine to draw inspiration from others. If someone is being really caring and you think, to improve yourself, you could learn to be that way. With saying that, what I do find unhealthy is to look at, for example, a celebrity and want to be exactly like them – their hair, their body, their money. That that celebrity or social media influencer is where you look for your main inspiration.
Although in reality, not even the celebrity or “Instagram model” looks like they do in their photos. Nor do the models in the magazines, as photoshop plays a big part here. There are free apps such as face-tune enabling anyone to change themselves with a click of a button on social media. Is this what society should be looking up to and aspiring to be like, deceit? It’s all too common for today’s generation to obsess over looking and being like a famous person. That is rather than working on striving to be the best version of themselves.
The Youth of Today
I came across an article from 2017 which explored how social media and celebrities have negatively impacted what teenagers think about themselves. Specifically, it discussed how they have developed great insecurities with their body image due to these influences. As part of the evidence, a survey was taken by one thousand teenagers in England by the National Citizen Service. The results are shocking:
“It showed that 40% said their appearance was influenced by what they see on social media compared to 24% who said celebrities were a bigger influence. There was also evidence of the darker side of social media, with 58% saying they have felt jealous, negative or insecure because of social media and 24% saying they felt negative about themselves because they did not look like their friends.”
I felt saddened, angry and disappointed when I read the results. I’m sad for the teenagers who are so full of self-doubt when they are so much better than they know. I’m angry because their influences are greatly superficial, by default, which damages their confidence and self-esteem. More than anything, I’m disappointed in society and how not enough has been done or taught when it comes to body image with the youth. It is still as problematic as it was a decade ago when I began secondary school.
Rather than finding inspiration through these means, you could find inspiration elsewhere. In music, nature, books, your friends, films, your mother. You’ll learn what you inspires you the most and you’ll grow. That is, in comparison to obsessing over the most popular “Instagram model” of June 2018. In order to love yourself, you must accept the truth that you will never be exactly like your idol. You are always going to be some form of you.
Self-Love Comes with Time
You are worthy of self-love. You are worthy of the golden moments you have experienced and those you are yet to. So, don’t let any insecurity you have stop you from experiencing them. Don’t try to consume yourself to much with the idea of self-love. You don’t need to be there right now, you have time.
Time is the greatest healer and is something that will allow you to become a better person long-term. I hope that knowing that so many other people are going through the same things as you right now, including me, will give you a little comfort on your journey to loving yourself entirely.