What would you write in a love letter to yourself?
HerStory requested a bunch of amazing women to delve into what self-love means to them and write a note to themselves.
As we scroll down our Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds, we see hundreds of quotes on the importance of loving oneself and dozens of articles on self-love. Often, we feel loving oneself may make us selfish and mean or even narcissistic. Is that really the case? What does loving yourself actually mean?
To answer this question, we did an experiment–we reached out to multiple women in our circle and asked them to write a spontaneous letter on self-love. We were hoping that we would get some great perspectives on how women view self-love. The idea was to see if, beyond the banalities, we really do understand how we can love ourselves. Well, we did find some interesting answers and hope some of these are good pointers for many of us to understand how self-love looks and feels.
Here are excerpts from six love letters for you to look at yourself and see how you too can possibly love yourself.
Loving yourself means spending quality time with yourself
How do I love myself? The truth is that I don’t. What I do try to do, consciously, is care for myself. This possibly means the same as loving myself, except ‘self-preservation’–which is how I see it–is stripped of the romanticism of love. Imagine that partner in a relationship who truly cares for the other but not in any defined way, and that would be how I ‘love’ myself, I suppose.
I like myself (most times) and I try to see myself with the same respect that I see others with. Keeping myself active, be it my mind or my body, is possibly the best way in which I can care for myself. I respect myself when I know that there are many out there who are better than me, but I don’t let that diminish my self-worth; I respect and care for myself by giving myself that room to grow.
I indulge in a little ‘me’ time because what I love doing for myself, is taking time out–from family, friends, and the rest of this chaotic world. If doomsday is less than a day away, I’d still need to make myself a cup of coffee, sink into the couch, and read or a write a few pages before I’m ready to face the apocalypse. I guess these have been the times when I’ve shown the most ‘love’ for myself because I will take that time out no matter what is at stake.
As a woman, I care for myself by, ironically, fighting gender roles. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said that she realised she was black only when she came to America, implying that until then she wasn’t a colour, she was a person. I think that, similarly, women are taught how to ‘women’ (a verb because a woman has come to be defined by her choices and actions) and that it comes in the way of our self-care. If I care for myself as a person, my womanhood will take its form in a way that’s healthy and natural.
Loving yourself means not getting affected by rejection
Learning to love myself hasn’t been an easy process. For some or the other reason, it has always depended on someone else’s love for me. If someone I loved and respected loved me or found reasons to appreciate me, then I would do the same to myself. But, if for some reason, there was someone I respected who didn’t see the need to treat me as an equal, then I was somehow convinced that there is some problem with me. It didn't matter that eventually found out that the person was not worthy of my respect.
This went on for many years before I realised I can’t let it happen. So I think the most important part about loving one’s self is not letting anyone else be a trigger point to it. No matter who the person is, what he or she thinks about you shouldn’t matter in you being able to love yourself. And even though I might sound narcissistic, I think loving one’s self should be a priority for before anything else. That would in a way help us figure out everything else about our life.
Loving yourself means understanding self-love is not selfish
Self-love is… a starved soul, discovering and living heart-warming moments of peace, unconditional love and joy. Years ago, I used to consider self-love as a selfish act, why would you concentrate on your well-being and needs when others need your help? Conditioning is the culprit! It didn’t make sense to me so I spread myself thin and poured out every ounce of energy for my people. After what seemed like an eternity of constant struggle I realised that I have nothing left in me anymore, I just didn’t have the strength. No reservoir of energy was left for me. I had exhausted myself because I never paid attention to my needs. I never loved my soul or my body enough to look after myself.
You get so used to the ordinary routine of self-sacrifice and self-doubt, putting the rest of the world before you, giving away your power to others, what they think of you and your actions that you forget to look at your own perspective and the right to choose. Self-love is seldom talked about and hardly ever practised, you get so busy bowing down and slaving away your breaths to notice that you are here to live, not survive.
I’m a spiritual soul and get drawn towards plants and animals, the more I take care of these living wonders the more strength and love I feel. My connection to this world and the only time I feel like I belong here is when I take forest walks and interact with animals.
