Loving myself has been a journey. If I am honest, I must admit that I’ve got a ways to go yet. That isn’t to say that I haven’t made any progress. On the contrary, I have made huge strides, leaps and bounds in this area. I am doing well in this process, but, I must always remind myself that it IS a process and therefore takes time and work, which is not fun for an impatient person. I often battle inwardly thinking I should have arrived already at some great accomplished place of perfect and complete self love.
Sometimes I think to myself, where does this expectation come from? Why do I think I ought to have “arrived” by now, somehow?? Is it because I’m a certain age? Because I’ve already accomplished some other major goals in life? Because of society’s pressure bearing down upon me? The answer is all of the above. There are internal and external pressures involved; pressures I put on myself and pressures I feel from forces outside of myself. You could say to me, “You don’t have to accept external pressures,” and you are correct. But, it’s often not that simple. External pressures and expectations, whether from individual people (family, friends and strangers) or from media or from society-at-large are often overwhelmingly present.
For instance, have you ever been chatting with a friend or colleague something on your mind? You were thinking maybe they’d commiserate with you or make some small comment about it. Instead, they proceeded to give full-on advice laced with a few veiled insults in the process. But they were just “trying to help”, right? That’s happened to me a time or two and usually the full impact of what was said didn’t hit me until AFTER the conversation was over. Sure, sure the insults may not have been intentional but they still made their impact and left me feeling a bit hurt, angry and temporarily insecure about something I had no business feeling insecure about. I then would have to go into “damage control mode” to counteract the impact of the negative words. I’d remind myself to “consider the source” or that they were “trying to help and unaware of their insult” or that “this person tends to be very opinionated so I must take their ‘advice’ with a grain of salt”. I’d have to remind myself “I am beautiful, capable, intelligent, and I love my body” or whatever other positive self-talk phrase was applicable at the moment.
Thankfully these types of interactions don’t happen often, but, they do happen. Maybe they happen often for you with a particular friend, family member, coworker or boss. It’s not easy to remain unaffected when people are critical towards you. But, let’s talk about another item that may undermine our ability to love ourselves fully… the influence of media.
Perhaps you are scrolling through your social media (or media of choice) and you see an article about, “How to have the perfect body” or “Getting beach body ready” or “How to get rid of those love handles” and along with the article is a picture of a person with seemingly zero body fat and toned muscles and curves in the ‘right’ places. Then you look in the mirror at YOUR body and see something different. Is your body less perfect? Less desirable somehow? Less beautiful? The subliminal messages of these articles and pictures is that if you are not perfectly toned and in shape with zero body fat, or if you don’t look like the image that is portrayed by media, then something is wrong with you. You begin to feel as though you are not measuring up or that your body is not good enough.
These articles and advertisements may have good intentions. They may want to promote fitness information. Or… they may be advertising a product or service that they want you to buy, so the advertisement / article plays on your personal insecurities about your appearance, your body shape, etc. in order to sell their product. These subliminal messages tell us we should only go to the beach if we have a ‘beach body’. Or when we see the that photo of the model with amazing abs has over 100,000 “likes”, we may incorrectly internally rationalize that have to look like that model in order to be “liked”. It is all in the marketing and we fall for it. If we are not careful, we feel like we are not measuring up somehow.
Then, there are the articles saying things like, “Things you should accomplish in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s¨ or “What you should wear in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc¨? Who are “they” to be saying what we should or should not wear or what we should have accomplished by a certain age? Sure, you can use these types of articles as a LOOSE guideline if you’d like, but, people are defying age stereotypes daily! But, if we buy into these articles as more than for just entertainment or opinion, we could get caught up into thinking we’ve failed somehow by not reaching a certain goal or marker by a certain age.
Sometimes I swear this system is meant to keep us living in a state of dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives. We can fall into the trap of endlessly striving to be some ideal rather than learning to actually LOVE ourselves as we are. Not that we will never need or want to improve in some areas or facets of ourselves because we will. But, we must first learn to accept and embrace ourselves FULLY. We all have shortcomings, flaws, things that we don’t necessarily prefer about our appearances, etc., but we must love these parts of ourselves as well, and love them wholeheartedly. Do you have stretchmarks? Love them. Do you have “love handles”? Love them. Do you have scars? Love them. Do you have a tendency to chatter on and on? Love yourself. Do you stutter? Love yourself. We are all imperfect and it’s okay. What’s not okay is allowing your own self-talk, other people’s opinions, or other external sources to make you feel less worthy as a human being. You, I, we … do not have to be perfect people. We should strive to be good people. We should strive to be the best version of ourselves and that is different for everyone. But, do not cast aside who you are at this moment.
It can be very difficult to manage if we have people in our lives who constantly tear us down. Or if we are in social situations on a regular basis where we must deal with negative and/or bullying type people (work, school). There is no easy solution in those situations. The dynamics are not always identical. But, if you are being bullied at work or school, talk to someone you trust and someone who can help you. Try talking to a teacher, administrator, friend, parent. At work you may also want to speak to a manager you trust or to the HR department or to a friend outside of work who can give you wise counsel. Also try using Google to look up information for resources who might be able to help you.
The last thing I will mention is this. When it comes to learning to love your whole self, the only caveat to this is if you know that you are harmful to other people or to yourself. If you know you are someone who purposely hurts others or if you purposely hurt yourself, loving yourself does not mean staying the same. If you struggle with some dark parts of yourself or something that is bigger than you can handle that you know is destructive, then loving yourself would mean getting HELP for yourself so that the harmful behavior does not continue. Loving ourselves also means doing what we must to help ourselves to get better.
These are my thoughts. Blessings.
Kay Dee // @kaydeespeaks
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