Fairy tales and films that don’t pass the Bechdel test (read: 99.9%) have long taught girls and fully-grown women, that the only way to achieve real happiness and fulfilment in life is by falling in love and living happily ever after.
But there’s one love story that has long been laughed at or dismissed as some self-righteous journey meant only for yogis and hippies: that is self-love.
Over the past 12 months, stories of women marrying themselves or wearing an anti-engagement ring as public declarations of self-love, have been met with ridicule. Thankfully, tattoos of crowns or the words ‘Self Love Club’ have been met with a slightly more positive response. Truth be told, I’m a former cynic of the idea of self-love - and I still smirk because it implies masturbation - but lately, mainly because I’ve realised how little self-compassion I’ve had for myself over the years, I’m a convert.
This isn’t about vowing to be single forever or calling on people to leave their relationships, but if we put half as much effort into ourselves as hunting and locking down ‘The One’, the impact on wellbeing would be astronomical.
As a 28-year-old, I’m acutely aware of the influx of engagement rings and weddings on my social media feeds, while so many of my talented, beautiful female friends obsess over the need to find a boyfriend.
What’s more, as women we spend so much of our time being negative about ourselves, inventing and obsessing over faults that aren’t really faults at all. From body image to imposter syndrome, we play down our achievements and obsess over perceived inadequacies.
And it’s not doing any of us any favours.
Last year I started my own “journey” (sorry that’s the amateur yogi talking) to self-love and self-acceptance. Having long suffered from anxiety, my negative thoughts came to a head last year and I started CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
CBT is a talking therapy that helps you understand how you are programmed to think and behave. The goal is to equip you with the tool kits to recognise when you process information or events in a certain way, helping you to overcome those tendencies.
Without going into too much detail, I learned that I’m a perfectionist, meaning that I set unachievable high standards across all areas of my life and give myself a really hard time when I don’t achieve said goals. (Spoiler alert: the goals I set are impossible to achieve altogether.) This is also linked to a acute lack of self-compassion, meaning the voice in my head is often nasty and unforgiving.
I’d be lying if I said that going to CBT has completely changed the way I think, it hasn’t. But it’s given me to ability to recognise my tendencies and work on myself.
And like the women I described earlier, I thought it befitting to mark the turning point in my life. But rather than marry myself (I don’t have the cash), I decided to get a small heart tattoo on my left-hand side, last November. It’s just beneath my bra/bikini strap so it’s pretty discreet, but serves as a reminder to myself to be more forgiving, patient and accepting of myself.
So whether someone feels the need to declare their self-acceptance to themselves or those around them, remember it probably took a lot for them to face their fears. You could probably help by showing them a little love, too.