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Self-love. Body love. Body positivity. Body image.
These are many of the buzz words we are hearing online and across social media these days.
It’s become—heaven forbid!—almost mainstream, so we are somehow unable to fully hear and take in the message. Or, perhaps hearing these terms invokes such anxiety, fear, and misunderstanding that we dismiss them faster than we can allow the meaning of them to sink in.
Radical self-acceptance—it’s scary, right? Particularly if, like me, you were brought up believing that being told you loved yourself was about the worst insult anyone could give you. Or maybe, you felt that your life lacked any kind of love, so imagining a world where you love yourself seems completely impossible.
However, it really is possible.
If only I knew back then, in my younger days, what I know now. If only I had known how completely wonderful and scrumptious it is to truly, madly, deeply love yourself. It could have saved me from years of heartache as a kid and young teen.
I know now that I actually did love myself in the very early days. We are born that way; hatred and shame are taught to us.
Fortunately, I had a “Fairy Godmother”—a Godmom whose life’s mission was to make me feel loved. It worked when she was around, but I felt I had no true concept of it at any other time. I also had no idea how important love from both others and self would become, and how necessary it would be to living a happy and fulfilled life.
By the time I was 8 years old, I already had a distaste for myself. My mum and dad had split, and I felt betrayed and confused.
I was olive-skinned in a predominantly white Australia, chubby, with thick black hair and almond (or “slanty”) eyes as it was told to me back then. And that’s the nicer version.
Years later, after my marriage ended, I realised the most exquisite unconditional love of my life was my two beautiful daughters. As they approached the age I had been when I started to dislike and reject myself alongside the rejection of others—the age of self-discovery and awakening to the world of comparison and criticism—I knew that I didn’t want to impart my life of body shame onto them.
I vowed that, under no circumstance, were they ever going to have a life that lacked love. I was going to teach them to nurture and grow love for themselves.
I remembered, at the time, that a few years before, I’d met a woman (an artist) at an exhibition. She suggested I be her model and gave me her card. She loved drawing curvy women, she said, and only skinny women were ever brave enough to model for her. The thought of being naked in front of someone I didn’t know was excruciating. Although I didn’t have the courage to call her back just then, I remembered the exhilaration and delight I felt to be asked.
I decided while making my vow to my daughters that it was my time to empower myself. I owed it to my daughters and their future.
I googled “artist model” and found a forum. It was long before social media had taken hold. I met a man who took me under his wing and got me my first gig. I can still feel my body shaking with fear as I remember that feeling of standing in a room waiting for the teacher to say “okay”—the signal to drop my robe and pose.
It was magical. All eyes on me, on every wrinkle and roll and curve. Slowly, I began to relax and unfold my body. I was good at this. I loved it. At the end of my two hours, I was acknowledged, complimented, and praised for my beautiful curves. I was no longer a fat or chubby child, I was a beautiful, curvy woman. I had transformed.
I began to love my body, and I haven’t stopped. I realised that self-love was the greatest gift I could give to my daughters, my partner, my job, and ultimately to the world. We need much more of it. Especially now with these unsettling times we find ourselves in.
Now, my days are filled with conversations about love, relationships, communication, touch, and connection. I’m still olive-skinned, chubby, and have my almond eyes, but my hair is short and white now, and I am totally in love with who I am.
Now before you go anywhere with that statement and think, “this couldn’t possibly happen to me,” you need to know it takes work and it’s not always easy but it is quite simple.
Loving yourself every day is a choice—day by day, moment by moment. It takes being aware of who you are, what you stand for, your belief systems, and your values.
It takes looking in the mirror and smiling at the person in front of you and saying, “I love you.”
It’s about doing it every day until you believe it. It’s about doing it even if you can’t quite bring yourself to open your eyes.
Do it anyway. Doing the work creates the results.
It’s not about waiting ’til you lose weight, or get the nose job, or the boob lift. It’s loving yourself right here right now, in this moment.
You are never going to love any part of you that may or may not appear in the future if you don’t have love for the person you are right now.
Do I still have crappy days where I feel like doona diving? Absolutely; I’m human. But after years of mirror work and practise and following body positive role models on social media (and, yes, posing naked in rooms full of artists), I am more and more in love with myself every single day. That is the absolute truth.
I check in with my self-talk, my language, my body language, and facial expressions to make sure I am showing up as nonjudgemental as possible. I check in with how I treat and speak to others as in doing so, it is a check-in with how I treat and speak to myself.
I no longer accept that little voice in my head—you know the one. Yeah! That one—saying, that I’m not important.
I am enough and I am worthy of love, respect, honour, and nurturing—first and foremost from myself. You are enough and you are worthy of love, respect, honour, and nurturing—first and foremost from yourself.
So next time you’re scrolling through social media and you see these words, don’t be so afraid or eager to scroll by. Read a few things, follow a few people that resonate with you. Learn to love you just the way you are so that you can be whoever you want to be.
You are already gorgeous, and life is your journey.