Self-love is a very special and important concept. I don't know about you, but for me, despite so many "positive" talks around, self-love is still work in progress. And it is not only because it is relatively new - to be ok with saying "I love myself", but also because there are still many messages around, that contradict this concept.
We want to change how we look
One of the things we keep seeing more and more of is people trying to change themselves for the sake of "love" and approval from others. I am not only talking about make-up and exercise (losing weight), but even more serious measures like plastic surgery.
It all started with an innocent "If you don't like something, change it", but it turns out that once we start changing what we don't like we usually find more and more things we hate about ourselves. The problem here is not in that small thing, that bothers us, but in our inability accept ourselves as we are. Period.
There are many problems with us changing appearance. This constant battle against natural processes in our body, ageing, features that we were born with, that do not reflect beauty standards, proves that we are constantly fighting against ourselves. Do you love your reflection? How do you usually talk to yourself? Do you criticize the way you look a lot?
Today I looked at the pictures of me from like a year ago, and usually I don't feel comfortable looking at them as I feel like I have changed a lot, and I don't necessarily like these changes. However today was different. I remembered that despite me looking "perfect" I didn't feel good about myself. I didn't see myself the way I do now. I tried to look the way other people wanted to see me, and even though I looked beautiful it feels fake to me now. Don't get me wrong, I still like getting ready and look good, but I guess I am not trying that hard anymore. I have been working hard on self-acceptance, and I feel like this work has changed me, and I am starting to see and feel the result of that work now.
We suppress and judge our emotions
I think if there was a surgery that could help us feel differently or express our emotions in a different way, many of us would do it. There is still a lot of negativity towards those who tend to cry more, for example. Crying people are considered to be weak.
People want to see you being positive, motivated and acting the way they find most attractive. I wrote about toxic positivity here. And even though we all should learn to complain less and to at least try to spread more love and light, being able to be real, experiencing all human emotions is incredibly important for our mental and physical well-being.
We usually try to suppress those emotions that “feel bad” without trying to understand them or find out what is causing them. What we often fail to realize is that emotions deliver a message from our conscious or subconscious mind. A message that is incredibly important for us to receive and understand in order to take proper actions.
Years of pretending and changing in order to fit in, to be a functioning member of society made us deaf and blind to our real selves. And it takes its toll on us. We store negative energy within instead of being able to let it out. It turns into different kinds of health issues.
There is no self-love when there is judgement of your true self. And you are what you think and feel, not only what you do. So, accepting it will bring you closer to discovering true love for yourself.
We try to be perfect
I talk about it a lot in my life and truly believe we as human beings should use our brains to evolve. Our place on this planet shouldn't be limited by our old beliefs, traditions and superstitions, but I think that many of us today try way too hard to be perfect. We also let productivity and success define our self-worth. Many times, if we don't achieve certain things by established time, we end up losing our self-respect and we start beating ourselves up.
Productivity, materialism and status are put on the pedestal by society. If we look for somewhat recognition, approval and respect from other people we better be a certain way and hold a certain position. And it is not necessarily always a bad thing, in fact it is more natural for us as animals than we think (primates, as group living animals tend to form what is known as "dominance hierarchies"), however there is so much to the table that a person can bring that is neglected by society. For example, mental health is often seen as something only "crazy" people would talk about, or mentally unwell people are viewed as simply lazy. The same applies to people that are highly sensitive, more spiritual and deep thinking, even though they often carry very valuable, profound knowledge.
So, when it comes down to self-love, it almost seems like we first must earn it, "become someone", so to speak. But the idea of unconditional love is about accepting yourself the way you are right now, no matter where you stand. In fact, I believe unconditional love is something that can only be created towards yourself.
Does our society encourage unconditional love?
No, I wouldn't say so. Almost all messages that we receive on a regular basis sound like we are not good enough, that we lack something, which does contradict everyone's belief that we should love and accept ourselves just as we are. Wouldn't it make more sense if we could be totally fine with our unique appearances, fears and weaknesses, and be recognized and celebrated for whatever job we have, if we wanted to create a society that encourages real self-love?
Self-hate or mental dissatisfaction are key factors for mass production of goods and services in the world. If you are good enough, why would you buy things that make you look and feel "better"? If you were happy with who you are and with whatever job you have, wouldn't you spend less money? Even when we talk about self-care, it mostly includes spending more money. There is a certain amount of unhappiness that should always be encouraged and protected in order for society to function the way it does today.
Let me tell you, it is hard to love yourself when everything around you screams "You are not good enough." You know it, and most likely you can feel it. However, if you are reading this blogpost, you are probably aware of your struggles and hopefully don't feel that you are alone in this. In order to cultivate self-love, you don't need society to support you. You do need mental support and encouragement that every social creature needs though, and that's why communities like Pillows&Trees exist. But you don't need us to tell you that you are worthy of love and that we approve of your ways.
Giving yourself permission to look the way you do and to feel the way you do is the best act of self-love. So, let this blogpost provide guidance for you, so you could see that love and respect can’t be earned or bought, that self-love is not about counting how much money you spent on yourself last month. Learn to recognize those messages that make you feel bad about yourself and work towards being independent of other people’s opinions, comparison and envy.