Self Love is the Hardest
By: Lauren Smith
When I was in my teens, I used to believe that the hardest relationships to maintain were friendships. Keeping and staying friends was a real challenge in itself. I remember getting into misunderstandings with close friends and trying to rationalize both perspectives. I would have to remind myself not to get so caught up in my emotions and to not throw away a friendship over a misunderstanding. There were times when my friend and I would laugh and then they nonchalantly say something that rubs me wrong. I know that it would be easy for me to hold a grudge and act foul, but I also know my friend & their heart. I know that they would never intentionally say something that would be hurtful. I would remind myself to take a step back and sort through what I was feeling. Making friends is an easier process than keeping friends. To see someone and start a conversation with them. To see how similar or how slightly different we were, how we bonded over movies or music. The more the conversation progressed, the more there was familiarity with them. Over time, the friendship was made. It’s a gradual process, but once a friendship is formed it’s a done deal.
It wasn’t until college that I realized something new. The hardest relationship to have is one with ourselves. During college I wanted to be me - the 100%, authentic, best version of me. I didn’t want to lose any of my personalities or quirks because I loved them all. But I also wanted to feel included and welcomed. I got the sense that I would need to make some adjustments. At first, I was okay with it.; they were just small changes. One of the first changes I made was how I wore my makeup. I used to wear a good amount of makeup in high school and then I noticed that girls in college had their more natural looking makeup routine. So I made the adjustment. I didn’t mind it, besides it helped me to learn to love myself more without so much makeup on. After I had adjusted to wearing less makeup I started to notice that other girls were wearing eyeliner, so I switched it up. I convinced myself it was a good medium. Not too natural but not too heavy. From adjusting my makeup, I adjusted my closet. Dressing up, dressing down, trying to look ‘simple’, trying to look as if I’m impressing someone. It was a constant change as I noticed what other girls were wearing. In my spare time, I would find myself questioning where or not I fit in amongst my friends. I would wonder if I stuck out too much. If I was the girl in our group picture that blended in too much or stuck out too much. I would even begin creating a list of ways that I could fit in more.
Quite honestly, it’s something I still struggle with. To have a healthy, gentle and loving relationship is something I don’t have down yet. I still have days where I do compare myself amongst others. There are days when I’m thinking of what to change instead of staying present. I still find myself feeling lost and upset at myself for how my relationship is. I know one day all of my spare thoughts and struggles with myself will be minimal. It won’t happen overnight; it’ll be gradual. More than anything, it’s going to be a process. To choose to show myself gentleness rather than critic myself. And I know that I’m not the only who realizes that too. For those of us who are familiar with this process, we all know how painful it is. When someone is used to critiquing themselves constantly and now they are trying to be kinder to themselves, it’s daunting. How do you wake up one day and break a habit of criticism? There’s no book or class that guides someone in their process. And our culture doesn’t make our decision to love ourselves any easier. We see ads, celebrity posts, entertainment all implying that there is always something that needs to be adjusted. It almost feels as if those who actually do empower one another have the smallest voices.
So for those of use who want to have a healthier relationship with ourselves - where do we start?
I believe it starts with deciding and acting up. Waking up one morning and realizing that despite how messy your bedhead may look, you are still you. You are still amazing and you are worth loving yourself. It’s also the small moments. Instead of seeing faults, we see our beautiful imperfections. We start to vocalize what we like about ourselves. We begin to write it down so we can see it every day. We begin to hold our head higher and walk taller. We begin to slowly show how confident we are. We decide to fight back against our critical thoughts. And then, we no longer need to remind ourselves because it’ll become natural for us. One day we’ll get there - you and I. Until then, be gentle with yourself.