By now, I'm sure you've heard of the concept of "radical self love" and the concept of "body positivity." These phrases sound incredibly simple, but they can be beyond challenging. These concepts are so heavy on my mind right now. I couldn't stop thinking about them yesterday. In fact, I stayed up all night thinking about how self hate and lack of acceptance has harmed society as a whole. Deep stuff.
Now, as I said, I'm an adult. I don't know many adults who haven't been on antidepressants at least once. I haven't met an adult without bouts of unreasonable and uncontrollable anxiety. I'm not saying I can fix your mind.
I repeat, I'm NOT saying I can fix your mind.
I do think that I can help you start to feel better. I do think that changing our dialogue can help. I do think that if we could start appreciating ourselves, that we'd also feel better. I think that if we had started trying to love ourself when we were kids, we might to be so anxious or depressed as adults. Some of us have big life situations that caused our anxiety and depression, but some of us have just hated ourself far too long. When I was a kid, I was told "Its called SELF esteem - I can't make you like yourself." True...but let me teach you how to start.
So what are radical self love and body positivity, and how do they relate to your mental health?
When you have a society, you also have a generally accepted standard of beauty. Its been a different standard in different times, but one thing has always been the same - its been near impossible to achieve that general standard. When the standard said that being overweight was ideal, the general population was starving. When the standard said you must be very thin, the average person was overweight. Part of the standard is that is hard to acheive.
We have applied these standards to our lives as being the only acceptable way to be. We have decided that what we are naturally is not good enough because it is not that standard of beauty.
Radical self love means we stop applying that standard to ourselves.
Not only do we stop with this impossible standard, we start to appreciate the things we have and even enjoy the way we are. We have to stop looking purely for the aesthetic and start to appreciate the function in our form. We have to accept and love our bodies for what they do, how they work, how they make us FEEL and not just for the visual. That's radical self love. You stop putting on make up to "fix your flaws" and start wearing make up because its fun or just stop all together because you don't enjoy it. You stop shaving your legs to be feminine and realize that your legs are not what makes you a woman. Your womanhood is in your soul. Shave because you like how your smooth skin feels, or stop shaving because its a chore and it doesn't make you anything but natural to have body hair. Don't pluck your chin hair because someone told you that it was ugly to have facial hair as a woman! Grow a damn beard, weave a daisy in it and smile at your own playful beauty. Own your body. Take control of it. Stop saying "yes" because you are conditioned to think its the only answer. Say "yes" because you want to say it! Say "no" because its what you feel!
Radical self loves starts with loving your mind. Understand that your opinions are valid and your voice is important. You have something worth contributing to the world and you are so much more intelligent that people will ever give you credit for. Give yourself credit. Smile at your own knowledge. Marvel at how your mind works and how you connect dots that not everyone sees. Appreciate your humor, no one else has a sense of humor quite like yours. You are a match to none, you are so unique and so bright. You're a wonder in this world, you need to own that.
Body positivity and radical self love are sides of the same coin. You have to practice both at the same time if you're going to make a big difference in your life. You can start with one and work towards the other if its just too hard to break those patterns, but you will see a huge shift when you start to actively practice both every day.
Look at your body in the mirror. I don't want you to see scars, stretch marks, sags, bumps and lumps right now, we'll get there. I'm serious here, you have this amazing collection of parts and no matter what works on you and what does not - you are a person who is amazing. Look at what your body does just on a lazy day. Think about how much blood your body is pumping every day. This of how many breaths you take in a single day. Don't worry about the tone of your skin, love your skin because it protects your body. This amazingly large organ literally protects every other organ. That's mindblowing. Think of the bones that give your body shape and form. Those bones hold up to so much wear and tear and they last through it all, they heal themselves and they keep going on. Look yourself in the eyes and think about all the beauty those eyes have taken in. Cover your ears and hear the blood rush through your vessels. Stop taking you for granted, you are beyond understanding and full of wonder. Now go back to those scars, appreciate that your body rushed to heal and protect you. Look at those stretch marks and see how your body accomidated your growth. Those sags are signs that you've lived and loved in this body. That bumps and lumps are part of the journey that got you this far.
It won't fix your brain chemistry to love yourself. It won't get your debt paid off. It won't make your problems disappear. Radical self love and body positivity will make your life better. When you cut yourself some slack, you allow yourself room to grow. When you appreciate yourself, you also appreciate others a lot more. When you radiate love through yourself, you attract loving people.
It doesn't happen overnight. It's work. There are days where you don't want to be positive. There are days where you'd like to go back to hating yourself because its easier and familiar. Its worth the work. Its worth comitting to yourself.
If you can't love yourself today, that's ok. Today I'll do it for you. I love you. You are amazing. You are intense. You are interesting. You are important. If you need me, I will be there for you. I'm on your side. Please try to be kind to yourself.