girl happy laughing sitting down

The difficult task of loving ourselves despite our inner demons

girl happy laughing sitting down
Teymi Townsend on Unsplash

It was a typical Saturday night in a dimly-lit bathroom with the club’s chosen 90s remix — it might be Britney Spears — blaring through the door, making its way to a crushed, puking form, slouching inside the bathroom stall with one hand holding her long hair back.

Just when she finishes her last drop, wiping her mouth of any vile remnants of the red Shiraz, footsteps hurry across the tiny bathroom, shuffling through the doors before stopping then quickly opening the door to her tiny stall.

Without looking up, she moves her foot further inside, making space for the second figure to sit. She does — with a tension unmassed by Britney’s loud pop jam or the glass of water between her fingers or, actually, even the tiny handbag she has tucked under her elbows. With brunched eyebrows and pursed lips, she finally asks: “Why do you do this to yourself?”

That’s a great question.

No matter the scenario, we find ourselves in situations which test our emotional strength.

No matter if it was the end of a friendship, a romantic relationship, or a potential career path. 

There will be some days we find ourselves holed up in a bathroom stall (hopefully not puking) or, simply, staying in our rooms and trying to deal with the tidal waves of emotions — anger, regret, a sense of hopelessness. 

Sometimes going through the motions would only take a day, and yet, other times when the situation is much more severe, it could take weeks or months.

I was recently in a situation where, for as short as that relationship was, I deeply questioned my sense of worth. I had drastically changed as a person and though I did not beg for him to come back, I did similar stupid things. In the months following that, although I succeeded in other aspects of my life, I was troubled and constantly anxious about how well I was coping with our separation. There were a few moments of bliss, thinking that I had let go and moved on so quickly. It was true

Yet, I was also ignoring the underlying issues (or lessons) the relationship had caused and instead of bettering myself as an individual, I put on a mask — playing ignorant to my surroundings.

My friend who also recently broke up with her boyfriend had approached me with sayings and flowery words about self-love and care. I had listened in hopes of feeling much more secure about myself and my situation. Unfortunately, she flaked. 

She had written stories, poems, and many many Facebook status about their great love affair. It was everything against what Cosmopolitan articles and love-advice columnists tell you about self-love. She still messages him, even to the point of still arguing with him, and has ignored the red, tell-tale signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Instead of letting go of her burden, she constantly looked for it, fantasizing about one day taking a bubble bath with a glass of champagne, on one hand, book on another, and a loving partner just outside her door.

Bridgette Jones would be proud.

Women today are victims — no, fervent soldiers — of these situations. We are constantly looking for ways to regain our power after a loss. Yet, I hear numerous stories from my friends and even women who I met in a club’s random bathrooms who “love themselves” but choose to be stagnant.

I genuinely do not think it has anything to do with whatever relationship we were last in (although it does make a considerable point). Rather, there has been growing romanticisation about hating on men and blaming them for our lack of…well, moving on. 

That’s not self-love. Instead, it feeds into our destructive tendencies and unhealthy coping mechanisms which affect our mental, physical, and emotional health. 

If anything, I have learned that letting go has been one of the most freeing experiences of my life. It teaches you that nothing in this life is certain and everything — literally, everything — is open for change.

But that did not come to me on a random Sunday morning while sipping coffee and looking out my bedroom window. It came with a careful, deliberate examination of what my flaws were and understanding that it’s how I would show I loved myself.

We have reached the point of romanticising self-love so much that it no longer talks about stumbling, getting down and dirty with your inner self, and finding your way back up.

I truly learned how to love myself when I booked my first appointment with a therapist. I knew the issues were far bigger than a broken relationship and after months of ignorance, I realised it had to do with my clinical anxiety.

Loving yourself means accepting the negative aspects of you. It’s knowing when to stop, to let go, to run, to allow yourself to…feel. To experience the highs and lows of life, constantly learning more and more about who you are as a human. Quirks, let-downs, annoyingly weird taste in food, and all.

Instagram had one thing right: “the greatest relationship you can have is with yourself.”

Self-love is not about building a business or having some bubbly. It’s the idea of being comfortable with who you are — all aspects of you — and knowing there is still so much more to unravel, with hands holding onto each other as you embark on an adventure of figuring it out.

You don’t have to have the answers right away. In fact, more often than not, you find them along the way. 

The point is to just keep moving towards where you want to be. 

Don’t fight where the current is taking you. Trust that it will take you to where you’re ought to be. 

Our emotional strength comes from our ability to see who we are as a person and feeling confident in it. There are no masks or games when you truly love yourself. Especially, there is no “fake it til you make it” because you never have to.

There will be days where you realise how wrong you are. There are even days you end up hating yourself more than love. That’s the beauty of self-discovery and why it is imperative that we can only take our own two hands and feet with us on this crazy journey.

Don’t confuse self-love with ordering food and having a rest day. It is so much more than that.

Self-love is about how comfortable you are being alone and revelling at the moment. It is when you don’t doubt your decisions, your gut, your worth

Self-love is many, many things… but it is not ignorance. It is not closing yourself off to the world around you and refusing to listen to those who care about you. It involves acceptance, curiosity, and the openness to constantly learn about yourself — the good, the ugly, the drunk.

And for those who choose to stay in a comfortable corner with no room to grow does not love themselves.