How To Put Your Resolution of Self-Love Into Action in the New Year
I have always struggled with New Year's resolutions because they so often revolve around losing weight — to look “good” in that bikini this summer and to achieve that “perfect body.” I am no stranger to negative body image spirals and have obsessed over my diet, frequently compared myself to others and allowed toxic messages from all intersections to infiltrate my mind. Given that we already live in a society plagued by -isms that constantly marginalize us in a variety of other ways, too, these negative forces work in particularly strong conjunction to bring my own self-esteem down around the beginning of January.
For the first time, however, I feel I've heard fewer conversations about what people want their bodies to look like and how much weight they want to lose and more about self-love and self-care. That people at least seem aware that approaching their bodies with a mentality of love and maintenance is healthier than criticism and manipulation, the question still remains: How do we actually put self-love into action, especially when we're still bombarded with messages that teach us the complete opposite?
Practicing self-love can be deceptively difficult. In the context of a culture permeated with harmful messages that give us more reasons to be dissatisfied with ourselves, in a society where oppression and insecurities thrive, self-love is a radical act. We either sink or swim, and trying not to drown in this cycle is a struggle every day.
Here are some daily actions that have helped me stay afloat.
Stop the Negative Thoughts.
Stop any and all negative thoughts whether it be about yourself or other people. Acknowledge that you will and do have them, but consciously make an effort to recognize this and ask yourself why. Eradicating all negative thoughts may be impossible, but choose not to believe in knee-jerk reactions or push back on that automatic response. Then counteract those thoughts with positive ones instead.
Acknowledge Your Differences and Accept Them.
Young women are still ingrained with an unattainable standard of beauty and taught that our very success is interwoven with conforming to those impossible ideals. Society teaches us that our deviations from these standards are actually flaws and should be hated.
We have to flip this framework on its head. Our flaws are actually differences that make each individual special. Is there really beauty in one, universal standard? I know it’s easier said than done, but if I manipulated my body to look like Kendall Jenner's (skinny, tall, flat stomach, long legs, the whole nine yards) what would I gain on the other end? The fat on my hips and between my thighs don’t define me, but it’s part of what makes me, me. I don’t accept my fat as a flaw, but rather as something that makes me beautiful and unique.
The first step to accepting what makes you different is to force yourself to really look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge one thing you like about yourself every day. It sounds simple, but after years of training ourselves to look only for flaws, looking for beauty can be challenging — yet make all the difference.
Beauty Isn't Just Skin Deep.
Beauty is on the inside, too. Try to consider what you can project from within to make the world a better place. Smiling is just one beautiful, yet underestimated, quality. Smile at yourself in the mirror and really focus on your reflection. You can repeat this (out loud or in your head, either works): "I am beautiful inside and out."
Also, smile at others. Never underestimate the cyclical power of projecting kindness and love into the world.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People.
Our beauty standards frequently encourage obsessive competition to obtain the perfect body. This competition breeds comparison to others. We have all jealously looked at another woman's long and toned legs or wondered how another woman's waist is so small, but doing so is toxic. Concentrating on another person's qualities does little to actually appreciate them and much to remind us of our own perceived flaws. Recognizing another woman's beauty isn't inherently wrong, but only damaging when it's less about positive feelings for another person and more about criticizing oneself.
These are just a few first steps, but it should be noted that they should be practiced everyday. Women are often told it's not okay to feel truly fulfilled or satisfied — that doing so is even selfish. But every woman is important and deserves careful, regular attention to herself to be confident, bold, and happy. Although we're taught otherwise, these feelings simply won't come from attaining unrealistic standards of "perfection" but rather from within. Love yourself because you are the only one who can make yourself this way.
More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism
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