Putting the ‘self’ back into self-love

Graphic by Tejal Kawachi

In today’s world, fueled by materialism and consumerism, a lot of people see self-love as just pampering oneself. This is true to an extent, retail therapy works, but it’s superficial and isn’t long-lasting. Some people think that becoming physically healthier is what self-love truly encompasses. However, it’s not easy to suddenly change your diet to primarily consist of things you don’t even enjoy eating, or start going to the gym expecting to see results in a week. What’s more, if we fail to execute this new regime properly – if we skip a day of training or cave and buy that tub of ice cream; it gives us more of a reason to be harsh on ourselves. If we don’t deal with the underlying issues we face in our lives, I don’t think these attempts at self-love are very effective.

I think a lot of us, even I have fallen for these notions of ‘self-love’ shown on Instagram reels and youtube vlogs. As if growth and love can be achieved by buying an expensive coffee at a fancy cafe or following a two-week abs program. After a few weeks when we realise we’re still unhappy, it is only natural for us to blame ourselves and assume that we are the problem.

I think self-love is all the hard, messy bits that we don’t see on the aesthetic Instagram reels. It’s sobbing at 3 am because you need to let it all out, it’s the silent introspection during your daily routine, it’s cutting out the toxic elements of your life, it’s acknowledging the issues you’ve spent years burying within you. It’s the digging, to get out all those repressed emotions, all the memories that make you cry, the truths you are too scared to accept. Once the soil is all around you and everything is out in the open can you begin the healing. 

I believe healing is the most important part of self-love, but it looks different for everyone. Based on the situation and on the type of person you are, what healing looks like can vary greatly. On a general basis, however, I think healing involves being kind to yourself. It focuses on coming to terms with the reality of the issue and working on fixing it or adapting to it. It isn’t linear by any means, and many people seem to forget that, especially at the moment. Through all the ups and downs, we have to be patient with ourselves and realise that we are doing our best. It isn’t something we have to go through alone – we can reach out to our close friends or a therapist to help soothe the painful healing process. It’s about rediscovering all the things you loved and having a renewed appreciation for them. It’s about being okay with not being okay and being compassionate to yourself nonetheless.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself in some new clothes or trying to be fit by going to the gym more often. Those are really good distractions so that your mind isn’t constantly bogged down by your thoughts; but without some deep inner reflection, you can’t expect these things to bring you the closure and love you require.

Self-love isn’t about having everything figured out because life is always going to throw hurdles at us. It’s about facing those hurdles and loving ourselves no matter what the results are.

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