Breaking the stigma of self-love

Every time I look in a mirror, I say the same three predictable words without fail: I’m a mess. When I accidentally spill my orange juice on my favorite pair of leggings? I’m a mess. When it’s the fifth time (in a row) I couldn’t open my locker today? My favorite three, magical words: I’m a (ridiculously uncoordinated) mess.

Maybe you feel that you’re a mess like me. I get it. It’s easy to blame yourself and believe that the reason you’re feeling so down is that you simply don’t have the capacity to be anything but a mess. Accepting yourself (even as a mess) takes understanding of all of the factors that form self-love.

Criticization of others is seen as harsh and even vindictive, but self-hate rather than self-love comes naturally to us. In a survey across the UK by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 78 percent of girls suffered from low self-esteem and 51 percent of boys had low confidence in their body image. This lack of self-esteem contributes to about 20 percent of teenagers who experience depression before they leave high school in a nationwide study commissioned by Dove Self-Esteem Fund. When we feel unaccomplished or lesser in comparison to others, we collapse into a vicious cycle of frustration and self-loathing, ultimately losing ourselves in the process.

Fortunately for me, my adoption of a “mess” mentality isn’t necessarily a bad thing and acknowledgement of my flaws is crucial to self-love. Approaching weaknesses with the intent of resolving them will in turn create an environment to develop and build on one’s attributes. In order to find self-love, one must realize that flaws are just another part of being human.

It’s difficult to remain positive about yourself when you’re ridden with what you perceive as weaknesses. Whether it’s finding the perfect word to describe yourself in college applications or merely emphasizing your strengths, embarking to discover what desirable qualities you possess may pose an even greater challenge.

Rather than try to determine specific attributes, take pride in the little things. Appreciation of yourself in individual actions will provide an easier transition into self-love. The struggle with self-love exists not in the search for your strengths, but in self-respect; for without self-respect, self-love is nearly impossible to achieve.

The search for self-respect comes with the question: how much is too much? Confidence is oftentimes mistaken with narcissism, but differs in one’s actions. Peace with yourself at the cost of isolation is detrimental to you and your loved ones and results in a loss of compassion, love and care. Becoming self-absorbed causes us to lose hindsight of what we hold important and to neglect our actions and how it affects people around us. Self-love should be a relationship where one may grow without harm to others.

Finding a balance with self-love requires careful navigation and consideration of all the outcomes, making a “perfect” middle ground seem inexplicably unattainable. It’s necessary to take a moment away from everything and really reflect upon yourself by asking yourself how you can grow to become your best self and love yourself to your fullest capability. If you pause for a moment to understand each aspect of yourself, you will be one step closer to understanding self-love.

So at the end of it all, do I still see a mess when I look in the mirror? Yes. However, just because I am a mess does not mean that I lack strength. It means that I am composed of both positive and negative qualities, but I love myself regardless.

By Amy Lo, Staff writer
Editorial cartoon by Amy Lo