Self-love has been one of the most difficult journeys I’ve embarked on. It means something else to each of us; we all have different ways of showing ourselves love, just as we differ in terms of the ease with which we do it. While some people love themselves by default, others need some more time to learn this skill, and others are still not convinced they need it in the first place. I used to be part of this last category of people, as whenever I tried to find self-love out into the world, I would always hit the wall of fake positivity, an artificial depersonalized calm that would do it for a while but would always leave me feeling lost. What usually triggered this is googling self-love. If you try to do that, you will most likely get instructed to “start each day by telling yourself something positive”, “become mindful” or “practice good self-care”. While these are legitimately good pieces of advice, I could never fully be moved by it, as my lack of self-compassion ran much deeper.
Growing up, I was attracted by any form of counter-culture that opposed the religious, superficial or bullshit band-aids people used to anaesthetize themselves with. Emo culture took over when I was 11, and later on, I found myself constantly lured in by anything that allowed me to indulge in depression, mainly music. From aggressive rap to alternative rock to indie, to lo-fi, I hung onto the negativity and used it to sleep within my shell. My interests in existential and nihilistic literature did not offer any more support than a sense of self-numbing. Having these things revolve around me made me despise the idea of self-love, as it was never attractive, but above all, not achievable. Just like old French movies wouldn’t be the same without the characters lighting a cigarette every 30 seconds. Quitting smoking just doesn’t sound cool, ya know?
Despite my turbulent journey towards accepting I need to stick up for myself, I feel I’ve gotten there by being dedicated to change my perception around self-love and positivity. The first challenge I had was to stop seeing self-compassion as lame. To stop trying to fix my emotional problems by ignoring them and exhausting myself with other things.
Well, at this new stage of my life I’ve understood I can’t let life pass next to me, and so I’m off to find ways to make self-love look cool. So here we go:
Whenever I feel lost and I’m not living my own life, but instead getting swayed by the world’s judgements and pressures, I increase self-love by taking an inner dive.
Feel your feels, dive into it, face it!
This reminds me of one of my first articles, where I tried to explain the dread that comes with writing sometimes, when you’re faced with an empty page.
“Your first encounter with the white ocean of nothingness, as inviting as it seems at first, can become frightening. As you have arrived in front of your silent, secular priest, you feel as if the mass of feelings inside of you have desperately retreated to a secluded corner of your soul. Maybe you are afraid of the outcome, of facing your fears. But suppose you take the leap and jump into this ocean.”
This goes for self-love as well. In the face of difficult feelings, or debilitating fear, we’re often stunned, and self-love happens when we allow ourselves to feel. When you feel like you’re holding on to a tight rope, let go. Sit with that feeling, let it take over and embrace whatever comes with it. Allow yourself to fall and remind yourself that you’ll be there to pick yourself back up. Admit your fear, say it, and watch it grow a little bit smaller.
Create your own world, and own it.
Having watched an impressive amount of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I saw people being really extra and over-the-top, being completely and unapologetically themselves, as much as the world was telling them they’re delusional. I found my power in that, and I don’t see it as ridiculous; I find it was one of the only things that built up my confidence and self-reliance. You owe it to yourself to own it.
So you find yourself roaming the empty streets of your head, knocking on closed doors. You walk yourself to the edge of town, getting nothing but discouraged by mean ghosts in the biting wind. Restricting you, telling you to just give up already, how everything’s pointless and rather ridiculous. Order them to give you some peace, and take a rest on the bench next to this pond, where you can see your reflection. It’s finally silent and you look into your own eyes, and see the fear and the pain. Now it’s time to get scared for a moment, light another cigarette, take another breath, and, whenever you’re ready, jump! Immerse yourself into your own world, through your eyes, and explore. The key is to find a token of happiness and comfort, something to claim your own. Not some outside grand theory, but anything, any tiny seed you might stumble upon. Just has to be yours.
Found it? The next step is to swim back to the surface, climb out of the pond and plant that seed, feed it and watch as it slowly takes root.