I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about self-love and somehow I keep getting drawn back to the girl at the mall rolling her eyes and saying, “Ugh, she’s so fake” behind my 16 year old self after I smiled and complimented her outfit, or the group of teenagers sitting outside the hall after class during my senior year telling me my clothes didn’t match. I keep going back to the comments that have been said about my dark skin, disastrous hair, and annoying personality. I’ve heard some of the putdowns with my own ears, and I’ve heard about the rest from others. It’s kind of funny how eight years later, I can still recall the exact store- outfit – person that hurt my feelings. The person that first made me feel insecure about who I was. And not only can I remember the first person, I can also remember all of the others.
For me, the moments are isolated. And to be clear, I can’t pretend to know what it feels like to be bullied while growing up; I got along with everyone fairly well, was in a lot of activities and feel like I had a lot of friends. And from what I know, I was generally liked by my peers. But I do know what it feels like to have someone challenge your self-worth — to make you feel insecure. Then and now, I’ve kind of fought this internal struggle with being the kind of person that everybody likes while not compromising who I am in an effort to seek approval from someone else.
The truth is, I think self-love is a journey.
Maybe for you it comes easy, or maybe you are still on the road trying to figure out what that means.
Wherever you are at, I think it is important that you get there.
Because when I think about self-love, I think it is colored by other people’s opinions of ourselves. And I especially think that too often, our self-worth is influenced by those who think the least of us. By the girls who talk behind your back or make fun of the way you look. By the people who judge you based on your personal beliefs or sexual orientation. By the guys who make you feel insecure about the way you look or what you stand for. By the person that won’t return your phone calls or text you back. By the customers at a restaurant who say “that girl needs to take a bath” when actually referring to the color of your skin.
Maybe you care about what other people think about you, and maybe you don’t. Either way, I hope you care about the way you perceive yourself.
I’d like to believe that along the way I’ve grown a thick coat or tough skin. But the reality is that I’ve developed an internal mirror. I’ve been able to develop this sense of security about who I am as a being, an ability to look at myself on the inside. And so I’ve learned that the more sure I became about myself, the less I had to be defined by what other people had to say about who I am.
I’m lucky to have a strong sense of self — who I hope to be, and what I stand for. But it’s come through lessons and challenging myself to care more about what I think of myself than what someone else does. And on some days, it’s harder than others.
Along the way, I’ve learned that just because someone sees a part of myself as a flaw, doesn’t mean I have to. That the better I am able to accept my weaknesses, the less someone is able to use them against me. I’ve learned to care for people, regardless of their opinion of me. And I’ve learned to accept people how they are. I’ve learned to differentiate when someone’s actions and words are more of a reflection of them than they are of me. I think some of self-love is about confidence, and some of it is about self-esteem. And then some of it is about knowing who you are and what you are not. And I think it’s about being okay with other people’s perception of you.
And at the end of the day, I think most of us want to be liked. We want to be accepted. And we want to be loved. I hope it starts with yourself. But the reality is that sometimes — even when you are sure of who you are — words still hurt and they still burn. I hope you remember that what you say matters. That you have the power to challenge someone’s security. That the things you do can hurt someone else’s heart. That it doesn’t feel nice to be mean. And I hope you remember that your actions and words are always a reflection of yourself. And I hope you hold yourself to a high standard.
And then it all goes back to self-love. I think if you can develop an appreciation for who you are as a person, you can start to respect who others are as people, too.