Self-Love Will Help You Grow Wings and Fly Far Away from the Patriarchy (basically)

So I went on a date with this really cute guy named James and we talked for two hours and he had a gorgeous smile whenever he laughed and seemed to reject capitalism and I sort of wanted to see him again. We had some honestly mediocre because he’s a white man who hasn’t been socialized to communicate effectively decent text exchanges before he told me that he would like to see me again but not romantically because he hasn’t been into guys lately. Here are some thoughts I could have had, if not for my queen Audre Lorde:

“ok so clearly if I was a conventionally attractive white man with blue eyes, a more prominent jaw, and a six pack he would have somehow seen through my sweatshirt, he would have asked me out again and paid for dinner, and also like 27 novels”

“hm ok, I’m 23, I haven’t dated a man long-term yet, and sure I’ve turned down a bunch of guys but maybe there’s something wrong with me, like maybe I’m doomed to become a cat-owning isolated trench-coat wearing freak who reveals too many details about his personal life online on an obscure yet still-functioning WordPress blog”

“maybe if I had more peer-reviewed publications on my CV he would have asked me out again. I literally don’t know how that makes any sense but let’s heap on the self-hatred just for kicks”

But I didn’t have any of those thoughts, not even one. Over the past several years I have spent a lot of time cultivating self-compassion and self-love, through reading, therapy, and friendships. So instead, I thought to myself:

“Okay, his loss. Yeah, I may have enjoyed the first date, but either way I’m a well-read, compassionate, socially aware icon who knows how to satisfy myself and take care of my friends, clients, and students. Sure I have things to work on about myself, and I’ll continue that process regardless of whether a man loves me, or how many publications I have, or whatever. Also I have excellent music taste, so stream ‘thank u, next’ and some BlackPink song too.”

audre lorde self-care and self-love are political and revolutionary

thank u, audre. Her wisdom, just amazing.

We live in a society that tells us we are incomplete, insufficient, and in need of an external fix, especially if you are not a straight, cisgender, able-bodied, financially well-off white man. I have talked to so many female and femme friends who have felt self-loathing for not being thinner, not being in a romantic relationship, for having darker skin. Men and masc people have shared similar feelings with me, feelings of wanting to be buff, accomplished, and strong, or at least strong enough to get a girlfriend so they can feel less insecure. And so companies capitalize on these feelings and sell us things, things that will help us secure “happy objects” as feminist scholar Sara Ahmed calls them: slimming diets so we can get the romantic partner, images of beautiful, white weddings so we can toll toward the marriage of our dreams, and articles and books and lectures about how to be more productive so we can get the job or promotion or prestigious title.

Maybe instead of producing things we can start producing changes within ourselves, changes related to self-compassion and self-love. Because if we love ourselves, we can listen to our own voices instead of the voices that tell us we are not enough. Loving yourself doesn’t mean thinking you’re perfect or treating yourself to a Lululemon splurge, rather, it can consist of tangible actions that improve your health, or shifts in negative thought patterns that you’ve internalized over time. I think about all the time I spent starving myself over a decade ago – while I know I did the best I could then, what if I had taken my energy and directed it toward creating a more compassionate and just world, instead of carving away at my own body?

Two months ago I drove to a mental health setting where I provide group therapy. On the way there, my left front tire blew out in the middle of the highway. I had heard weird groaning noises from my car the day before, but I ignored them and hoped for the best. So I sat in my gold Honda Accord on the side of the road at peak rush hour, the sun still shining and other vehicles whooshing by at over 60 miles per hour, until the traffic stopped them all, right beside me.

tire blow out oops lol

Yep, I really put the blown-out tire on my snap story with this oh-so relevant caption.

I could have hated myself for my mistake, for not having my car checked out, for missing out on an important, meaningful commitment. Instead, I told myself, “you know Thomas, you’re doing the best you can in this moment, and that’s what matters.” I called my group co-facilitator and said I couldn’t make it that evening, and I sat in my car reading Rebecca Solnit’s Call Them by Their True Names while listening to Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album until the tow truck came. I felt kinda happy about how it all went down, actually.

