Like most young women in the United States I have spent far too much time disliking things about myself. I did not like the shape of my body, my funny laugh, big feet, face that blushes easily or nerdiness. I don’t really remember when I stopped liking myself, but it was pretty early on. It seemed like no matter what I did I would never look like the girls in the magazine or have it all like the television promised I could if I just had the right products. I saw the women around me lamenting their fat, hating their faces and gossiping about each other behind their backs. By the time we hit puberty my friends and I were mirroring their behavior. I can’t tell you how many of my peers have struggled with eating disorders, self-harm, or low self-esteem which lead to all sorts of self-destructive behaviors. Highschool is still a blur.
The thing is…disliking yourself takes up a lot of time and energy. Time and energy that could be spent on making the world or at least your community a better place. Deciding to like myself has been one of the most radical steps I have ever taken. It means I can’t be sold products I don’t need or pressured into activities that further colonize others because I am secure enough in myself to listen to my inner voice (a.k.a conscious). It means I’m less afraid to try something new because failure is less terrifying when you know you are enough. It means you can give of yourself without giving it all away.
A large part of learning to love myself has come from seeing myself as part of something much larger. Some call this a higher power…I don’t know what I call it yet. I just realize that the things that I hated about myself don’t really belong to me. I have short, strong legs that carried my Russian ancestors out of progroms, big dark eyes that saw the inquisition, and a soul full of poetry like my great-grandfather and father. To deny this in myself would be to deny them. They who toiled, lived and died…for what? To carry on the gene pool I suppose. That is the only thing that remains of us really. They are nothing without me and I am nothing without them. It isn’t all about me.
Self-love is a process and takes constant work. I still don’t always like what I see, but I’ve gotten much better at getting out of that cycle of negative self-talk. I know that often when I am stressed or uncomfortable those feelings are more likely to make an appearance so it doesn’t catch me off guard. In those moments I remind myself how lucky I am to be here and think of all the beautiful people past and present who surround me. Remember that corporations benefit from your self-hatred. Fight it.