I know I am a glutton for punishment but I tell myself I create the work to engage with the audience and that is why I read the comments sections of articles I write. Well that is my story and I am sticking with it.
I recently read a comment that took a dig at the whole self love thing saying that it was just an excuse for lazy people to accept things in their lives rather than work on changing them. The comment went in deeper of course with its focus on body image. Coincidentally I also received an a private message on Instagram that read,
I’m sorry if the photo above looks disturbing but that’s the place am at right now and I feel like you are the only one I can talk to at this point. I have been overweight my whole life…right from my stay in the womb to this very day. I have been overweight. Call me unlucky but I have never felt love from my family especially my dad. To be frank, I disgust him. Ever since I was little, he hated the fact that I was overweight and he hated my sight. He made it look as if I’m his favourite to the public but within closed doors he HATED MY GUTS. He pushed me so hard, made me feel so miserable that I began to feel less important and ugly among my fellow girls. I never had girlfriends because I felt I wasn’t worthy to be among them .I avoided visiting people and going out because I felt and still feel like I disgust people, make them nauseate. I did everything to please my father but NOTHING WORKED. I met this guy in high school who actually showed me care in the way that I have never known based on the fact that I was naive and I got carried away, I got pregnant for him(trust him to run away) who would want me anyway? NO ONE! All hell broke loose and long story cut short, here I am contemplating suicide. I feel as horrible as ever. Mother to a lovely boy who I don’t deserve, I can’t go out, I don’t have anyone to talk to. I’ve succeeded in creating this visage of being happy online but I’m not. The truth is I’m sinking and no one is willing to lift me up. Help me Mswanawana I don’t want to feel like this anymore, teach me to be as confident as you are…I BEG YOU! I really can’t take it anymore.
I have often thought that wittling down the concept of self love solely to body image is a quite simplistic and it consequently does the idea a disservice. Self loathing comes from different places and not necessarily from once being likened to chop sticks or the Michelin man.
It can come from one failure, one bad relationship, one or more rejection letters, one mistake you have refused to forgive yourself for, a few snide comments, a bad day in the school play ground, a weird prophesy, a stuttering tongue, a parent that wasn’t ready for the responsibility of you, a few doors closed in your face, a face full of acne and yes a few rolls of flab on your tummy.
I have had my fair dalliance with self-loathing and I find that nothing good comes out of it. What hate did for me was transpose into other areas of my life until I had complete disdain for myself that living sometimes felt like a chore. In fact everything became a chore. You are eroded of all value, of worth and sense of self. Things you can do naturally easily turn into a constant self assessment and second guessing frenzy. Then to crown it all, you are consistently at the mercy of external validation. When the hate gets to much even for you to handle because the darkness inside of yourself can become overwhelming you need somebody, in fact anybody to show you a little bit of light.
I remember being asked a few times about choosing a super power if I had the opportunity. For many years the answer remained the same: to be invisible. Some people I knew, read it as my being a closeted introvert acting extroverted but honestly it had nothing to do with that.
I was lucky. The dalliance did last long but not long enough. I managed to cross over to the other side and the thing I have learned about self-love is that it gives you a fighting chance. It really is more than a word from a life coach’s glossary.
Just the way self-loathing transposed into other areas of my life, self -love did the same.
You get to apply for that fellowship because you know you are smart enough, you attend that audition because you become aware that you are as much a contender like anyone else, you make your case for that promotion, you try out that new business idea, you ask more out of that relationship rather than float in limbo hoping you will be picked one day, you negotiate good cash in that business deal rather than take what they offer because you feel lucky you got a call. You push back rather than stay a pushover.
As cliché as it sounds, I do believe that great things are born out of love. You want to try even when you are knocked down because you are aware that something good and possibly great can come out of you. That you have value to offer, that you have the right to make demands, that it is alright be expectant rather that settle or manage.
In relation to body image, I think self-love actually does the opposite of being an excuse for laziness. It makes you realise that you owe it to yourself to take care of you. It personally taught me to be more responsible and accountable in my own journey. It means that you look in the mirror and say that I love you too much to let you rot or wallow in self pity so we need to go for that long walk and we will be having grilled fish over the fried chicken for lunch today. It’s also saying I care about myself enough to not subject my happiness to be dependent on anyone else’s terms but mine. Love is all encompassing. It is body, mind and spirit and we all deserve a chance at getting the best. But the thing with self-love, like the term implies, it does have to start with you.