The Uphill Journey to Self-Love
Photo by Sundus Alfe for Coulture Magazine. Designs on my nose are reminiscent of medhni/henna designs, representing my journey to self love and acceptance. My physicality is a distinct symbol of my heritage.
Growing up, it was easy to feel different.
A poem I wrote my sophomore year of college on the topic below:
This piece captures it pretty succinctly. Self love was/is no easy task. When I was a child, I was surrounded by young women I felt were more beautiful than I, whose features were more desirable than mine. I was raised by incredible, strong women, yet I still felt like I couldn't accept who I was. I saw too much jiggle, too big of a nose, too weird of a voice, etc. It made no sense from the outside - I was a relatively privileged young woman, had great friends, and so much more.
As I've grown up, I have come to realize that I will never be those other young women, nor do I ever have to be. That to truly embrace life for all of its beauty, the first step is to embrace myself and feel content in my own skin. I love the wonderful people in my life, and I would never want them to talk about themselves the way that I would talk about myself in my mind. My worth is rather defined by being a human being who is tactful, talented, and above all, worthy of self-love.
You must allow yourself to embrace the parts of you that aren't perfect - because let's face it - no one on Earth is perfect. Perfection is a myth.
Photo by Alexis Fairbanks for Coulture Magazine
On this journey, I've come to a few realizations, not in any particular order, that have shifted the framework with which I view self-love:
Surround yourself with those who inspire and uplift you: Ditch anyone and anything that makes you feel like less immediately. You become the sum of 5 people with which you spend the most time.
Aspire to be the best you, never someone else: Role models are great, but they are human too. Draw inspiration, but understand that you will never actually be them. This is a more drawn out idea, so more thoughts on this in a future post.
Do what fulfills you to the best of your ability: If circumstances allow, find what makes you want to wake up in the morning and really delve into it - whether that be family, career, or otherwise. You will never be the best at everything, but you can damn well chase after what makes you feel good.
Seek opportunity that grows your strengths: Allow yourself to explore your interests and develop your strengths, fueling a sense of purpose. Be comfortable with ambiguity. Take risks.
Understand that failure does not mean that you are worthy of less: When taking risks to seek opportunity, failure may be inevitable. Fail forward - Remember that there is always another side to the coin.
The road to perfection leads to obsession and nothing more: Rather, I prefer focusing on incremental improvements and the small victories. Set SMART goals and re-evaluate every few months. Be your best self, whatever that means at the time. Will you live your whole life chasing something unattainable? When will you ever really be satisfied?
Do not allow social media to take over your life: I know, funny, coming from me and my multiple hashtags per Instagram post. Understand that all you are seeing is someone's highly-curated best photo out of 100 others. Follow only those accounts that inspire you, not pull you down. If you need to unfollow, do it. If you need to unplug altogether, do it.
Find a self-care routine that works for you: This can mean so many things - starting to plan your days so that meals/exercise are integrated into your schedule or ditching the calendar for a bit to clear your head. Taking time to get fresh air. Prioritizing your health. Reflecting and journaling. Whatever your circumstances and needs allow/require.
It is worth note, though, that self love and time for self care may come more easily to those privileged to largely fall into societal expectations/norms. Here's to all those who are incredible, amazing, beautiful humans outside of the realm of what is deemed "normalcy."
Photo by Nash Consing for Coulture Magazine
Even knowing and reflecting upon all of this, I still find myself falling into traps of self doubt every now and then. But then I remember the basic rule of thumb for those on the uphill battle to self-love:
Never talk about yourself in a way you would not want others to talk about the people you love.
Shoutout to all the brave individuals who also modelled for this spread on self love/acceptance in the SS18 issue of Coulture Magazine!