“Can I Ever Love Myself?”: A Self-Love Journey

Image Credit: Shafia Motaleb

By Sarah Mason

The first relationship of our lives is with ourselves, so today we are talking about the journey to self-love.

We’ve all heard the infamous “you can’t love anyone else before you love yourself”. While attempting to sound uplifting, this actually terrified me. Because if this statement is true, then can love ever find us? Can we ever completely love ourselves? And if so, can it happen now, please?  Sadly, there is no straight answer, finding confidence varies between everyone. However, if you feel parts of your self- acceptance is still out of control, today we’re focusing on what we can effectively do. There is plenty I’ve learnt through my self-love journey which I hope will help anyone still partaking on theirs.

Normalise the feeling.

‘Self-love’ is defined as nothing more than having a high regard for your own happiness. This is what led me to believe that I was jeopardising my own well-being simply for having issues with my appearance. Having insecurities is normal and, while it may feel this way at times, it will not always consume your life. Growing up I felt I was the only person who couldn’t stand the sight of my body. I was just another teenage girl with bad skin, untameable eyebrows and no boobs. I was terrified to speak out about my insecurities and looking back, so was everybody else. Unfortunately, when insecurity overpowered me, I began concluding that my mind was the problem and that my self-doubt was the result of an unhealthy mental being. Truthfully: physical appearance isn’t something you can hand-pick and is something you can only modify to some extent. However, you can modify the way you feel about yourself. Having issues with your appearance does not immediately signify mental illness, so don’t fear them. The only way to begin loving yourself is to stop treating your mind as the enemy. By confronting your insecurities, less anxiety will stem from having them in the first place, and it becomes much easier to accept them.

My body still wasn’t something I was proud of because it didn’t feel like something I owned, just something I always covered up

Focus on the finer things. 

Growing up in today’s ultraconnected society , it seems being considered ‘bangable’ is the most vital thing in a young person’s life. We’ve all spent more time than we like to admit ruining pre-drinks capturing the perfect Instagram, there is no shame. However, I think it is vital to consider how social media can be a huge barrier when trying to appreciate ourselves. Self-love never solely grows from ‘double taps’ on a screen, or a stranger’s fire emoji. Ask yourself: did the attention from your last post make you as happy as you thought it would, or was the entire outcome actually underwhelming?

We’re all aware that selfies are an incredibly glamourized representation of ourselves, taken when we’ve done ourselves up, with perfect timing and angles, followed by endless editing. Yet we still continuously compare ourselves to other people’s pictures and then belittle ourselves. Social media breaks can be incredibly helpful for putting into perspective how much of a role your appearance holds. Keep yourself busy however you can. Whether you’re focussing more on your job, trying harder in your studies, socialising or doing exercise; you should enjoy bettering yourself, rather than disapproving of yourself first thing in the morning because you don’t look like somebody who has used an app to make their skin look perfect. Spending extra time on something you’re passionate about allows you to discover all your desirable qualities alongside your appearance, and slowly stop fussing over pointless insecurities.

Strip it back. 

Take off your makeup, take off your clothes and have a good look. There is no simpler trick, you’ll struggle to love anything unfamiliar to you. It took me months to feel comfortable taking off my clothes in front of my first partner. I would even sleep with my makeup on around other people just to avoid exposing my bare face. I could never accept the compliments that past boyfriends would say to me, I could not help but assume they were just saying these things to be nice, making me question myself further. Many believe exposing yourself in this way is the key to gaining confidence, but looking back, it may have halted my journey, since I hadn’t developed a loving relationship with my uncovered self first. When alone, I still struggled looking at myself naked, and still caked on makeup every day since it was the only way I could leave the house. My body still wasn’t something I was proud of because it didn’t feel like something I owned, just something I always covered up.

You’ll struggle to love anything unfamiliar to you

While wearing makeup is great, we can become reliant on it for self-validation and become unable to feel attractive without it. Though it can be daunting, by normalising the no-makeup look you realise that make-up does not make you attractive, it only highlights the beauty already there. Loving your natural self is much more rewarding than loving the version you hide behind. Nobody deserves to fear what they have got, so don’t forget to bare it now and then, for yourself of course. Once you start seeing yourself without makeup and looking at your body properly in the mirror, you get the opportunity to acquaint yourself with the beautifully individual features you possess and realise those people were right. I was beautiful I just wasn’t ready for others to see me in this way, because I hadn’t even seen myself in this way.

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