For me, a conversation about self-love must always include a conversation about the ideal of grace. The ideal of being a creature with grace. Self-love is not about vanity, nor appearance, but about dignity. In other words, it’s about being able to be poised and have a raging bush at the same time (incredible, right?). We are in the midst of a self-love wave, perhaps moving so fast that we are not able to grasp it’s full potential just yet… but we will, with time.
I am a very young girl. And like other many very young girls I am exploring my body and the limits it bears with it… just now I can truly appreciate the longevity of a scar, the imprint of a wrinkle, just now as I edge away from the flossy gates of childhood. Only now can I see that through all those years of bending moving my wrists to clutch my pen, small lines pave my hands like barks on a tree. It is those lines that perhaps have always been there, like craters on a moon, and yet I only notice them now.
The exploration of one’s own body inevitably comes with a tedious process of self-evaluation… from the more banal questions we ask others ‘Hi Siri, are red spots on my ass signs of genital herpes or pregnancy? Can I get pregnant with genital herpes? Does wearing leggings give me cellulite? Are stretch marks real?’ to the more serious ones we may ask ourselves like ‘How much am I worth?’ (to which Siri never has an answer to BTW).
Now, self-love appears to be everywhere. From the sixteen year old insta-model who refuses to shave her pussy, to the overweight ‘butch’ who will not be silenced by the glares at her mom’s tea-party. It is almost my impression that self-love acts as a pseudo-consumer good. Packed neatly ready to be taken home (like those baby-dolls they had at F.A.O. Schwartz with the ‘nurses’ and the ‘maternity ward’ on the second floor). The idea of self-love is inspirational, and many individuals have pioneered this practice and made it far more accessible to others like me who are perhaps more late to the game. But at the same time, it is also vague and confusing. Where do we draw the line between self-love and delusion?
More important still, can we say with an entirely clear conscience, that self-love is enough? Enough to shield us from the politics of a fundamentally misogynistic world. Enough to raise us from the ashes when we read, almost incredulous, the growing numbers on the tallies of violence against women and girls. Is ‘loving’ ourselves even making an impact in the face of so much adversity?
To all those questions above, I would answer no. But I would also say that those questions should not matter. The ‘self-love movement’ does not only ask of us to embrace our own bodies and selves, but better yet it leads us to question ‘to whom does my body really belong to?’. Engaging in the practice of self-love, though seemingly individualistic, unites women on emotional and intellectual levels. The subjectivity of the singular body transforms itself into a tissue of communication and mutual support. An acknowledgement that self-love does not stop at a resistance of societal pressures, is an acknowledgement that it is possible to turn said pressures upside down altogether.
Self-love works on two basic levels; the first level belongs to the singular person alone. I practice the first level of self-love simply by looking at myself in the mirror, and ‘accepting’ portions of my person which do not seem fit for our collective standards i.e. a saggy ass. The second level is based on public spheres of influence. In order for this to work, I voice my ‘love’ or ‘acceptance’ of my (for example, saggy ass) publicly. I may post a picture of it on a social media outlet, or I may use it to transmit onto others the principles of such a practice. Based on those two examples, it seems clear that in order for self-love to have a real impact it must be present within the intimacy of a subject, but it must also manifest itself loudly and publicly.
Self-love awakens that aspect of women’s bodies that had been, in previous years, subject to a deep, dark slumber. The exploration of one’s erogenous zones, even if they are disgusting orifices. The ability to be a desirable lover even when looking down on our slumped, clenched, straight-out-of-national-geographic stomachs.
Of course, feeling ‘attractive’ is important – but self-love is not about suddenly falling into a spiral of physical degradation and laisez-faire but rather giving aspects of ourselves, such as a flabby belly or drooping breasts, importance only when we choose to do so. Self-love is about getting over the mortification faced at the hands of strangers, teachers and sometimes even parents concerning our own bodies. About being mistress of one’s own bodily gratification, without thinking about which way our thighs fall better on the bed for the sake of our fellow lover’s eye-sore.
Once again, is self-love enough? I’m not quite sure. There are many women and girls who have adopted this practice whole-hardheartedly, while others still pace back and forth. Like everything, policies are only efficient when they are implemented on a large-scale, and even then, the amount of contradiction and adversity faced is endless. Though not completely widespread, there definitely appears to be an undercurrent of women who are ready to take back their bodies, and keep them theirs for good. And that makes me very positive.