Friends, family, co-workers, obligatory guests, and casual acquaintances —
We are gathered here today to witness the contractual commitment of two people who grudgingly admitted that their mutual tolerance for each other was marginally preferable to living alone. As they combine domestic responsibilities, we nod in agreement that this is a valid choice, and wish them a minimal amount of success in their new joint venture.
Think about your reaction if a real estate agent introduced a piece of property this way:
Well, this is a house. It’s fine. The features are okay for the price. I mean, it’s not a dilapidated shack, right? You’ll be sheltered from the elements if you live in this house, and I think that’s a good idea because winter is coming.
The Problematic Problem of Self-Love
I’ve come across several articles recently that suggest that this is the best we can hope for when it comes to loving our bodies. Self-love, I’m told, is flawed at best and harmful at worst because individual solutions to systemic oppression does not lead to liberation, and mental illness can make the struggle to simply provide basic self-care as survival next to impossible.
I don’t disagree with either stance.
But I also support with the idea, argued by both of the authors above in different ways, that the kind of mainstream, consumer self-love is NOT its definition, an end goal to aspire to, or the ultimate measure of “love your body” success.
I used to think that ACCEPTANCE was the best we could hope for when it comes to body confidence. I assumed that self-love was too lofty and too mysterious and too individual to be able to say that it’s a good way to approach health and wellness decisions.
Self-acceptance may be a good place to start especially if “love” feels too intimate or impossible, but is it enough?
Is that too much to ask of ourselves — that we like our bodies enough to care for them?
I don’t think so.
Self-love is a way to think about health and wellness (broadly defined) that supports the kind of life you want to live, and how you express yourself moving through the world. It’s time to raise our expectations of what it means to relate to our bodies in a loving way.
To be clear, I’m not talking about self-care practices when you’re dealing with an active mental illness like depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder. I’m talking about the general malaise many women have come to expect when thinking about body image and body confidence — the ho hum, “I guess I can learn to love my thighs,” shrug — as better because it doesn’t mean you hate yourself. I reject the idea of self-love as resigned tolerance.
Loving You Is Easy ’Cause You’re Beautiful
Go find your favorite meditation on love. Maybe it’s 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 or a poem by Rumi or a pop song. Put yourself in it just for a second. How would your life be different if you loved yourself like that? What choices would you make in all areas of your life that honor the love you have to share with the world?
Carole King’s song “Beautiful” is my favorite meditation on love right now.
You’ve got to get up every morning
With a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Because that’s what it’s all about. Self-love is an expression of your spirit, and that spirit is good and righteous and worthy of space. Let’s say YES to wholehearted and joyful living that starts with basic respect and care for ourselves.
Self-love makes it possible to do things like ask for what you need, set boundaries, take your medication consistently, wear your seatbelt, exercise, ask for a hug when you need one, get a message, smile more often, choose clothes that fit well (and get them tailored if they don’t), do meaningful work, get out of your comfort zone, and just plain enjoy being alive.
Isn’t that worth fighting for?
Dr. Kate Browne is an autobiographical storyteller and business writing consultant. She is also the founder of Taking Up Space, an self-care advocacy project that promotes inclusive marketing in the health, wellness, and fitness industries. Kate is a proud preschooler’s mom, and iced coffee enthusiast, and is writing the first academic book on “The Golden Girls.”