I have been reading a lot about self-love on the internet as of late.
Perhaps this is some indication that more people are blossoming into healthier, more loving relationships with themselves.
Whether this is true or not, there is one thing I know for sure: all this talk is spreading the wave of self-love.
Here I am, sitting down, writing about self-love, as part of a journey of my own that I have been hopping along (sometimes dragging my feet), but certainly a journey that is emerging into greener spaces of travel with more and more awareness and love.
It has been a long, arduous trip so far, and I’m still traveling. It takes a lot of work to alter a mode of thinking that has been shaped to focus on only a very narrow image of what is beautiful and valuable. A big part of my change has been coming to know how I lost the ability to love myself, a process of delving into the story of my past in order to clear a path for easier movement into new spheres of being.
I vividly remember a 12-year-old me—a strong, budding woman with pokey little breasts, sitting on the hard wood of my bedroom floor cutting up magazines. Most of the pictures were the immaculately photo-shopped bodies and faces of models. I was pasting them on my walls, only for the purpose of aspiring to be more like them and less like me. Why not pictures of myself in worship of the beautiful, fully functioning, powerful body I had been given? I see it now not as an individual error, but a cultural blindness to the reality of self that I think many young women will inevitably grow up with and will have their own battles getting past.
From this innocent teenage pastime grew an insatiable desire to have the “perfect” body.
It consumed my mind.
I took every available moment in most of my teenage life to control exactly what I ate and how much I exercised. It was compulsive and drained all of my closest human relationships of any substance. All I could think about was me, and strongly believed that if not thin and attractive, I simply could not be loved.
From a severely malnourished, anorexic teen, I transitioned into being bulimic. Sadly, this was spurred by a desire to look skinny on the night of my prom. By this point I was of a healthier weight, but still suffering from this illness of the mind that manifested as extreme dissatisfaction with my body. It was a constant, secretive preoccupation that kept me distant from family and friends and focussed on shallow, vain thoughts.
As I finished high school and gained some freedom, I stumbled across an unlikely step in healing—travel.
I beat bulimia through putting myself in a little village on a remote island in Fiji, where tiled bathrooms were non-existent and so was the possibility of locking myself away within one to get rid of stomach-fulls of guilty binges.
I was barefoot, stumbling through muddy jungles, learning to navigate my way in an unknown culture and teach a primary school class of 25 nine-year-olds. There were no mirrors to examine my reflection in each day, no media portraying women’s bodies in a limiting way, no other white women on the entire island to compete with or compare myself to. It was a sudden, alarming change, and although it didn’t get to the root of my dissatisfaction, it did ease the self-torture I had been enduring.
Since this first adventure, travel has continued to serve me as a means of opening my eyes to different concepts of beauty and methods of healing.
Just recently, however, I have paused the movement and have been doing some solid groundwork on self love—an unusual response to being increasingly solitary, for one of the very first times in my life.
Through some topsy-turvy traveling events, I happened upon a small town nestled among the mountains, and am now in an oasis of new people in a new place that I am only slowly coming to know. I’ve been learning lot about life and independence, growing up and looking inward.
I’ve come to realise that self-love is a starting point for most other things that involve delving into happiness, spirituality, life and how to live well, no matter where you are or who surrounds you. It might seem an overly simple or obvious a solution, but to me it is a truth that is opening doors in all directions.
My self-loving has blossomed largely through a change in stale mental habits—through gaining better control of the mind that has tortured me for so long.
Thoughts create our realities, so if we believe we are beautiful, it can only become truer and truer each day. After learning this, I began manifesting verbally as often as possible the deep, unconditional love that I had for myself, even on days when I didn’t fully believe it. As it has become more true to me, I’ve taken up performing little self-love rituals.
How do I love myself? Let me count the ways…
Creating nurturing spaces. Lighting candles, burning incense, spending time meditating and looking inward to the space of calm and love that always exists at my centre. Having time alone, and enjoying time alone, is a skill that I have been cultivating and getting better at.
Nourishing myself with good food. Rather than thinking over all of the ridiculous advice that I have collected over the years of what is good and bad food, I think to myself, “What will be nourishing to me right now? What healing herbs will improve my state of being?” It becomes a practice of mindfully fueling oneself as a result of intentional care and love.
Being bare. Spending time with my naked self, bare and whole and human and beautiful—this has been surprisingly healing. It is only natural for us to be comfortable in our bareness, yet so often we are covered in clothes, forgetting the beauty and shape of what lies beneath. Additionally, I’ve been masturbating and being mindful about what is pleasurable for me—just for me—because I deserve it.
Being body aware. I’ve been trying always to be present and mindful of the motions and sensations that my body goes through in every moment, and how exquisitely enjoyable these feelings are. The hot rush of water as I’m having a shower. The fresh, delicious air sweeping through my lungs and giving oxygen to my blood. The pure simplicity of stretching and feeling muscles move and sing. Being alive is a wonderful experience.
I’ll close by realigning this little ramble of personal experience and thoughts with my purpose and intention for being here, writing this, and sharing it.
I want to keep the flow going. I want people writing, thinking and sharing stories of self-love. I want to encourage anyone, anywhere, to delve into their past stories and understand from where they have come and to where they wish to go in terms of self-love.
Share these stories anywhere that they might be read or heard. Share the ways you are learning to love yourself. The more articles that unsuspecting humans stumble upon the more likely I think it will be that others will take the path, and the wave of self-love will spread, and it will become the norm.
A bright future awaits.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Sarah Healy
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Barbara Martin/Pixoto