Sometimes, you really don’t love yourself.
You don’t feel like it, you don’t want to, you’re not able to.
That’s absolutely ok
In this current climate of abundant self-love campaigns, it is quite easy to get caught up in the performance of doing just fine. It quickly begins to feel like you’ve left one trap for the other, like you’re letting go the pressure to be thin to sink deep into the pressure of pretending you’re constantly, forever in love with yourself. And for many of us, we caught in both traps, quietly struggling to be thinner while having to pretend to the world that you’ve embraced the mantra of self love.
This is a trap that I know I’ve helped build. When I first started this blog, I was on a mission to convince as many people as I could to write love letters to their bodies. Even though I knew that people struggle with self-love, I was convinced that love letters to their bodies were going to crack open the mystery of what it’s like to feel comfortable in your flesh. I sent out so many request to people. I found people who talked about wanting to claw their way out of their skin. I talked to people who were struggling to recover from sexual assault. I talked to people mending their heartbreaks from someone who found them too big to be loved. I begged them all to write love letters to their bodies because I was so sure it would help.
In my defense I had written a love letter to my body as well and I still remember the catharsis of putting down those words, of getting honest with my years of self-abuse and the commitment that I made to making up for year of taking my body for granted. This was the feeling I wanted to share with others when I asked them to do the same, but what I failed to recognize the work I had to do prior to getting in a place emotionally to even consider having kind words to say about my body. I didn’t think to first create the space for someone to explore the painful everyday reality of feeling like a stranger under your own skin. I didn’t think to share the tools that got me to a place that was soft enough to explore the possibility of love for a body we are all conditioned to believe can never be good enough.
Thankfully, for all the love letters you see on this blog, I had many more rejections. I remember a particular one from a great friend of mine who simply told me, ” I would do that for you, but I don’t feel particularly loving with my body right, and probably not any time soon”. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. What do you mean? You don’t feel loving with yourself right now? Do you even know the bliss that you could experience if you sat down and wrote your love letter? But I am so grateful for my friend saying no to me, and even trusting me enough to say you know what? I don’t really love my body right now. She kicked me right out of the clouds, where I believed love letters were going to save us all from feeling like both the oppressor and the refugee in our own body.
I realized then, that my responsibility to my friend and to you reading is to just create the space where you can nestle all of your struggle, all of your brokenness, all of your vulnerability. To remind you to honor your pain, without shame, without buying into the idea that you must pretend self-love is your mantra. That rejection rerouted the trajectory of this blog, and thankfully that was in the infancy of this project. I’ve since written every single article with the vision of cultivating self-compassion rather than shoving the gospel of self-love down your throat. The truth is, there will be days many days when you are crumbling under the burden of saving yourself. Everything will look gloomy and hopeless. Please don’t add to that the shame of think you’re supposed to have it all together. The journey to self-love is not paved with gold and lined with roses. It is a painful and often exhausting one, but ultimately worth it. Because in that quest, you begin to give yourself permission to believe you deserve all the things you want.
You won’t always be in love with your body, but what you can try to have in abundance, is compassion. Because with compassion, there isn’t always the urge to fix everything or the need to pretend everything is rosy. With compassion, you invite honesty with yourself, and give room to feel all your feelings as they come. Though I still encourage people to write a love letter to themselves, I don’t suggest it as a cure-all. See it as the light that seeps into the cracks of your brokenness, to help you envision what it’s like to finally acknowledge the magnificence of your flesh. Maybe before you can write a love letter, you can write a letter of compassion, or a letter of forgiveness in which you acknowledge that you are struggling to not drown into your own dark waters; in which you give compassion for all the efforts you put into belonging to yourself. Even if you know don’t feel especially loving with yourself, please do recognize all your effort. See the beauty in your struggle. Remind yourself that it’s ok to no be ok right this minute, but you are doing your very best. Breathe.
Here are some posts you can read when you don’t feel particularly loving with yourself:
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.