I cribbed the phrase for the title above straight from this post written by Miri, which I found quite interesting. Quotes:
….the problem is that when we prescribe ways of thinking or feeling, failing to follow them becomes stigmatized. Not loving yourself and your body isn’t just unhealthy anymore, it’s uncool. It’s immature. I wrote once a long time ago about how a classmate told me that loving yourself is actually a prerequisite for being a good person–implying (accidentally, I hope) that not loving yourself means you’re not a good person.
Not loving yourself means you have Issues and Baggage and all of those other unsexy things. It means you just haven’t Tried Hard Enough to Love Who You Truly Are. Loving yourself and your body becomes the normative state, not an extra perk that some are able to achieve.
Maybe this would be fair, except for this: according to our society, we are not all equally worthy of love. We are all pushed down in some ways, but some are pushed down more–and in more ways–than others. You can tell a woman who isn’t conventionally attractive to “love her body” all you want, but if everything she encounters in her daily life suggests to her that her body isn’t worthy of love, these are empty platitudes.
When it comes to loving the entirety of yourself–not just your body–the concept breaks down even further. How easy is for a child of neglectful parents to love themselves? How easy is it for someone subjected to a lifetime of bullying for being LGBT? How easy is it for someone who grew up in poverty and was blamed for being “lazy”? How easy is it for a victim of assault or abuse?
Our society pushes certain types of people down, and then mandates that we all “love ourselves”—and if we fail to do so it is our fault.
I’m not saying that “love yourself” is a bad concept. It’s a beautiful concept and a worthwhile goal. But we should be aware of the unintended consequences it can have when shouted from the rooftops ad infinitum, and we should also consider that “loving yourself” may not be necessary, important, or even possible for everyone.
Instead of “love yourself,” I would say:
Try to be okay with yourself. Try not to listen when the world tells you that who you are is wrong. Loving yourself and your body can wait, and besides, it’s not necessary for a happy and healthy life.
I would rather have a clear-headed assessment of my flaws and virtues than a smarmy “you’re perfect just the way you are.” For one thing, as a mentally ill person, I’m pretty inclined to declare that my flaws are everything, everything in the world, I suck at all the things. It is very difficult for me to get from “I suck at literally everything” to “I’m fabulous and amazing.” On the other hand, it is fairly easy for me to go from “I suck at literally everything” to “I am forgetful, antisocial, and excessively poor at sales, but on the other hand I’m a pretty good writer, a kind friend, and a Lawful Good Paladin.”
Once I know my flaws, I can say to myself that it’s okay. Everyone has some flaws; mine tend, at worst, to cause minor annoyance to myself and other people. I’m not a horrible person or secretly Hitler. Now that I know what my flaws are and the ways that I differ from Society’s Norm Of How People Should Be, I can work out how to deal with them if I want to– or I can just accept them as a part of myself. You know what? I’m antisocial. I’m staying in on Friday night to watch My Little Pony. I’m cool with that.
And I’d like to be able to point out that I’m forgetful without people being like “stop being so mean to yourself!” I’m not being mean; I’m being accurate. Yes, in high school, I was a creepy, ugly, socially awkward loser. Yes, I am peculiar to the point that it is astonishing anyone wants to date me. I don’t want to put my energy into denying that; I want to put my energy into being like “yep, and I accept that about myself, and I’m awesome anyway.”
I’d rather accept my flaws than pretend I don’t have them. And I’d rather have self-compassion than self-love.