Conversations on Self Love

SELF LOVE. What does that even mean? What does it actually look like? I wish I could give you a crystal clear visual of that answer. There are millions of opinions on the subject, so the possibilities are endless. Regardless of what you believe it to look like, there is absolutely no denying the power and courage it takes to practice it.

I recently made some posts on my social media about how I wanted to hear people’s stories and journeys, as well as, how self love has affected different relationships in their lives. The responses were mind-blowing, they were emotional, raw, and meaningful. Friends, people from my past, and people I have never even met sprinted to my inbox faster than I could have ever imagined. Yet, despite all of the diverse responses, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of connection between each testimonial, a sense of subconscious unity in the form of finding love within oneself. And so, I wanted to share snippets of their stories with you so that you can see what self love means to us as a people.

ANONYMOUS - “I have worked very long and hard at having a consistent attitude towards my body and who I am and I definitely share more now than I would have say... five years ago. I’ve had trouble with my body image for as long as I can remember. I had a pretty turbulent childhood. My mother being absent from a young age and my single father doing his absolute best to raise 3 children. Whenever I would see my mother, she would cut my hair really short, and being that we didn’t have much money, I wore hand-me-downs from my sister and brother.

Looking back, I can’t really make sense of how I felt or reacted to being called a boy, or “tomboy”, and it bothered me because I knew I could be feminine, but I just never had the opportunity to be. I got bullied a lot in elementary school because of that. I was also always taller than most kids my age, so I got teased a lot about things like that and my weight, particularly in regards to my thighs. By 6th / 7th grade, I started making more girlfriends and they encouraged me to dress more feminine. I was so convinced that being a “tomboy” was the only thing I could be, but for the first time I felt like I was finally starting to find myself.

When High School came around, I began dealing with early onset depression and anxiety. I had no idea who I was and had absolutely no confidence when it came to my body or my mind. It took me three exhausting and quite frankly dangerous, years to finally put a slip under a counselor’s door. Since then, I have seen five different counselors and therapists. They tried to help me understand the concept of self love. Like a genuinely disgusting amount. But one day, I gave up on it all. I didn’t want help, the counselors, or to feel better. I had given up on ever being happy or feeling worthy.

One day, when no one was home, I had been chain smoking cigarettes and pot until I was out. I then took my depression medication and some painkillers out, spread them on my floor, and instantaneously had a crushing panic attack. I lost it, screaming silently for the next half hour. The next morning, I woke up from my drug-induced stupor, feeling as if a light switch had turned on in my soul. All of a sudden I wanted to truly be happy. I wanted to eat, get better and live a long healthy life again. I began setting small everyday goals for myself, became nicer to people, wearing a bathing suit around people that weren’t my family, I quit smoking and drinking with the intent to be better. I started to accept that there is always going to be good AND bad times, and although my anxiety may never fully go away, my depression definitely did. Even though I have low days, those are not my defining days.”

AJAHNI - “When I think about what self love is, I can’t help but think about the journey or the path we take towards reaching a place where we can say that we’re comfortable with our existence, our flaws, our mistakes, and our shortcomings. A place where we can recognize our beauty and our magnificence, rejoicing in  our own being. It almost sounds like a fairytale. A faraway childhood idea that we become less invested in as we age and become wiser.

As I’ve gotten older, I began noticing that there’s a certain type of wisdom within innocence and inexperience, a wisdom that exists when one isn’t already cloaked with layers of societal stereotypes and expectations. Within that wisdom, is where true self love exists. When I wasn’t aware of heavy eurocentric beauty standards and colorism, when I didn’t believe that “lighter is better” or “straight hair is the only good hair”, it was easier to feel love for myself. But these ideas were forced down my throat and I had no choice but to swallow them whole.

The journey to self love is not a journey at all, but rather an experience of walking backwards, retracing your steps, making your way back to the place before the world changed you. It is understanding that who “I” am transcends my physical, third dimensional vessel. I’m grand, boundless, and infinite. Embodying this, owning this, being perpetually aware of this, and recognizing it as my truth is what it ultimately means to love myself.”

