RADICAL SELF-LOVE & SELF-CARE
It’s an old cliche in social justice movements that the personal is political.
But like any cliche, it’s true for a reason.
And I want to put forward a new version of this classic: Radical self-love will radicalize our world.
We live in a society that teaches women to put themselves last. That doing so is what makes us good, worthy, valuable.
The more marginalized identities you live in, the more ways you are told you’re not good enough or worthy of taking up space.
If you are BIPOC. If you are fat. If you live with a disability or chronic illness. If you are neurodivergent. If you are LGBTQ+. If you are a “minority” religion. If you are poor.
There are pervasive social ideologies that undermine, diminish, and negate the value of humans with any of those characteristics – and the more of them you have, the more of those messages you get.
Which also means the more identities you possess, the less you are represented by those in power, whether you’re looking at those holding political office, those appearing on screen, or those sitting on the board of directors at work.
Self-love is radical when you live in marginalized identities because it means choosing to love yourself in the face of all the socialization and conditioning that you have absorbed from a society that is literally built on maintaining those hierarchies and belief systems.
And it is a POLITICAL act.
More women who believe in themselves and love themselves unconditionally means more of them who will run for office, go for the promotion, create the art that will teach new generations how to view themselves and the world.
Radical self-love is fuel for structural change, too. Who do you think is going to make structural change? Is it going to be people who hate themselves for the ways they are different from the privileged norm?
Of course not.
Structural change will be led by those whose radical self-love won’t allow them to settle for accepting a world that doesn’t recognize their value.
When you believe in your fundamental value and worth, when you love yourself unconditionally, that love reaches every area of your life.
That love helps you root out the internalized oppression that makes you believe you deserve to be treated worse than other people, that makes you believe there is no possibility for a world in which you are treated justly and equally.
This plays out in your personal relationships too. (Stay with me, this is going to come back around!)
Here’s a truth bomb about your personal relationships:
You will always accept love from other people that matches the love you have for yourself.
If your love for yourself is conditional, you will find it normal and acceptable to be with a partner whose love for yourself is conditional.
If you criticize and mentally abuse yourself, it will seem normal and acceptable to you to be with a partner who does the same.
Of course you don’t deserve to be treated this way – nobody does. It’s not about deserving or not deserving. And you don’t cause it either, because we don’t control other people’s thoughts, feelings or actions.
But brains seek what is comfortable and familiar.
If you hate your body, it will seem normal to be with a partner who hates your body.
If you think you’re lazy, a friend telling you that you’re lazy won’t seem odd to you.
But imagine how you would show up in these relationships from a place of radical self-love.
How would you react to a partner who is inconsistent in their affection or attention?
When you are consistently affectionate and attentive to yourself, you simply aren’t available for that kind of relationship.
Why would you be with someone who treats you in a way you don’t treat yourself?
If you treat yourself with love, care, respect, and reverence, you will find it odd to be in the company of anyone who doesn’t. It won’t seem normal. It will stand out.
When you love yourself radically and completely, you are simply not available for any other kind of love.
And the same is true for our relationships to society and institutions. (See? We’re back!)
When you show up in radical love for yourself, you free yourself from internalized self-hatred and rejection. You stand in your right to exist and be equal.
When you have radical love for yourself, you will not countenance a society that does not reflect that love.
What’s more dangerous to the status quo than that?
So how do we cultivate this radical self-love?
Through acts of deliberate, careful, reverent self-care.
I like to think of this as “exquisite self-care,” (a phrase I borrowed and revised from my dear friend, also a fabulous coach, Susan Hyatt) and it doesn’t come from facials or Netflix binges.
Exquisite self-care means treating yourself with reverence and love, the way you would care for someone you love without reservation.
It infuses everything – from the way you touch yourself when you get dressed, to the way you feed yourself, talk about yourself, and more.
Do you touch yourself the way a lover would – gently, and with tenderness?
Do you feed yourself as you would an honored guest?
Do you speak to yourself like you’d speak to someone you love?
What would change if your relationship to yourself was at least as thoughtful, nurturing, and loving as your relationships with other people in your life?
When you take exquisite care of yourself, you expect exquisite treatment from others.
And in doing so, you transform the world.
Exquisite self-care is not frivolous.
It is not an excuse to overlook injustice or drown out calls for social change with champagne and face masks.
It is an acknowledgment that social change is driven by people, and that liberation from oppressive ideology and institutions comes from people who have liberated themselves individually.
Every social change that has ever happened came from people having the freedom in their minds to look around and reject society’s messaging that they were inferior.
Radical self-love is what enables this to happen.
It enables people to see the oppression that they have internalized, and reject it.
Because if you are unwilling to speak to yourself kindly, to touch yourself gently, to feed yourself lovingly…the thoughts you have preventing you from doing those things are exactly the internalized beliefs about your own unworthiness that you need to recognize, name, and repair.
Doing this allows us to reclaim our bodies and reclaim our brains for ourselves. To treat ourselves with reverence and care only for our own benefit in a world that tells us we are not worthy of love, or that we are only worthy of love when we are upholding the privileges of others and the oppressive systems that are guarding those privileges.
In this way, radical self-love can give us the mental and emotional resources to show up in the world and change the institutions that oppress us. It can also help us unearth and shift social conditioning we may not even be aware of in ourselves.
Thought work and personal development work are not indulgent or silly.
They are a radical and subversive act that allows us to transcend our conditioning – and in doing so, we can’t help but shape the world to reflect our own liberation.
Learning to love yourself exquisitely, to root out your internalized oppression and stand in your right to be treated exquisitely, gently, and with reverence is IMPERATIVE.
It is TRANSFORMATIONAL.
It is RADICAL.
Any change we want to see outside of us has to start in our own minds.
To be a person carrying one or more marginalized identities and to use the power of your own mind to kick the colonizing forces of social conditioning out of your own mind – that will change your life, and that will change the world.