Do you feel like you’re doing this self-love thing all wrong?
I do. Well, I used to. I used to feel so much frustration and rage at the uphill battle that is this quest to be more compassionate with myself. In joining this movement of self-love, I ended up developing an unintentional by-product, which is shame. Amidst the overdose of instagram inspirational posts and hashtags about self-love, it can be difficult to admit that you’re having a difficult time with the journey. It looks like everyone else has it all together, so you carry around this shame about your inner battle because you might have bought into the idea that you have to be in love with yourself all the time.
I want you to know, you’re not a fraud. It’s okay to experience a wide array of feelings for your body, and I think we forget that sometimes, or trade this in favor of strawberry-flavored concepts of love that seek to bury the complex relationship we have with ourselves, rather than learn to navigate it. Thankfully, this video below from #magicalblackgirl Ericka Hart, will serve as a great reminder. Here is what I learned from her.
- Feel all your feelings
This is something I wish I knew much earlier in my quest for self-compassion. In the beginning of the journey, I was obsessed with the idea of an end goal where I would finally overcome self-loathing and live happily ever after, with an endless supply of inspiration quotes and nutella jars. Any feelings other than bliss, was considered absolute failure. In her video, Ericka admits she sometimes doesn’t feel connected to her body and not so thrilled with it. But the way she speaks about it, is from just honesty, not shame or apology for it. It’s a declaration, an acknowledgement.
- Let go of shame
“It’s okay to not love your body”. If you had told me this when I began this blog, I would have scream blasphemy. How dare you utter such ugly words, such lies when people are trying to love themselves? But when Ericka Hart says it in the video, I absolutely get it. She isn’t advocating that we continue in the path of self-loathing, but encourages us to live with the juxtaposition of not loving our bodies, but also learning to take care of it anyway. This is why I emphasize the importance of self-compassion over self-love. Self-compassion teaches you acceptance of your body without always trying to fix it, while self-love often runs the risk of replacing loathing with shame. Let go of the shame of not knowing how to love you, and have some compassion for your struggle.
- Make room for people with chronic illness
Being a breast cancer survivor who has a double mastectomy, Ericka reminds us that in the self-love movement there really isn’t a real discussion surrounding people with chronic illness, or living with disabilities. She mentions that people who like her, have undergone surgery or dealt with significant changes on their bodies, aren’t really given room to not feel happy. And I know for sure I’ve been one of those people who upon seeing women who has mastectomies, I elevate them to inspirational status wherein they can only be poster girls for loving yourself through changes. They aren’t given room for anything other than being inspirations for the rest of us. We don’t ask often enough how they really feel, how they nagivate the changes, how they deal with the influx of conflicting emotions that arise. We must do better and make more room for all types of bodies.
- It’s all a process
Perhaps the most important reminder in all this, is to know that this is a process, a lifetime commitment, a becoming. There isn’t a specific point in your life timeline where you will be able to say “this is the day I finally figured out how to love myself and lived happily ever after with my problem areas”. Give yourself a break, and put down the sword, no dragons to slay today. Instead, learn to acknowledge your struggle, speak your pain, name it, say it out loud without any apology. Sometimes, that can be enough. Let that be enough, and tomorrow is another day.
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.