On Loving Oneself

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Self-love is truly a full-time job. I am fiercely passionate about mental health advocacy. I have written articles and papers, social media posts, posted on Instagram, organized a photo shoot and advocacy campaign, and am working on an educational initiative on campus, all in hopes of spreading awareness and ending the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Throughout this time, it has become well-known amongst my peers and social media followers that I am working on my own depression and anxiety. I refuse to allow these struggles to identify and consume who I am, but, this takes work and a whole lot of self-love.

As many of my snapchat friends know, my mom has become famous for her wise words we call “hippie shit.” Her advice always centers around loving yourself and radiating that love and positivity to raise the people around you. As we practice self-love, whether that be by going to our favorite exercise class, watching Netflix, or simply taking a few minutes each morning to meditate and recite positive affirmations, we learn how to show up for ourselves–we learn how to be our own best friend and encourage others to do the same.

Towards the end of last year, self-love was something I seriously lacked. My self-worth was determined by other peoples’ words, thoughts, and actions, which can be so dangerous and damaging to our souls. If someone did not show up for me as I expected, I could not manage showing up for myself. When I realized that I could no longer handle my emotions solo, I unknowingly took a step towards achieving self-love–I started therapy.

While I was so motivated to stop the stigma surrounding mental illness, I never mentioned or discussed therapy outside my closest friends. If therapy conflicted with something, I said I had a doctor’s appointment. I did not explicitly tell the truth because, even though I benefitted immensely from the help I was getting, and even though people often throw out the suggestion, “well maybe you should talk to someone,” I felt like people would look at me differently– as weak or needy, unable to just figure it out myself: no one should feel this way for wanting to practice self-love. Ever.

I came back to school after the summer and decided to be more honest to combat the stereotypes. I admitted to having mental illnesses, to falling victim to the stigma, and so many people expressed empathy or comfort in realizing that they were not alone. So, I started telling people where I really was–why I had to leave an event early, miss chapter, or who I was talking to on the phone in my room.

Peoples’ reactions shocked me. Many of my closest friends expressed pride, as I was doing something to help myself–I was giving myself the opportunity to grow and feel better. However, some people just stare at me, or uncomfortably laugh. I guess I don’t really know why people get so uncomfortable and surprised, or why getting help is so taboo. I think people picture me laying on a couch, sobbing about how miserable I am. In reality, going to therapy serves as a way to keep me emotionally and mentally healthy–I even laugh sometimes. If we begin to view therapy like this, it should be no more surprising than going to a dentist appointment, or check-up. As therapy is normalized, perhaps more people will be encouraged to go and then share their knowledge, rather than feeling embarrassed. Heck-everyone should have a therapist. Yes, sometimes, therapy is hard, exhausting, and I do cry. But, my guess is many of you have felt the same about dentist appointments. However, self-love is worth it¬–it has to be.

When we learn to love ourselves, we simultaneously send love to others, which makes more of an impact than you can even imagine. My mom sends me hippie shit every day to “raise my vibe.” This is my favorite: “you thought you were here to get stuff, prove yourself and get people to love you. Instead, you are here to get peace, be yourself, and find people to love. Remember this and you will master the only lesson you are here to learn.” As I have absorbed all that I have learned from my mom and therapy, I have learned that empty apologies, passive aggression, and built up anger don’t really get us anywhere, but sending love does. It sounds cliché, but I have seen it work wonders.

I am realizing that I am beginning to sound like my mom (I’m okay with that, she rocks), but I challenge you to strive for self-love with each of your actions, whether that means saying no to another commitment you don’t know if you can handle, laying in bed watching Netflix for 5 hours, or even, going to therapy. Be honest with yourself and listen to what YOU need, not what others need from you. And, the next time you are upset, mad, annoyed, or frustrated with someone, send them some love, too. Self-love is a full time job for everyone, and we are capable of making that work load just a little bit lighter together.

Story submitted by Rachel