Self love is a concept that Is being thrown about for some time now and most times our idea of this self love is restricted to bubble baths, cuddling with a cup of tea on our favorite couch, treating ourselves to a nice meal, taking a walk or going on a vacation. Sure, self love involves all these things and more.
But what about the days you cannot get out of bed, when depression, anxiety or the weight of living traps you in your room? What about the days you have nothing to offer yourself except your own beating heart? Do you stop existing then or do you suddenly don’t deserve to love yourself in those trying times? This is why we need to change the way we view this love, yes, it’s good to take care of yourself when life is good or at least when you are doing okay but when we romanticize self love, we take away the right of others who are not privileged to be in a good position to claim their selves and love it even if it doesn’t really tick our boxes.
Forcing yourself out of bed is an act of self love. Brushing your teeth on days you find it difficult to live is an act of self love. Folding your clothes or doing your laundry is an act of self love. Washing the dishes that had been sitting in your sink for days is an act of self love. Answering a phone call on days you don’t want to talk to anyone is an act of self love. Not answering your phone or a text because you are not in the right space of mind is an act of self-love. Forcing yourself out of a toxic or abusive relationship is an act of self love. It doesn’t have to beautiful to be worthy of being celebrated.
But one funny thing about self love is the fact that it doesn’t always come , in the words of the poet Nayo Jones ‘ Self love doesn’t always come first , or second or even ever .’ Some days we love others more than we can ever love ourselves. Sometimes we put others wellbeing first before our own. And sometimes, this love we have for others can be our act of self love and save us from ourselves and sometimes not even that is enough to save us.
There is a popular belief that people who don’t love themselves cannot love others but I beg to differ. I bet at some point in our lives we have used all the love we owe to ourselves and put it to a good use by loving those around us or at least have seen others do that. And we have seen how in loving others sometimes, we discover a way to love or accept ourselves. To say those who do not love their selves cannot love others is unfair to those who even though have an abundance of love, can only put it to good use by loving those around them.
But sometimes when we don’t love ourselves even our love for others or their love for us cannot save us. As the saying goes ‘ You cannot save someone who doesn’t want to be saved .’ if there is anything I learnt watching the Indian movie ‘Ashqiui’ and the American movie ‘When A Star is Born ‘ it is that unless we will ourselves to live , unless we learn to accept ourselves , no amount of love can make us stay . We saw these characters who seemed to have everything and even earned the love of people who are willing to die for them , we also see how even though that love was a balm to their wounds at some point , it never healed the wound . And it wasn’t because the love they had was not enough, it was because they couldn’t make peace or accept themselves or love themselves enough to seek the help they need. Self love boils down to who we are as a people.
There are so many days that we don’t feel like we are doing enough , whether for ourselves or for our loved ones and that belief can lead to a lot of problems . Especially when society is giving us a romanticize version of what this self love should look like.
But you have to remember this, doing your best differs from time to time, sometimes the best you can do at that time might be the worst you can do at another time. Self love just like everything in this world, fluctuates and on some days nothing in this world can make you accept yourself even if you have the whole world rooting for you and on some days the best you can do is get out of bed or take a shower or brush your teeth and for that day, that is enough.
And in understanding the concept of self love, we have to be careful of breaching the line. When we breach the line, we end up placing ourselves on a pedestal and matching others just to get ahead in life, For instance you can’t keep hurting people just because you want to put yourself first. In putting yourself first, you have to realize that sometimes the greatest act of kindness you can do for yourself is showing kindness to others.
Most importantly, we have to learn to be kinder with ourselves, even when we feel we are not doing enough, especially when we feel we are not doing enough. We should treat ourselves with the same love and kindness we expect from other people, and maybe by looking at the way they treat us, we will learn how to treat ourselves.
Do not limit yourself; do not lose hope in your ability to bounce back from anything. Do not be too hard on yourself on days you feel like a failure, and there will be many of these days. And sometimes, in taking care of others, you have to remember your own self too and say ‘I deserve all the good that life has got to offer.’ and on the days you can’t seem to say it, celebrate the little things; the clean room, the cold shower, the answered text and phone call and remind yourself that you just have to try again tomorrow.
At the end of the day, all you have is your own self .Be kind to the one who deserves it the most –YOU.
By Hauwa Saleh