RHYLAN - “I never really thought about whether or not I loved myself or even how to love myself. However, I definitely noticed that my insecurities reflected outwards into my relationships with people. The more I began to acknowledge them, open them up and untangle the knots they caused, the more the relationships around me began to feel more full.

I was in a pretty unhealthy relationship in High School and it wasn’t until after we broke up that I realized that it was my insecurities that got the best of me. I was incredibly possessive and that brought jealousy into my life and I unfortunately let that jealousy consume my mind. Everyone around me would comment on how happy I looked all the time and how bright my life was, but all that did was add pressure to the parts of me that I couldn’t clap for. After breaking up, I realized that the more I worked on myself, the easier it was for me to find trust and find comfort in those around me.

I began to look at love as more of a muscle rather than a feeling. It gets stronger the more I work on it, and finding just an ounce of love in myself, rippled outwards exponentially towards a better understanding of how I want to treat others and how I want to be treated.”

ANONYMOUS - "I was with Austin*, for almost two years. He was actually my first kiss in 10th grade. He was literally my polar opposite, yet, we got along so well and had such good chemistry. And the whole time everyone around me was telling me how I was too good for him, that he was going to bring me down, but because I was in love with him I refused to listen. Of course I saw the flaws, the constant drug use, not attending school, but I wanted to improve his life so badly. I realize now I ultimately just wanted to 'fix' him. It took me until after I broke up with him to realize how poorly he actually treated me, and how things were not at all as good as I thought they were. My first time, which was with him, I was blackout drunk and incoherent. Afterwards I saw that as totally okay and not bad or weird at all.

He would constantly choose his friends and weed over me, and I would defend him to no end. He would never even come over to my house because he didn't like my family, which I said was okay because "I didn't like my family either". Nothing was ever his fault. He would never apologize. We hardly ever got time alone because his friends were constantly over. He would complain that I was too clingy, and I believed him.

But now I realize I was just starved for his attention and affection. I was convinced our relationship was healthy, happy, and would be my future. I would say, "I can see us being together forever, but never getting married because it's pointless". I was constantly doing small things for him and he didn’t appreciate any of that. I thought about leaving him, but I was convinced I would be lost without him. Although it was on Valentine’s Day of last year that I finally realized I was no longer happy in that relationship, it wasn’t until  mid-July that I told him we needed a break… but my intuition told me if you want a break then you obviously don't want to be with this person anymore. So I broke up with him.

Lots of tears later, I met Cory*. We’ve been together for six months and I can honestly say that I've never been happier. The relationship is equal, he loves my family and they love him, he shows me that time and affection I previously craved. Sometimes I still feel immense amounts of guilt about being with Cory, but it always passes because I know I’m better off. I'm a strong believer that everything happens as it’s meant to happen”.

illustration by Whess @ghost_suit

illustration by Whess @ghost_suit

As for me, I’m still working on loving myself. Every day is a new day for me to continue walking in that light. Every day I love myself more than I loved myself the day before. In my eyes, self love is what will reconnect you with your spirit, with your sense of worth, it will change the way you see life and the relationships that you attract. Once I finally started recognizing this and truly practicing it for myself, it felt like a light switch turned on and I had been sitting in the dark my whole adolescence. I enjoy my own company now, I look in the mirror and can see a strong woman who has been through enough hardship and has made it out alive and breathing! And that's one of my biggest accomplishments yet.

The journey to self-love is a complex experience. It’s full of trials and tribulations, rivers full of tears, and words of broken glass. But it is also full of wonder and joy. Every individual on this beautiful planet has a unique path, and no two visions of self love are ever identical but surely relatable. The end goal is always the same: To elevate the self and find an infinite amount of happiness and acceptance within our spirit. That infinite happiness, that key to ultimate bliss, is right around the corner. I promise you.

Erykah is a 19 y/o TGM contributor originally from Canada, residing in FL.

follow her @erykahhoran

post image: Nico Nordstrom