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Loving Yourself When the World Doesn’t Love You

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

With a quick google search of the term “self-love”, many articles are presented with the tips and tricks for developing self-love. Facemasks, yoga, journaling, you name it are all listed as ways to love yourself more. Although a good facemask or a yoga class are great self-care activities, these lists fail to encompass the full process and all the necessary steps to self-love. Self-love is not a cyclical process complete in steps 1 to 10, the journey to self-love is a combination of good days, bad days, and falling back into old ways. These articles don’t consider that self-love may be harder for people who don’t “match up” to society’s rigid definition of beauty. People of color, disabled people, individuals with larger body sizes, those with medical conditions that alter their appearance among others face discrimination and sometimes outright attacks for the way they look.  As a person of color, I found it difficult to just “love myself” when people who looked like me were killed at the hands of law enforcement officers, whose hairstyles got them fired from a job or suspended from school, or who are regularly made to feel like they’re less intelligent and less attractive. I couldn’t solve these challenges that made me internalize self-hatred with a facemask or a great workout- despite the fact I do these things often.

An important place to start is recognizing what self-love means to you, as I feel it looks different for every person. For some, it might mean coming to accept the things about yourself you disliked that are unchangeable. For others, it might mean developing healthy physical and mental strategies to develop a deep sense of self-appreciation and satisfaction. And for some, it might mean a process of self-reflection to understand and accept yourself holistically. Your definition of self-love can be acquired through writing down a list of things you love about yourself, your personal fears, and things you dislike about yourself to observe patterns and trends.  

Image Credit: Yuris Alhumaydy

So how do you begin the journey of self-love in spite of systemic hate? This process can begin with fixing the damage systemic and self-hate can cause. For different individuals, this can take different forms. Some people who have been victims of discrimination due to their appearance can face anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Some may turn to risky coping mechanisms to deal with their pain. To combat this, reaching out for help from medical professionals to help work through these challenges can be beneficial. For people in the Toronto area, psychology offering services such as Shift Collab, Psyvitaliti, and Pathway Therapy have a variety of care providers who offer a range of treatment options for working through these challenges. Personally, being able to fully open up to a psychologist and receive cognitive behavioural therapy allowed me to work through and overcome the thoughts that I was “less than”.

Alongside professional treatment, a number of steps can take to developing self-love. A major one is surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you and who remind you how great you are. These are the friends/mentors who check in to see how you’re doing, who support you in your journey to self-love, and who don’t minimize your experiences by talking about how “other people have it worse,” or “you’re too privileged to feel this way.” On the flip side, cutting out friends who criticize you or bring drama and unnecessary gossip into your life is a much-needed purge. Where’s a good place to start when it comes to looking for supportive friends? It can start with getting plugged in with a community of your choice, a religious organization, athletic community, student group, college, you name it. Participate in the activities you love and meet like-minded people, and lose the phone numbers of those who keep you down.

Image Credit: Ben Duchac

Focusing on both your small and large victories is another important way of developing self-love and appreciation. A way of doing this is known as the “dirty dozens”, which involves writing down 3 small victories you had in a day, 3 challenges you faced in a day, 3 ways you tried to overcome these challenges, and 3 things you’re grateful for in the present or future. These little victories can be anything from not sleeping through your alarm clock, getting an A on a 10% assignment, or starting that work assignment early. Recognizing the ways you overcame challenges can help you paint a better image of yourself, and help you recognize your resilience and strength.

Even with consistent use of these strategies, you might find yourself having some low days. This is okay. Self-love is a constant journey that some people undergo their whole lives, with different curve-balls life throws at them bringing on bad days. Don’t try and push off these bad days, but rather reflect on the cause of your negative feelings and reach out for help when you need to. And while you’re at it, maybe you can do a facemask or two.

Image Credit: Raychan

(Hons) BA Candidate at the University of Toronto. Olivia is a well-versed content writer having written and edited for Her Campus U Toronto for three years and now serves as the Managing Editor. Olivia is currently working as the Content Manager for Enso Connect and as a social science research contributor at U of T. In her spare time, Olivia competes and trains for long-distance road races with local run clubs in Toronto.