I still struggle with self-compassion sometimes. I wonder if I am doing enough for the causes I care about. I dislike how I don’t write that much creative nonfiction anymore. I occasionally ponder if I should be doing something different to get a boyfriend, and then I mentally slap myself for viewing a boyfriend as something I should aspire toward at all.

But I have made great progress on this journey over the years. The negative self-talk happens less, the self-affirmations arrive more easily, and the humor and laughter and joy abound more than ever. My self-love emerges in moments, moments like: when I feel appreciation and awe toward my body after I execute an excellent tennis stroke or when I run at full speed to BlackPink’s “As If It’s Your Last,” the quiet contentment I experience when I finish a novel on the couch in my living room or when my students laugh at my obsession with Ariana Grande, the happiness I feel when I dance to “thank u, next” in my bedroom by myself or when I FaceTime a friend and feel so connected and understood. In these moments, I pause. And I make sure to cherish them.

to ari from ari thank u next video YES ariana

An iconic moment in the masterpiece that is Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” video. She rerenders a movie scene from “Bring It On” where the main character gets a mixtape from a boy, so that she gets a mixtape from herself. Ari’s mind! The self-love jumped out.

What are your feelings and thoughts related to self-love and self-compassion? Is it easy for you or hard for you, and how has your relationship to those concepts changed over time? Any tips on how to practice them more? Would love to hear from you all and will post again soon.

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6 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

6 responses to “Self-Love Will Help You Grow Wings and Fly Far Away from the Patriarchy (basically)

  1. I have been trying to be more compassionate with the mental talks I say to myself and I think it makes a huge difference. As I’m learning each day to be aware of what’s self-love and what’s self-loathing, I also come to notice the patterns. Of course, it is still very difficult for me because I have always been self-critical my whole life. These kind of habits are hard to break but then again, they are habits. Even the thoughts we have inside our minds come from our habits. When I am aware of these habits and patterns, I am able to tell whether or not I’d hate myself if I do certain things. That way, I try as much as I can to avoid the things that would bring me down.
    Lately, I have been playing Jennie’s “SOLO” on repeat and tackling one day at a time.
    *hugs* for my fellow BLINK!

    • So proud of you for spending more time addressing what’s self-loathing and what is self-love! I feel like it’s so easy to just go through every day not paying attention to what you’re thinking or what you’re feeling – like, just thinking and feeling – and it’s so cool and commendable to spend more time getting to know yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, and the patterns they create. It is hard though to break out of old patterns and yet the effort and intentionality you’ve written about I think can definitely help.

      Also yes “Solo” is so good! So catchy and independent. I’m so excited for the other members’ solo releases. Sending an internet hug back and hope you are well. (:

  2. X.w.

    Do you think that the text of saying “no” can tell something about a person ? I have seen those texts which doesn’t make sense. Honestly, I don’t need any reasons why we won’t have a second date but just a simple and classy way to say “no” and ” thank you”.
    Yes, it is his loss:D a big one.

    Xin

  3. I like cats and people who share too much personal information on their blogs.

    Keep an eye on your car and its maintenance schedule.

  4. I love your activities while waiting for the tow truck. I come and go with self-compassion and I do wish I could be the kind lovely person to myself that I was instinctively to all the young runners I helped today. I will try to store that up and use it for myself. It’s an on-going battle for me, but I do still fight. I just carved out an hour an evening out of my and my husband’s schedule to go to be and READ, not only because I have review books to read but because I need to read and I’m not doing it so much at the moment. And sleep is needed before I go spare. So that felt good, although I did go on and on about how he was invited to join me to read quietly, I wasn’t rejecting him, just carving out space I desperately needed. I also managed to be kind to myself planning my day in London visiting my dear best friend – after checking she was OK to meet early, I booked trains that get me time with her but also avoid both rush hours. So I do try. Lots of love to you. Date guy was not worth it. I slept with someone years ago who then decided he was gay and yes, that was a blow at the time but hey, I helped him decide something, right?

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