Everyday I’m asked, how did you find your confidence? And everyday, I struggle to find an adequate reply. How does anyone fall in love? It’s rather inexplicable, it happens slowly without notice and then, suddenly all at once. It took nearly two entire decades to fall in love with myself. And here’s the thing, it doesn’t just happen. You won’t ever simply wake up and finally sigh with relief, your usual wave of self-hate will not just evaporate without a conscious effort on your behalf. And yes, I hear you, how terrible it is that we live in a society that practically encourages self-hate. But the most rebellious act is to refuse and that refusal can only happen with work. Tiny rituals and habits that accumulate – in the same way forging a life with a partner develops. Love is an action, it’s a habit, it’s not just a word. The concept of self-love is flung around like a frisbee , hitting all of us females straight in the forehead with a bang, we’ve listened, we understand it’s crucial to our happiness but we are rarely told HOW. And then any advice we do hear is marketing taglines embellished as ‘soulful’ or a quick vapid instagram caption (insert photo of a woman’s tanned back at sunset on an exotic beach most of us can never afford to visit). So, rather than simply stating the importance of self-love, I want to tell you exactly how I fell in love with myself. Because isn’t that what we all want in life? To stop the war of spiralling hate that lives and so easy flourishes in our heads? I won’t say it’s easy, it isn’t. I won’t say it’s glamorous, sure that commune in Bali looks incredible but you’ll come home with the same old doubts. It’s just a simple, repetitive act. You won’t need one single pound or dedicate a huge amount of time. And I’m hoping you’ll see just how easy it is to love yourself because ultimately there’s no other way to exist except to be full of love for your own brain, flesh and bones.
I’ll admit, I have an almost religious relationship to exercise and it’s purely because of how it makes me feel. I finally managed to shake my obsession with skinny when I started practicing yoga, a desire to in fact be bigger, stronger, more forceful. I have always strived to be fierce female, so why was I wasting so much pretending I wasn’t hungry, growing more feeble by the week?! Because here’s the thing, exercise brings you back to yourself, it’s not a competition in the way females so terribly compete, it’s JUST you against yourself. This daily practice has kept me focused on myself, my body’s abilities and progress in strength rather than obsessing over how fellow females around me might look like. It’s not how my body looks it’s what my body can do – and that switch in priority is absolutely life changing. It also completely altered my relationship with food, a real source of self-hate for us as women – I need food to fuel myself and I need a substantial amount of it. So I eat and I eat often. And on that note, exercise goes hand in hand with eating well. That doesn’t mean you have to eat gluten free, vegan and non sugar - instead simply choose real foods without chemicals and preservatives – they nourish your body but also your soul. And it is these tiny daily acts, be it even 20 minutes of exercise a day or eating all your vegetables and protein that accumulate into a powerful force – and it’s a habit that will convince you of your worth, how you deserve to treat youself and this in turn will make you stronger and thus more resistant to the world that tells us constantly we as women are not enough. Exercise and eating right make us strong and it is only when we are strong that we can fight to feel like we are indeed enough.
2. YOU ARE WHAT YOU CONSUME
Everyday we are incessantly overwhelmed with visual content on social media. We hit follow with a casual click and then follow along on the journey of a thousand people’s lives who are actually absolute strangers to us. How weird. We don’t even consider how weird that is but what we really forget is that this stream of content we actively sign up for? It has a huge impact on us. And it can make us feel absolutely unworthy and lacking. It wasn’t long ago I unfollowed maaannnny people off IG. I didn’t do it for any reason other I needed to just take a break of lapping up lives from afar and instead concentrate on mine. Now, I’m not suggesting something so drastic but it was indeed peaceful, so I couldn’t not vouch for it for at least a little while. But I do still unfollow people all the time. If their content makes me feel anything other than inspired, I don’t stick around. Bye. Those women with bodies like barbie dolls and emojis for captions? Sorry (not sorry). That’s just not real and nor will it add anything to my life other than an extra 20 minutes stood in front of a mirror wondering how I could afford a boob job. We’ve all been there. Social media is still mostly a bragging platform sadly and we’ve all bought into it and subsequently felt like a piece of shit. Be selective with who you follow online. You’re an intelligent, cultured woman, so curate your social media feed in the same way you might decorate your house. I promise you’ll feel much better for it, more peaceful, less wondering why you aren’t like this or that. If a book annoyed you or made you feel terrible, you’d likely put it down – do the same with instagram accounts. Eliminate and save yourself a lot of pointless self doubt.
3. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH HONESTY AND KINDNESS
Women are naturally programmed to compete with one another. I hate this. In a world of dissapointing, disrespectful and overpowering men, we would be better off sticking together. I have found the best way to bond with women both in real life and online is to just speak the simple truth. Have no money? Voice it. Feeling lonely? Talk about it. A man broke your heart? Cry about it. Women are naturally very compassionate creatures and nothing will speak to them like honest, uncomfortable truths, it creates an intimacy and that in turn, binds us together as a sex. And this is important because a lot of the self-hate we feel comes from other women and the pressures, insecurities etc that the world places upon us. We as women must stop being cruel to one another because as much as we can blame the mostly male-run media of this world, we too collectively are making self-love harder. We criticize and dissassemble women like they are characters in a series and that is just not right. So be honest and be kind to the females you come across in life rather than competing. It opens us all up to more love, compassion but it also individually makes us feel better about ourselves. Creating a dialogue where women can confess their problems or insecurities and then responding with kindness and making them feel better? It’s the most beautiful thing we can do. And it’s a beauty that will breed more love for us ourselves too.
4. FORGIVE YOURSELF
This one is so simple. Treat yourself like you would your best friend. I spent so much of my life beating myself up about things I did, from sleeping with a man to missing a workout to eating an entire box of chocolate or whatever other bullshit I thought I should feel guilty about. We as women so easily torture ourselves over really stupid, meaningless shit. Last summer I decided to stop mentally apologizing to myself. It’s a waste of time and that circular hell called self-blame is self-hate’s evil cousin. Go easy on yourself. Life is short and small shortcomings or regrets are all part of the journey. To dwell on them is pure nonsense in a life that is already far too cruel. You are enough and whatever you do or don’t do won’t break you.
5. FOCUS ON WHAT MAKES YOU PROUD
I feel this is especially important when it comes to body-image. Everyday we are fed photos of women with ‘ideal bodies’ and ‘perfect faces’, it feels almost impossible to glance at a mirror without whincing. But you must remember photograph’s aren’t real and what we are as women is so much more complicated than what an image portrays. We have periods and bloating and blemishes and a quick 10 minutes in photoshop can eliminate all of that, we all know this and yet we consistently forget this enormous fact. I cannot tell you I love every part of my body, I wish I could, I have days where I feel great, but for every one of those days, I have several where I wonder why my stomach isn’t flatter or my nose, better shaped. They are far less frequent than they once were, but I’ve learnt to halt those thoughts as soon as they arrive and instead concentrate on what I do like about how I look physically. Absolutely no one is perfect and every single woman wishes she could change a thing or three – we all have flaws but we also all have beauty. And that’s just what it is to be human. Perfection has never ever existed and it never will, so why do we still pine for it like it’s a possibility? IT IS AN IMPOSSIBILITY like living on the moon or travelling in time or breathing underwater – and yet we all believe it could happen. You must simply remove this pressure of perfection from your mind and realize we all have uglier and more beautiful sides to our physical selves and that’s how WE ALL ARE and that’s HOW WE ALWAYS HAVE BEEN.
6. YOU ARE DEEP
In this world, women are venerated almost exclusively for their beauty. It’s always been that way, and while it is changing, there is still so much work ahead. A huge component of my confidence comes from the fact that I am so much more than my surface, I like to read books and take photographs and write poems. I believe I have interesting things to say and I’m drawn to people who are intelligent. And this life I’ve had? It’s been varied, it’s been crazy, it’s been an adventure. I am so much more than what my face or bum looks like, that’s not to say I don’t celebrate those too but I realize when I’m old and wrinkled, I’ll have all these other things I dedicated much of my life to as my greatest achievements and passions. And that’s what I’ll remember most when I die, not how I looked in a dress or how men might have liked or disliked me, but these passions I chose and then committed to. They make me who I truly am. They are what I’m most proud of – so make more room for your passions and celebrate your achievements – and the skills you have today? They will increase and amplify as you age, which is when women most deeply sink into despondency as their beauty begins to fade. Beauty doesn’t beat charm, humor or intelligence. They always win. Realize you are deep and with the intention to always be deeper – that’s what you really are as a woman. Celebrate that and prioitize it over anything else. There are so so many, infinite things to be passion about and dedicate yourself to in this world, don’t let what you look like distract you from them.