This Valentine's Day, we wanted to bring focus to showing care and love as a gesture of embrace. In light of her strength and vulnerability regarding the subject, we asked model, author and activist Charli Howard to guide us through her thoughts on the subject of self-love.
Women are expected to be everything to everyone.
We’re expected to be girl bosses, Beyonce-like business women fully dedicated to our work or craft, while managing to balance motherhood and our relationships. We’re expected to be in tune with society’s idea of femininity - delicate, warm and soft - while remaining strong, firm and robust. We’re expected to be sensual and sexual, yet always focusing on the male’s satisfaction; to love our bodies, but only just enough; to be giving and generous, while somehow taking care of ourselves. And in a world where appearances are everything, not to mention deceptive, admitting that you’re struggling is often perceived weak.
So why, as women, are we made to feel so guilty for wanting to take care of ourselves?
In a society that seems to scream “body positivity” amongst messages of body-shaming, you may find yourself asking: is self-love truly possible? How can we fully learn to love ourselves and reach our full potential, when society encourages us to love ourselves... but only so far?
"We cannot be everything to everyone. We cannot, and will not, be perfect: perfect mothers, perfect wives, perfect employees. We’re human, and so it’s only inevitable that we will make mistakes eventually. But we are all so hell-bent on reaching society’s standards of perfection that it’s often hard to remind ourselves of that: that we, too, deserve to be loved."
And so, I’m here to tell you that loving yourself is possible - and not only possible, but a necessity. You see, in order for us women to be successful in every area of our lives - work, love, family, relationships - learning to love yourself is paramount.
Here are some of my tips on how appreciating yourself can help make you reach your full potential.
- Be your own best friend
We often put pressures on ourselves to remain as socially active as possible. Things like social media make us feel like we’re missing out; scared to miss a party or social function. But friendships, like those seen in Sex and the City, are rare. I mean, hello?! Who has time to be a successful, high-flying business woman while meeting up with their friends twice a week? Answer: not many. Rather than worrying about fitting in, take a weekend out to treat yourself and do things alone. Go to the cinema, take a long walk without going on your phone, get a mani/pedi, order takeout. You’ll start the week ahead feeling fresh and ready to take on the world.
- Learn when to cut toxic people out.
Relationships are very important to our wellbeing. However, you don’t always have to be available to everyone - and that also means mentally. Toxic people can drain you of your energy, mood and self-worth. Whether a relationship is romantic or platonic, ask yourself: what do they bring to my life? Are they there for you, as you are for them? Do they empower you, or drag you down? If you feel the relationship is one-sided, cut contact - your brain and overall wellness will thank you for it.
- Learn to like your body and be kind to yourself
When was the last time you looked in the mirror properly and told yourself you liked what you see? When was the last time you told yourself you were beautiful? So, you may feel your butt is too big. So what? Is an unwanted zit the worst thing that could possibly happen to you? Does your cellulite have the ability to hinder you from doing day-to-day tasks? Of course not! Stop putting too much emphasis on your looks and learn to love your body for what it is: a living, breathing work of art. The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to others around you.
- Aim for the top... and keep shooting
It is a well-known fact that women are less likely to apply for job roles they feel they don’t have the qualifications for, while men will apply for jobs even if they’re not qualified. But if men have guts to do this, why shouldn’t you? Don’t let your fear of failure hold you back. Whatever goal you have in mind, go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? Reach for the stars.
- Admit you’ll make mistakes sometimes
Learning to love yourself sometimes comes with mistakes. You can’t be a perfect person, nor should you try to be. All you can do is try your hardest. Don’t beat yourself up over a project that’s gone wrong, a comment you may or may not have said or over a relationship that’s failed. We’ve all been there. Self-love is about realizing that perfection doesn’t exist. The best thing you can do is laugh it off, and view tomorrow as a new day.
You owe it to yourself to be selfish sometimes. Remember that.