From pop songs to body positivity blogs, women have been urged to unlearn our unconscious self-hatred for the new trend: self-love. In a world plagued with photoshop, filters, and constant comparison, self-adoration is a long, grueling process that none of us are adequately prepared for.
Earlier this month, we were blessed with Met Gala Monday. A-list celebrities flocked to New York City to show up and show out for this year’s theme: camp. One star, model Emily Ratajkowski caught the eyes of fans everywhere in her daring, eye-catching, custom-made Dundas dress that showed off her famous flat abs.
Across the internet, comments ranged from applauding her adherence to the theme to young women claiming that her photos “inspired” them to start working out more and eating less. These statements were combatted by other fans simply stating that we all need to “love ourselves” and that her body is “not realistic” and women shouldn’t strive to achieve a stomach like hers. These comments made self-love seem as easy as flipping a switch. We can just go from loathing our bodies to waking up fresh, renewed, and in love with the curves we were born with.
Unfortunately, immediate self-love is not realistic, and that’s perfectly okay. We are born into a system that thrives off of our lowered self-esteem. Self-admiration is never as easy as loudly declaring “I LOVE MYSELF” it’s a process. Many of us forget to talk about this concept because we are ashamed that loving ourselves hasn’t been as smooth, immediate and unconscious as hating ourselves has always been.
Slow and Steady Wins this Race
Before self-love, we have to take steps away from the inherent self-hate we are taught as soon as we are conscious of the ways we are different from others. Other people are smarter, faster, more attractive, and instead of appreciating those differences, we are taught to hate and blame ourselves for them. The opposite of hatred is not loving, but indifference.
Therefore, the first step in the self-love process is self-acknowledgment. Self-acknowledgement may sound like a simple, easy step, but unfortunately, most of us don’t even do this. Self-acknowledgement is noting the fact that you are a human being. And you are a human being with a body. And you are a human being deserving of love and respect and community. That’s it. That’s all you have to do to start the long, non-linear journey to self-love. For many of us, the “love and respect part” can be a roadblock as we often feel like our perceived flaws and differences mark us as undeserving of those simple things.
Once you’ve mastered self-acknowledgment, we move to self-tolerance. This is even harder than self-acknowledgment because we have to look ourselves in the mirror and… be okay with what we see. We neither love nor hate the ways that we are, we just simply tolerate it.
It’s hard to be indifferent towards a livelihood we’ve been conditioned to hate, and that’s perfectly fine because we’re all struggling with this indifference together.
Next, we strive for self-acceptance. We are still stepping away from self-love but at this point, we are accepting the things that make us different. We accept the fact that we may be bad at math, or that we have visible scars from a recent surgery or an accent or stutter that makes us stand out as we all try to fit in. Learning to accept the things we once abhorred is a huge step in the right direction. At this step, acceptance does not mean liking or loving ourselves, it simply means accepting yourself for who and what we are and being content with our existence and the space we take up on this planet we call home.
Because I haven’t really gotten past the self-acceptance step, I will stop here. The path to self-acceptance has been long with many detours, pit stops, and U-turns, and I have learned to be okay with that. Because it is okay to not be “perfect” and it is okay to not be madly in love with myself every day, or at all. And it’s okay for you too. Whether you’ve surpassed self-acceptance or you’re struggling to tolerate yourself, I’m proud of you for starting this journey.
Also published on Medium.