Something that always gets my goat is how self-professed lifestyle gurus bill confidence as the cure of all our ills.
“You’re down on yourself, fighting an eating disorder and body dysmorphia? Love yourself!”
“Your anxiety is standing in the way of your best life? Love yourself!”
“You suffer PTSD from all the shit you went through in your childhood? I’m sorry to hear that but LOVE YOURSELF. It is the ONLY WAY TO SUCCESS.”
Mama Ru is right; if you can’t love yourself, how in the Hell are you gonna love somebody else? (Amen.) But what I don’t get, and probably will never get, is HOW am I supposed to love myself in the first place? Western culture is big on self-improvement but very short on workable solutions.
Part of the reason why is that, simply put, there are too many problems in the world, many of them very specific, in order to offer a quick fix to all of it.
Another part of the reason is that the system itself is broken. Self-improvement is an industry now, one that has its tentacles in every aspect of our lives. From our bodies, to our weddings, to our children, to divorce, there is always something found wanting, and there is always someone trying to sell us on their own brand of “loving ourselves” more. (Through fancy shoes, baby yoga classes, or eating shit in front of a couples counselor that tries to sell us on the idea that we made our spouse cheat.)
But…even if we fixed the system, and somehow managed to narrow down all the problems in the world to specific categories with assigned solutions to each, I still don’t think “loving yourself” would be enough.
Simply put, because to many of us, “love yourself” sounds like a disingenuous pile of shit.
To the person who was tortured by their classmates for years while the adults looked on and did nothing? Pile of shit.
To the person who survived an abusive childhood and somehow got themselves safe, only to discover other people didn’t particularly care for their sensitive self? Pile of shit.
To the person struggling with a non-traditional gender and/or sexual identity, wanting validation and constantly being met with confusion and rejection? Yep, you guessed it, it’s a pile of shit.
It’s all well and good to tell us things like “it gets better” and “just hold on, there will be someone who loves you at the other end” and “love yourself to let others love you.” For many of us, the reality of adulthood is that it’s just more of the same awfulness as before, except everyone is now blaming us for our own problems because we’re not confident enough.
Too often, “showing your most authentic self” and “loving yourself”seems to translate to “act normal.”
“I’m sorry you spent your life swimming through a toxic waste pit. Now that you are on shore, though, you need to clean up your act so that the rest of us non-toxic people can properly accept you as one of our own. You’re just too…broken-looking right now. It’s icky.”
I’m not saying that I have the answers; hell, I don’t think even writing this down has been all that helpful. Who knows, maybe the illusion that we have some sort of control over how people perceive us is comforting and helpful. But the truth is, no matter how authentic and self-loving we are, we’re not responsible for others. We cannot control how shallow or deep they are, how well they understand us, or how willing they are to put in the effort to get to know us. We can’t make them treat us better.
And we shouldn’t be expected to.