Real talk: self love doesn’t mean loving everything about yourself.

The self love movement that is oh-so-popular right now has good intentions, but I think it only scratches the surface of what self love actually is. Pinterest-worthy quotes such as “you need to love yourself before you can expect anyone else to,” and “we’re all beautiful in our own way,” or “insecurities about flaws are more off-putting than the flaws themselves” rarely offer real comfort, and there are many problems with them.

Regardless of the good intentions these statements have, they remind us that our physical flaws are evident but not talked about because no one really knows how to talk about the aspects of our appearance that are imperfect, so we rarely acknowledge that they are. Conventional beauty standards are constantly evolving, but the very notion of conventional beauty itself is constant.

The truth about self love is that not all parts of ourselves fit into the framework of conventional beauty, so we should stop trying to pretend like we do and accept ourselves for who we are, flaws and all. Because the reality is that not every part of ourselves needs to be beautiful, and insisting that we’re all flawless only promotes a world in which flaws aren’t welcome.

The other issue with the self love movement lies in the idea that you must love yourself first before you can expect to receive love from anyone else. This philosophy results in the end-goal of self love being to make yourself more desirable to someone else. If this is true, who are we really loving ourselves for? For ourselves, or for a guy on Tinder with some serious boundary issues?

When we believe that self love must precede another’s love, we’re still enabling the societal narratives of insecurities and confidence – and also a very simplified version of what it even means to love yourself at all. For some of us, loving yourself is something that doesn’t come naturally and has to be learned. And sometimes that learning process is lifelong work, and that’s okay.

Self love and steadfast comfort in our own skin have become the new standards to adhere to. Admitting that you don’t love what you see in the mirror isn’t attractive because we act as if, in order to be a strong woman, you can’t feel shame or embarrassment or anything other than total self-acceptance. This results in feeling abnormal if you don’t fully love what you see in the mirror, because it appears as though everyone does. When in reality, the concept of loving every single part of yourself is so out of reach that it’s practically impossible – insecurities and flaws will always be present.

Self love doesn’t mean loving everything about yourself. It means accepting yourself despite what you don’t love. It’s loving yourself despite the fact that doing so doesn’t guarantee the love of others. And it’s learning how to live in a body you wouldn’t necessarily choose.

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