Woah! It’s been a hot second since I last wrote a blog post butttt, I’ve just finished Florence Given’s ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty,’ and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to reaffirm their own values, or anyone seeking to delve deeper into their own self understanding. The book itself is brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in its entirety. I particularly liked her understanding of what self love is. This section of the book really struck a chord with me because, as of late, I’ve been thinking a great deal about what it means to love and understand myself. Often we’re sold a version of self-love that involves face masks and wine; a sort of pampering that usually results in temporary validation and fulfilment. Before I go on, I’d just like to say that this sort of self-love is GRAND and is, sometimes, just what we need. What I wish to point out, however, is that this sort of self-love has been capitalised on and also focusses largely on the outer; YES it is wonderful to pop on a face mask and call it a day, BUT, so much of our journey towards loving and understanding ourselves has to come from within.
Self-love is setting boundaries; (and keeping them) it’s demanding excellence for yourself and not settling for anything below. For me, self-love has been a lot of solitude, a LOT of tears, a lot of reflection, and overall, just a lot of work. For the most part, it has not been a magical experience, but it has provided me with some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in my life thus far. I do not assume that this journey is ANYWHERE near over, however I can say that the love I have for myself right now, is far greater than the love I’ve had for myself previously. Learning to say, ‘no,’ was one of the most important steps I have taken in this journey; it seems so simple, but saying, ‘yes,’ when I want to do something and saying, ‘no,’ when I don’t has been groundbreaking for me. Alongside this, learning to remove myself from toxic situations, or situations that are halting my growth has also been paramount in my self-love journey. Another big step was learning to actually hold myself accountable; I don’t mean telling everyone that I’m starting to hold myself accountable; I don’t mean posting on instagram about the magic of holding myself accountable; and I don’t mean raising my voice and shouting out, ‘look at how I am holding myself accountable.’ I mean, plain and simply, learning to take complete responsibility for my actions; seeking to understand and respecting the boundaries that the people I love have in place; apologising for any behaviour that has upset or hurt people; and, most importantly, changing my behaviour in order to lessen the risk of hurting someone else. Accountability is both a deeply personal journey; where we seek to unlearn micro-aggressions and take responsibility for our actions; and a deeply community-based journey; where we apologise to loved ones where necessary, and also tell our loved ones if we feel hurt by their actions. It’s important to note here that you are not responsible for other people’s accountability; focus on your own first and foremost; BUT if you do wish to explain your hurt feelings to a loved one, understand that it is an act of love to hold them accountable; it means that you value their presence in your life enough to want to ensure openness and honesty. The idea that holding someone accountable is an act of love can be quite tricky to understand; often we equate hurt feelings with over-sensitivity or we expect those hurt to simply ‘toughen-up.’ As I’ve said in previous blog posts; just because someone didn’t intend on hurting your feelings, doesn’t disallow you from feeling hurt; just because your feelings may seem irrational, doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. It’s important to remember that this works both ways, in that, if a loved one opens up to us about our actions hurting them, we MUST remember that they do so as an act of love. Being communicative about this sort of thing, especially to start with, seems super overwhelming; and it is; but if the people around you love and respect you, they will want to adhere to your boundaries; and if they don’t? Well then maybe it’s time to ask yourself why there is someone in your life that doesn’t realise what a privilege it is to know you?
In Melbourne, and around the world, I’m so lucky to have people in my life that are constant sources of encouragement and inspiration to me; people that have held me accountable since I was a teen, and have taught me that self-love is grounded in respect. I remember, a few years back, reading a quote that read something along the lines of, ‘Self-respect is putting the needs of yourself, above the wants of others. Selfishness is putting the wants of yourself, above the needs of others.’ I think this has stuck with me because I have often found myself equating prioritising myself with being selfish; when, in reality, prioritising yourself and your emotional needs is going to allow you to be an even better friend to those around you. You can’t be the best friend to someone else, until you’re the best friend to yourself. I feel that it’s important to note that a part of self-love and understanding is not only respecting and adhering to your own boundaries, but is also respecting and adhering to the boundaries of those around you. Your journey of self-love is NOT someone else’s responsibility; and it is super important that you don’t put the weight of your healing and growth onto someone else. For example, my close friends and I have tried to make a point of asking, ‘are you in a headspace where you can deal with [insert topic here]’ before we bombard each other with information and/or emotional troubles. This simple question creates a space of mutual respect, and allows the people involved room to check in with themselves before they engage further. Always be mindful that your emotions and troubles will weigh on your loved ones and it is unfair to expect those around you to halt their own self-love journeys to cater to yours. Self-love is about loving yourself enough to take responsibility for your own journey, and respecting the journey that your loved ones are on. I’m not saying that leaning on each other is wrong; but instead encouraging you to be mindful that everyone around you is as deep and complex as you are, and that your friends are probably also seeking to better understand themselves. The energy you put out into your community is felt by others; remember that.
Being brave enough to hold yourself accountable, to hold your friends accountable and to be able to say, ‘you know what? I’m actually just not in the headspace where I can deal with this’ is something that we should all be striving towards. Set boundaries, listen to and respect the boundaries of other people, show up for yourself by holding yourself accountable and take responsibility for your journey. Read about and educate yourself on your own privilege, make necessary changes and demand excellence in your narrative. Surround yourself with people who encourage accountability, and people who inspire you and are inspired by you. Yes, you’re responsible for your own journey, just as others are responsible for theirs, BUT you can still be cheering each other on as you go. Falling deeply and madly in love with yourself is a RADICAL act, so enjoy the journey; YES you should pop on a face mask, and pour yourself a glass of wine; but perhaps you could couple this small act of self-love with seeking to understand your inner biases, or with filling out a ‘check your privilege,’ checklist. Taking a moment to inwardly reflect will open up a myriad of possibilities to make yourself a better person; and seeking to make ourselves better people is self-love. Life is far too short to waste our precious energy judging others; it’s far too short to not be kind; and it’s far too short to not work towards loving the absolute crap out of ourselves. Go out and love!