When you think of love, what do you see?
Perhaps, an incandescent memory of days spent in the humid air of your grandmother’s kitchen? Days lost, though never wasted, to frolicking in the tall grass of a tiny yard. It was those years when the adults began teaching us about the ropes of life. We would perch ourselves below their feet, and sit for minutes that stretched into hours, where we’d spend most of thinking about the many ways we could perform the cartwheel.
Just when your bottoms began to ache from all that sitting, your grandmother’s voice would cut through the thick air and save you from the unwanted adult chitchat. Your grandma, in all her apron-wrapped glory, would look down at you with her tired eyes and caress your cheeks with her worn-out hands. You’d look at her and think to yourself, “So, this is love.”
Later in the day, you would come home to mother going about in the house, trying to synchronize her cooking with the clock’s ticking—tik, tok, tik, tok, but the seconds are never enough, not for a parent trying to build lives while losing hers. Slowly, you’d meet her eyes, she’d beam the warmest smile, and you’d think to yourself, “So, this is love.”
Fast forward to a couple of years, and you find yourself in the same position as the mothers and grandmothers who came before you, and you think to yourself, “Is this all that love is? ”
How did we end up here?
We were dealt a bad hand; tricked into believing that we were only whole if we were part of someone else—that love was something we look for outside of ourselves, rather than something we nurture inside of ourselves.
Love is something woven into and from the fragments of our own being—like creation itself is an expression of love. It is not begged for nor asked. But it is given—wholly, without condition or intention to harm or hurt. Love doesn’t come in half measures, in unfelt I love yous, in tepid emotions. It comes like the tide—slow and sure or swift and encompassing. And it comes from within because we are creation itself—an expression of love, for how can we begin to give something away if we do not first have it?
We’ve all been here before. Finding ourselves in a dark place at 12 years old when society told us that love didn’t look like this—love didn’t have pimples, acne, or scars. That love was this picture-perfect societal ideal of how we should look rather than the normal crazy hair at 6 AM and last night’s drool across our faces. I know how it feels when you badly want to crawl out of your own skin and into a hole in the ground. And the lie people tell you, “Oh, it’s just a phase,” but in that exact moment, it feels like it could go on forever…and it will if you allow it.
If you ask me what self-love is, I’ll tell you this: Self-love is choosing to pull yourself out of that hole in the ground and thanking your body for all that it is and all that it could be rather than being angry for all that it isn’t.
A little warning though, self-love is not all that it is cut out to be. It isn’t linear or easy, and what those 5-Step Internet Tips to Loving Ourselves don’t tell us is that there will be days when we have trouble actually loving ourselves. It will seem hellish and counter-productive, but don’t confuse difficult for impossible. A sad day doesn’t mean a sad life.
Like all things, self-love has its highs and lows, too. Remember to devote yourself to the process. In the lows, I urge you to find your peace in the things that comfort you. Perhaps, a slice of chocolate cake or a hot bath? And in the highs, do not ever, ever, forget to celebrate you—your entirety. The scars, nappy curls, baby hair, thick things, skin, bones, and all those moles that look like tiny moons, they are a part of you.
Loving ourselves sometimes seems easier said than done, but as I’ve said before, when it comes to progress, it is the little things that count.
When you get up in the morning, do activities that are good for the soul. Pray, meditate, exercise, or read a book. Social media is not where you create life. It is where you lose it.
Cultivate an environment that makes it easier for you to grow and practice self-love, and always remember that self-love, with all its potential to be extra, can start off as simply being kind to yourself.
So, have you been kind to yourself today?
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”— Ralph Waldo Emerson