When I need some me time, I turn to ice cream! The memory associated with it is beautiful and therefore brings me lot of comfort and joy. When I was little I couldn’t eat ice cream for years due to my health. When I got strong and healthy I was taken for a treat at night in Mumbai. It was a family outing and for once everyone was happy and focussed on eating huge ice cream cones.
Books! From Oscar Wilde to Khalil Gibran, Earl Stanley Gardner, Jane Austen, Harper Lee to Agatha Christie, my heart takes solace and comfort in reading words of wisdom written by the amazing writers of our world. I find a healing and motivating balm in their stories and philosophies. A stroll into a bookstore is how I pamper myself.
Old songs are soothing for my soul, a spiritual nourishment that heals and calms me. I’m in my own world, focussing all my attention to what I need. My heart pounds at first but soon settles into a rhythmic beat. Songs of the sixties, seventies and eighties make me smile and giggle, they transport me to a world where everything is fun and possible. I grew up watching Shammi Kapoor to Dev Anand, Amitabh and Mithun dance to melodious and evergreen songs.
Mental and physical care go hand in hand, just the way I need to detox my mind through meditation, surrounded by a comfortable environment of books, greenery, wagging tails and music my body needs to flush out the toxins when I go for a run or long walks around the city. A good workout leads to a fresh perspective and healthy being.
Loving yourself means looking beyond routines and chores
I don't want my life to be a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes; I demand colours, books, empty houses, crowded streets and liberating company. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open. I want to travel till I run out of money and wear yellow shoes. With silhouettes making their way every dusk and dawn, I want to meet a new person and know their journey. One day, I want to dress myself like I have subscribed to every second beauty magazine and the next day, I want to stay indoors in my pyjamas and watch my favourite TV series. I want to be a little more compassionate, empathetic and kind but I want to begin this with myself.
Loving yourself is accepting yourself while being aware of your flaws
When someone talks about loving yourself, in this age of Instagram and Snapchat the first thing that comes to my mind is being comfortable with how I look. Inner appreciation comes much later, I think. When I see another girl looking really good in something I also own but have relegated to the back of my wardrobe because it puts all the unsightly bumps on display, it’s easy to hide behind some self-love and be like I’m okay with the way I am, I love me etc.
In an article I read online, the author had written something like ‘we find it difficult to love ourselves until we lose weight or achieve something’. But isn’t self-criticism what really helps you grow? I think the idea of self-love as it is propagated is simplistic and completely at odds with being able to be critical of yourself and that’s why it doesn’t work for me. Just accepting yourself as you are and even validating it is going to make you the sole inhabitant of la la land.
Loving yourself is being kind to yourself and overruling your inner hateful voice
Loving myself has been one of the most difficult tasks that I need to get myself to do every day. You asking me to write 500 words seems the most difficult task I have ever had to do. If you had asked me what I hate about myself the list would have been longer and the turnaround time would have been quicker.
It was when I touched rock bottom and there was no turning back did I realise that the only way out was to begin loving myself. So it all began with a forced exercise. Every morning standing in front of the mirror I started noticing things about myself that I had ignored. I would look at my nose and hate it, then I forced to look at my eyes, and love the depth in them.
I would look at my hair and hate the frizz, then I looked closer at the definition of the curls, and realise they are perfect!
I still hate my loud voice. I still hate the fact that I am abrasive and every morning it hits me harder. And that hate hits me harder when people ensure that I know that my personality isn't likeable or my voice is harsh.
Every morning I try and hope to change that but every time but I fail. I just hate that I am a failure. But then I started looking at those failures and realising that this is what makes me human.
So, whatever you hate about yourself, start to look at those as part of humanity. Hatred is as much as a part of you as love. Start embracing that, and suddenly you see the hate turn to love.
Would you, like these women, write a love letter to yourself today?
And we would be happy to share it with other women too. Please use the comments section below to share your notes and letter to self on self-love. HerStory is listening!
The letters have been contributed by Varsha Roysam, Krithiha Rajam, Saira Sayani, Shruthi Mohan, Malvika Shekar and Sindhu Kashyap.