Self love and self confidence is a long and often hard road full of shadow work, fear, and stress. The unknown is a scary thing, and in today’s world we are bombarded with words and imagery that make us question our self love. We are taught to hate ourselves, because hate is fuel for the fire of capitalism. If we didn’t hate our bodies, cosmetic surgery wouldn’t be necessary. If we didn’t hate our waist size then diet fads, waist trainers, diet pills, and all those other products that are sold to us to make us love ourselves wouldn’t be necessary.
I don’t believe that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love others. In fact, it could quite possibly be the other way around. I love my boyfriend with every fiber of my heart and soul. I love my child the same. And my friends and other family. But I still struggle with self love on a daily basis. I constantly find myself thinking that I need to be thinner, have longer hair, be softer spoken, be fragile and meak. Because these are the images that we are fed every single day.
So how do we fight that? How can we fight the nagging, meanness, and intrusiveness of our self hatred and self loathing? If we can easily love other people, why is it so hard to love ourselves? I think it all boils down to two things: human nature and our capitalist society.
It’s human nature to want to fit in with the crowd. It was a survival strategy from centuries ago when it was necessary to be like everyone else or risk being shunned, kicked out of the herd, and dying on our own. The same thing happens now. Teens, young children, and even adults have been conditioned to follow the crowd. That it’s detrimental to our survival to stand out from the crowd and be different.
It also has a lot to do with our capitalist society. The images and words we are fed are picked up by the “in” crowd, whomever that may be, and distributed to the world through any influence possible. These things are then seen as what is normal and expected of the “herd” and we feel obligated to follow the crowd.
It can be a hard habit to break if it’s the way you’ve been living your entire life, and at this point it might be something you do on a subconscious level. The first step to breaking this cycle of self hatred is understanding why you believe the things you do about yourself. Is it a legitimate feeling? Or is it something you feel because society has told you that’s how you should feel? Your shadow harbors those answers, and shadow work plays a part in the process of unraveling these ideas.
Take me for example. I have always struggled with my weight and body image, ever since I was in 7th grade. For my non-US readers, that’s about 12 years old. I remember coming back from summer and being told by a classmate, that I still remember her name, “Wow Megan, you got fat”. This has stuck with me since then, and that was 15 years ago!
I’ve done fad diets, taken diet pills, fasted, spent 3+ hours in the gym at a time. And for what? I was still unhappy because I was being fed the images of thin beautiful women that I never even had a chance to look like because let’s face it, even they don’t look like their pictures.
It wasn’t until I worked on myself recently and switched my mindset from beauty standards to my own health and happiness that I was able to let go of those societal pressures. And guess what? I’m still a work in progress, and that’s ok!
So next time you have those negative thoughts, imagine that instead you were saying those things to the person you love most in the world. Would you say those things to them? No? So then why would you say it to yourself? Practice that, and begin your journey out of self hatred and into self love.