By Millie Caffull
Self love is one of the best things we can give ourselves. It’s been scientifically proven that loving ourselves can improve our mental health, our wellbeing and our happiness, our relationships… we even become more productive and ambitious. But how far do we have to go to really love ourselves? What does that really mean?
Self love isn’t arrogance. It’s not thinking that you’re better than anyone else. It isn’t about thinking you don’t need to make any improvements to the way you are. When I think about it, it’s actually more about acceptance and respect.
There came a point in my eating disorder when something hit me square in the face. “I’m doing this to myself”. During my anorexia, and especially in the earlier stages of it, I wasn’t really sure what was happening. I certainly didn’t choose for it to happen, and I didn’t feel like I could control it. But as I worked with my therapist, and we talked about self acceptance and self respect, I realised that actually what I was going through was a form of self harm.
I’d never thought about it like that before, and it kind of disturbed me. Seeing it in that way, I knew I had to make changes to start respecting myself a little more.
Respect is maybe a bit easier to understand, too. And I think it feels like a more achievable goal. Self love feels like we have to reach a point where we are happy with everything we have. But actually, it’s okay to recognise that there are things about ourselves that we don’t love.
I don’t have to love every inch of my body. It’s ok to not love my thighs or my hips, to think maybe my nose is a bit big or wish my skin was a bit smoother.
What’s not ok is thinking that because I don’t love something, I have to change it. That I need to reach perfection in order to reach self acceptance. That what I see as my imperfections define me or how I feel about myself. That I need to go to extreme lengths to change those things. Those things are not ok.
You don’t have to love every inch of your body. But you do have to respect it. Respect that everything you’ve gone through has brought you to this moment, in this body. You have eaten for sheer enjoyment, exercised intensely, skipped the gym to watch Netflix, developed stretch marks from pregnancy or puberty. Every scar is a memory; your body is a map of your life so far. It’s the one thing that has always been and always will be with you. So the least you can do is respect it.
Don’t bully it with your words, thoughts or actions. Treat it with kindness. Accept that there might be things you don’t love but that they might be the endearing qualities that someone else loves about you. Be grateful for what your body has achieved and what it has the potential to do. Understand its needs and provide for it. Allow it to thrive. And in time, if you respect it, you might learn to love it.