How many times a day do you hear "You have to learn to love yourself" from someone on TV or a friend? By now, it's nearly a law. But when was the last time you heard someone express that they truly love themselves? Life is more difficult and confusing now than it was a few decades previously. Someone else always seems to be more successful, prettier, or happy than you. Self-love is credited as a spiritual answer to mental health difficulties and even drug addiction rehabilitation, with mental health awareness at the forefront of most people's minds. However, self-love workshops might cost as much as a month's rent. Is self-love only for the rich? And does anybody know what self-love is?
Self-love, simply accepting yourself (flaws and all) thus choosing to love who you are, is a great thing. We should all love ourselves! The world would be a perkier place if we all stopped shitting on ourselves, but the problem is every media outlet, social media messaging and existing in the western world encourages self-hatred. Consuming photoshopped images, binging MTV shows where 16-year-olds throw fits over gifted luxury cars that aren't the 'right colour' and strangers in the street hiding their failures behind smiles is treacherous territory. To escape unscathed, to NOT hate yourself, is nothing short of a miracle.
You see, there are a lot of facades. It seems to be really 'cool' and 'funny' to downplay yourself. So many people put up pretty pictures of themselves online captioned "Ugh, im so ugly lol". Cue the "same lol" comments in 3,2,1... Are they looking for attention? Reverse psychology strategy? Do they sincerely think they are ugly? Possibly. But why would you post pictures of your face if you think it's ugly? The most plausible theory: they don't think they're COMPLETELY ugly, perhaps need a smidgen of reassurance but fear being an overbearing Kanye.
The self-love dilemma is that, yes many people who are perfect hate how they look and themselves. Self-hate IS rising. On the flip-side, there are people who love themselves but risk being dubbed a cocky, self-absorbed, vain 'Kanye-type' by voicing it. Self-love says, "Yes! Love yourself! Be confident and who gives a fuck about what anyone else says!" while our socialisation stresses, "No, be humble! Saying out loud that you think you are stunning and love your life is cocky! Nobody likes self-obsessed cockiness!" How can we balance these principles?
A place that amplifies radical self-love is in the lyrics of rap music. Rap lyrics have always centred on bragging about wealth, status, and beauty. I've yet to see a self-conscious rapper. The last decade has elevated more female rappers who are hyper sexual, vehemently confident and not afraid to flaunt money. This is the backbone of rap music. Is it phoney though? Recently, we've seen rappers and singers, mostly female, open up about struggling with self-confidence. Their lyrics state that they don't give a fuck what anybody says but on Instagram Live they cry over online hate. Were their lyrics all lies? Fake it 'til you make it, perhaps? Following the same format as every other rapper before you is a sure way for formulated success but how can you say you love yourself if you're too afraid to be upfront about how you really feel and who you really are?
Obviously, there are those who truly do love themselves. Is self-love too much of a meaningless buzzword, however? A crutch, if you will? Excessive self-love might result in unintentional self-sabotage. Individuals sabotage themselves under the false pretext of "Oh! I can't finish my tasks because today is a self-love day!" Success is hard and taking off on 'self-love' days too often will lead you to failure eventually. Overeating, slacking off on assignments and responsibilities are just a few examples of ways people destroy themselves. In some ways, intense self-love makes us blind to reality. Because "Positive Vibes Only," smiling through suffering is disregarding how you genuinely feel. It is occasionally a falsehood.
As usually, companies don't care about us. Take, for example, actress Gwyneth Paltrow's "Goop" brand. "Harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice" for only $55. Goop paid $145,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that its eggs could control menstrual cycles, and Netflix awarded them a show! Kudos Netflix... When Gwyneth Paltrow isn't spouting nonsense, another influencer declares that rubbing her face with an electric cleaner is "revolutionary". Why is it that loving yourself comes at such a high cost? Love is free! You don't need to buy a sheet mask to love yourself. Perhaps it's because the meaning of self-love is being drained away to make space for big business.
As self-love has become a cliché, the number of untrained self-love "activists" who use the movement as an aesthetic has increased. Self-love morning rituals are often uploaded to YouTube, but when did self-love have anything to do with your sponsored vegan candle? Influencers are sharing Facetuned bikini images with the phrase "Love yourself as you are," followed by rhinoplasty vlogs the next day. The hypocrisy is incredible.
The final verdict is self-love is amazing. I mean REAL self-love, not using a hashtag to sell shit. Normalise expressing that you think you're pretty and you like yourself. That doesn't automatically make you vain. Things aren't always as they appear: success is easier to show off than failure. We're all floundering trying to figure life out. Self-love can help us, but not this bullshit hijacked version of self-love.
*This is a more raw, re-imagined version inspired by an article I wrote for The COMM. Read that similar, better-written article here: https://the-comm.online/blog/i-love-me-more-the-growing-trend-of-radical-self-love/ *