I’m so in love with this song right now.
As today is International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share a recent revelation of mine. It occurred yesterday morning, whilst listening to an episode of the Made of Human Podcast in which Sofie chats to Emma Holten. She talks to all of her guests about various topics and often manages to get me in the feels, but one particular thing they spoke about really caught me off guard. It was about the power of loving yourself. It actually made me so emotional that I had to pause the podcast to cry (I know… me… crying… what a shocker) and take a moment to scribble down my thoughts on how I related to it.
Let me explain: I don’t love myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m working at it, but it’s not something I’ve ever found easy to do. I’d say I almost like myself. Which is an upgrade on how I’ve felt in the past. I used to really hate myself: full blown, why-am-I-me?, hatred. It was a feeling of disdain reserved only for me, which I never inflicted upon anyone else no matter how they acted. In fact, with others I had quite the opposite approach. I am an incredibly understanding and patient person, until it comes to myself. Then no patience, no love, no maybe-you-should-cut-yourself-some-slack. Nada.
This hatred grew from various sources, but one of the final obstacles that I am trying to tackle stems from what happened in Mexico. Dear lord, I can’t wait for the day that this is no longer an issue for me. Most of you who’ve read my blog before will know that nearly two and a half years ago, I was living in Mexico during a very heated political time and some of the things I witnessed and experienced there severely traumatised me. After years of different therapies and getting my life together, I’m finally in a place where I am able to attend Trauma Focused CBT and deal with the issues that led to me being traumatised in the first place.
For the first six sessions, I could not get on board with what we were trying to achieve. We’d spent all of our time focusing on my low self-esteem and how I could learn to love myself more. I struggled to see how that had anything to do with the recurring nightmares of gunshots and brutal attacks that still wake me up at night or my utter terror when faced with any kind of organised mass of people, whether that be a protest or a parade. So last week, I confronted my therapist with my confusion, telling him that I had literally no idea what we were doing or how the therapy was helping me in any way.
He told me that he was afraid that if he brought up the trauma now or if he made me talk about what happened in any kind of emotional way too soon, he would re-traumatise me. He said that with trauma, you have to get to the root cause, because it’s not necessarily the disturbing events that actually traumatise us, but rather something else within the individual that triggers the trauma. Otherwise, why wouldn’t everyone who had witnessed the same event suffer the same trauma?
This blew my mind a little bit. Maybe I’m slow on the uptake, but it finally made sense to me. The only differing factor in what happened to me and some of my other friends during that time is that we all experienced the same events through different eyes. I am me and they are them, so of course, the things that happened are going to affect us all in different ways.
We’ve narrowed the source of my trauma and inability to process what happened down to low self-esteem (amongst other things that are a little too personal to share on here), meaning that before we can revisit what happened and try out some exposure therapy, I have to first try and figure out how to love myself. Bloody hell. Having been my own worst critic since, well, forever, that’s a much harder task than I ever imagined. I’ve been set the homework of writing letters to myself about how wonderful I am, which may SEEM wishy washy and stupid (and the fact that it makes me cringe and cry to do so may only reaffirm that point to some people), but my god, is it revolutionary.
Which brings me back to the podcast. On Monday night I tried to write this love letter to me but I found it too difficult and frustrating and I gave up. The next morning I had another go but the same thing happened, so instead I decided to give the mohpod a listen. Sofie and Emma were chatting about Emma’s experiences with revenge porn and about how loving yourself despite what people say is one of the most powerful things you can do to combat criticism and fight against those who are oppressing you. Because if you love yourself, you are unstoppable. You don’t rely on what other people say to prop you up and spur you on. You only rely on yourself.
Something that I have struggled with due to the effects of PTSD is my inability to engage in activism, whether it be feminism or protesting against any kind of injustice. My triggers are varied and sporadic, but enough to hold me back from getting involved in the way I would like to. What their conversation made me realise is that although I can’t be involved in the more direct ways at the moment, one way in which I can engage is to start with my own kind of activism. The activism of self love.
Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I really do think it’s true; loving yourself is a revolutionary act. Why? Well, think about it. Do you think that the likes of Donald Trump or Enrique Peña Nieto got to where they are without absolutely fucking adoring themselves? No, they did not. And it’s people like them, people in power and who oppose all the good things that we stand for that want us to feel like shit. They want the marginalised to feel like they can’t do anything because then they WON’T do anything. So they try to make us feel small and powerless. Loving yourself means believing in what you stand for, it means that if you are being shouted down your self-worth doesn’t diminish because someone else’s actions can’t affect your knowledge of your own value.
However in the podcast, they didn’t suggest that it’s easy to love yourself all the time, as we all have the voices in our heads telling us the lies that we’ve been fed for far too long. But just because these lies exist, these lies from society’s fucking stupid patriarchal narrative that only the straight white cis-men are on top and everyone else should cower in their glory, does not mean we have to fall for them. My worth is the same as that of a man. It is the same as that of a straight person. It is the same as that as someone who has not been diagnosed with mental health problems. I am just as valid and just as worthy of recognition and respect as anyone else. And so are you.
And when you’ve got that sorted? When you love yourself so much that all your self-worth comes from within and you don’t need affirmation from anyone else? Then who is going to stop you? Who has the power to take you down and tell you that you are worth any less because of you gender or sexuality or race or size or health condition?
No one, that’s who.
I have been so hard on myself for so long that instead of being able to use what happened to me to fight against injustice and corruption, my lack of self-esteem or acknowledgement of my self-worth has held me back from standing up for what I believe in. As much as I don’t blame myself for this, I do recognise that I am the one who can take responsibility for it and start to make a change. I refuse to let anyone else govern my view of myself any longer.
So, my activism starts with self-love. Small, but revolutionary.
Happy International Women’s Day everyone.