What feels like a lifetime ago, I wrote about learning to love yourself. At the time it felt cathartic to write, like by putting words to a page it was solidifying that I would do it and that, in no time, I would achieve some semblance of comfort in this awkward skin of mine and that the inner-workings of my mind would somehow mend and build bridges rather than burning them to the ground. Reading it back now, it feels like such a naive attempt at building myself back together after a startling chain of events that left me suddenly aware of just how I viewed myself. I have to give myself and that post some credit though, because it’s got me here with a distinct amount of retrospect that, if we’re being completely honest here, kind of horrifies me.
It’s sort of scary to really see for the first time how much I’d turned on myself. Actually, there’s no ‘sort of’ about it. The difference in me from then to now is so vastly different. And it’s not as if there was some significant event that had me deciding I was worthless, that I didn’t deserve nice things and that I’d screw it up anyway if I was ever so lucky. I didn’t believe in myself, and though a lot of that came from the way I viewed myself physically, I have come to see over these past three years that self-love isn’t just skin deep. It’s in the value you put on the beating of your heart and in the way you make your body move and respect the fluidity of it. It’s in knowing who you are as a person and cherishing those quirks, that obnoxious laugh and your desire to strive and work your butt off to be where you’ve pictured yourself all your life. It’s in the pride you grant yourself to feel about how far you’ve come.
So I suppose if I were to write that post again (which, really, I sort of am… right this second), I’d say that self-acceptance comes from your attitude towards yourself. Towards how you look, but also towards how you think. Shattering the bad thoughts rather than entertaining them when they’re not even a little bit true. But how do you change your attitude towards yourself?
First off, accept the compliments you’re given. And I don’t think that just means gritting your teeth and nodding. I mean saying thank you and processing it. Repeating it over and over again in your head and marvelling at the surge of warmth that spreads from your stomach and flutters beneath your ribs. I mean letting the little things like that make your whole day and not feel stupid about it. Whilst validation should come from within and not from what the people around you think, in the early days sometimes it’s best to hold onto those kind words. And agree with them, even if at first you think you’re lying to yourself. Even if at first it’s a hard pill to swallow.
Romanticise yourself. Fall in love with constellation of moles on your skin, with the way your softest hairs curl against the nape of your neck when you throw your hair up into a bun in the evening. Spend a few moments roaming your bedroom in your underwear, before rushing to put your clothes on and conceal the monstrosity that isn’t there. Take time with yourself and be kind. Learn about what your body really, truly looks like, because it’s probably not quite what it initially seems, or what you’ve decided it looks like in your head. Don’t always reach for the bubbles when you draw yourself a bath. Marvel at the clumsy-induced bruises marring your shins and your maybe too chubby, undefined knees. Smile at that birthmark just above your left one and the freckle just right of your collarbone that you’re kind of weirdly in love with.
Be aware of who you are as a person. What value do you put in the traits of your friends and family? Do you possess them? Probably. You are kind and compassionate, funny and intelligent. You are a person to be a proud of, or at least on your way to being. And that’s something else… It’s an ongoing journey, finding it within yourself to accept who you are, how you differ from everyone else, how you look. It’s an up and down kind of road and I wholeheartedly believe it gets easier as you get older and that the battles change.
In truth, I’m worse now than I was a year ago. My final year at university saw a peak in how I viewed myself — my brain and my body. Since graduating and coming home, I’ve slipped back into an unkind mentality. Perhaps that’s a different post entirely that needs to be written. What am I trying to say for the right now, though, is that self-love is a constant; it’s not something you achieve like a sparkly trophy. You have to work at it and give yourself the time you need. It’s hard work, but the most gratifying kind when you can honestly say you’re okay with who you are. Maybe you’re even proud.