When we speak of women's empowerment, the topic of self-love inevitably emerges. As women, we are often told to love ourselves, embrace our flaws, advocate for our passions, be confident in our bodies and minds. Yet too often, we are simultaneously exposed to the belief that self-love and validation are derived from external factors.
"Why do you speak so negatively of yourself, you're so smart!"
"You've accomplished so much, how do you not see your worth?"
"You're so skinny, how can you hate your body?"
These well-meaning comments are deeply ingrained and encouraged in our culture. On one hand, it makes sense. As logical beings, we believe offering "proof" of someone's accomplishments or beauty will help them to love themselves. However, adding stipulations to the concept of self-worth internalizes the belief that someone's worthiness is based on their accomplishments, skills, appearance, popularity, and so on. This belief, which may appear harmless, is extremely dangerous. I have seen so many people of all ages, myself included, possess beliefs such as:
"If I am academically successful, I will be worthy/intelligent/impressive"
"If I excel in my career, I will be a better person."
Or, as my eating disorder has made me believe: "If I can reach x number of pounds, I will be beautiful, valuable, and worthy."
I no longer believe that worth should be based on anything but the fact that someone has a soul and is here on this earth. 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐲, not because of your grades, your looks, or your ability to maintain a "perfect" household. I hope to never imply that a woman has permission to love herself because she possess an idealized version of beauty or intelligence. I am not smart because I am in the Honors program at UNC-Chapel Hill; I am smart because I can see that no academic program can measure my true intelligence.
I can love myself, even if I feel like everything is going wrong. I can love myself, even if my GPA does not compare to the girl's next to me. I can love myself, even if I am not always the best daughter. I can love myself, even if I don't have the body of a model.
Love yourself because you're human. Love yourself because anything less is not honoring your worth.