When I mention my passion for practicing self-love and fostering self-love in others through my blog, I get a mixed bag of reactions from people, typically ranging from surprise (and delight – or so I’d like to think!) to raised eyebrows, mild puzzlement, and pats on the head to the charming tune of “well, aren’t you sweet.” 

Occasionally, I do get the odd “how self-centered of you!” jibe which, although it smarts – not going to lie! – does remind me of how important spreading the good word is. The fact of the matter is that radical self-love is not commonplace; it’s not mainstream by any means. Sure, bloggers like Gala Darling have begun to pave the road to more enlightened ways of thinking but sadly, while the healthy-slash-mindful living movement is gaining traction in increasingly larger circles, the practice of self-love is often still regarded as cheap, kooky self-help bullshit at best, and self-interested, narcissistic behavior at worst. 

I think that as with most new and unconventional things, people’s reactions towards self-love tend to come from a place of fear: fear of the unknown (“What the hell is radical self-love?” and “But wait, doesn’t this mean I’m going to have to change my whole way of thinking?”), fear of having to revisit one’s perceptions of what is socially and morally acceptable (“Doesn’t focusing all this attention and love on myself make me selfish and self-centered?”) and, well, fear of looking like a complete New-Agey arsehole in front of one’s more mainstream friends.

I totally understand these fears, because I’ve been through the same process. Just because I appear to have my ish together now (and even that’s debatable!), doesn’t mean that it’s always been like this; in fact, before I embraced a healthier lifestyle and discovered the wonderful things my body could do (independently of how it looked), I was pretty bloody hard on myself. Making the decision to stop beating myself up and starting my long and arduous journey to self-love took a huge leap of faith! I had no real proof that attempting this massive attitude adjustment would work for me; all I knew was that it did for some people and my self-esteem couldn’t be any lower, so I gave it a go.

Any big paradigm shift is terrifying; going against everything you’ve ever believed or have been taught – that loving yourself is narcissistic, that making your happiness a priority is selfish, that putting your interests first is morally bankrupt – is extremely fucking terrifying. Even in this (admittedly encouraging) day and age, making a point of honoring yourself and carving out me-time instead of providing for your family, or climbing the corporate ladder or spending time with your friends (let it be known that I absolutely do not believe that all these things are incompatible with a thriving self-love practice but others do, unfortunately), is still seen as swimming upstream. 

Radical self-love is, well, pretty radical. It’s also very important and very, very brave. In a time when half the American population is on a diet and the other half poisons itself with mounds upon mounds of chemical shit, when countless women and men hate their bodies, when teenagers cut themselves and take their own lives, when a quarter of U.S. citizens supposedly have fallen prey to depression – self-love is incredibly necessary

And yet, those of us who take that leap of faith – who believe that taking that first step can lead to bigger, better things – are marginalized, sometimes even ridiculed. Of course, it’s not always like that – I’ve been very lucky in finding a tribe of people who get me and the message I’m trying to get across – but not all of us have, yet, and while radical self-love is above all, by definition, a personal journey, it can be bloody difficult to go on that journey without support; without people who get you. Taking the leap and changing your personal paradigm is brave; doing so in the face of other people’s unchanging paradigms, even with a shaky voice and unsteady limbs, is incredibly courageous and should be celebrated. 

So, here’s to you; here’s to your decision to standing up to the negative self-talk, here’s to your understanding – even if it’s still tentative – that you are valued, and necessary, and enough. Here’s to you choosing to defy social conventions, no matter how terrified you are. It’s okay to be afraid and it’s okay to doubt yourself. I don’t doubt you, though. I know you’ve got this.

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