When is the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror? I mean really looked at yourself in the mirror? Stood butt ass naked in front of the mirror and were completely honest with your reflection? Stared at yourself for so long you didn’t even recognize your body anymore? You stare. And you stare. And you stare. Are you uncomfortable? Do you not like what you see staring back at you? Are you staring at your flaws? Or are you basking in the glory of your own perfectly imperfect perfection?
It is in these moments that I choose to love myself. I stand butt ass naked in front of my mirror every day and stare. This is a ritual I started a little over a year ago, shortly after I penned my blog post about my own struggle with body image. I realized that I needed to embody the words I wrote. I challenged myself to love myself more and more everyday. So, each morning I stand in front of the mirror and I let my emotions cascade over me. I want to understand myself, completely. I want to know every part of my body. I no longer wish to hide it, to cover it, to run from it. I choose to look at myself head on, unflinching, relentless. And I choose to love myself.
I still don’t have a perfect relationship with my body. Sometimes I feel bloated and disgusting and would rather not think about the 8 beers I had yesterday and the subsequent pepperoni, black olive, and jalapeño pizza I ordered. Sometimes nothing in my closet looks right, even though I have worn this exact same outfit half a dozen times. Today it is not right. Sometimes I feel guilty because I haven’t seen the inside of a gym for, well, a long time. And maybe if I started working out again my thighs wouldn’t jiggle, my arms would be more toned, and my stomach would lay a little flatter. Sometimes I wonder if I would look more proportionate if I got a boob job.
But most days, I look at myself in the mirror, and I am damn proud to have the body I have. I force myself to acknowledge the spots I would rather not think about, and I actively choose to love them. Even when I don’t want to. Even when I don’t think I can. I decided that people who say nasty things to me about my body can literally go fuck themselves because, how dare you? I eliminate toxic friends, lovers, and peers who do not make me feel like the best version of myself, because I respect myself too much to not be respected by others. Whenever I receive compliments about my appearance, I always say “thank you” even when that little voice in the back of my head wants to say “lol I haven’t showered in three days,” or “yeah but my eyebrows really need to be waxed,” or “nah, the shading on these jeans is just hella good.” And I consider all of these things to be little personal victories. Because I am choosing to empower myself. To love. To appreciate. To value.
In so many ways, self-love is the most radical act of all. We are all constantly bombarded by messages that reinforce our inferiority complexes. We beat ourselves up about the tiniest imperfections. But what are imperfections anyway? Would you consider those “imperfections” to be such if no one had ever told you they were “imperfections”? Who first told you that you weren’t beautiful? That your middle was a “muffin top” and not just your stomach? Who told you that your breasts/butt/penis/etc. was too big/small? Who the fuck told you that? Because, fuck that nonsense. And fuck anyone or anything that tries to convince you that bullshit is true.
I am not here to tell you that you are perfect the way you are, that is for you to figure out on your own terms. I am here to convince you that you deserve to love yourself. I am here to tell you that you can love yourself and still acknowledge things you don’t like sometimes. I am here to tell you that it is a constant struggle to love yourself, but it’s worth it. So I ask you again, what is more radical than self-love?
I’ve noticed a lot of positive changes in myself since I decided I deserved to love myself. Probably the most notable difference is the fact that I feel like an active participant in my own life, instead of the not-as-pretty quirky best friend to the main character. I feel like I can go after whatever I want, because dammit, I deserve it. I deserve to chase my goals. I owe it to myself to do so. And when I choose to love myself that is just one less battle I have to fight every second of every day. I don’t have to be my own worst enemy. Plus, it frees up a lot of brainpower that I can channel into reaching those goals of mine. And that’s pretty damn powerful if you ask me.
So, dear reader, I challenge you and your body to make up, once and for all. I know you’ve had a complex history, and maybe you don’t trust yourself just yet. But I challenge you to stand in front of your own mirror, butt ass naked in the morning, and stare. Don’t look down. Meet yourself in your own eyes and mentally trace your reflection. Head on. Unflinching. Relentless. Let your emotions cascade over you. Understand your entire canvas. And just when you think you can’t stare at yourself for a second longer, remember to love yourself unapologetically, unconditionally, and unabashedly. Because, trust me, you deserve it.