Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Questions of Love trilogy - Part One: Do You Love Yourself?

by Holly White

Let this article not apply to only the angst ridden teenagers who read this, that are faced with a huge mountain of constant self questioning and whether self worth actually exists. But also, I hope, this can apply to those past that stage and in their established lives - whether with a career, a family, a husband or wife. This is for anybody in any walk of life, at the beginning, middle or nearing the end of their individual path.

I like to believe I have had my fair share of life experiences, a beautiful mix of positive and negative events have carved their way through my veins and ultimately made me me. Me who has an extreme, stomach-turning, revolting hate for milk but adores ice cream as if she can draw a life source from it. Me who cracks her knuckles against other people and enjoys the mix of reactions it gains. Me who feels like she might explode from the overwhelming love she has for everyone. Me who induces her own panic attacks merely thinking about being around people but yearns for the acceptance of others. I have a lovely spectrum of thought processes, feelings, habits, likes and dislikes that all contradict each other whilst working in perfect harmony to make up Me. And I can safely conclude, at this stage in my life, I love Me - despite my hideous organisation and forgetfulness - I truly love Me. But in my time of sitting idly as a wall flower, people-watching has become a fine art I will modestly say I have mastered. And from my observations I question whether others love themselves.

In my latter teen years my ability to roam freely between friendship groups has diminished and I now stick to my established ‘clan’, but my potentially unnerving people-watching has not been dampened by this. A group of three females, their voices a little louder than perhaps socially acceptable, walked into the room and my ears naturally perked up and the talk changed to last night's encounter with someone's boyfriend. The gratification I heard them all take from the praise, the attention, the adult content of conversation made my face contort subconsciously, watching theirs light up with each detail they spilled so willingly. The intimacy lost in the lack of privacy they allowed. Is that what it means to love yourself through having someone else approve of you? I had to laugh to fight the need to intervene and stop them. I wonder if their parents knew the type of conversations their sixteen/ seventeen year old daughters were having or if they had an inkling that those boys were the ones who produced the ‘natural charm and confidence’ they boasted about their child possessing? To build fake love for yourself off the words of others will only last for as long as they keep being said - and sooner or later those words will become empty, merging into the same.

Holding my Mama’s hand, stopping momentarily to talk to parents of fellow peers I usually had no desire to invite round, was met with the even faker, venom-filled comments made to my own mother and others by the so called ‘Queen Mum’. I'm sure you know who I'm talking about. That sleek bob cut, slicing at the perfect slant down past the chin, a laugh louder than all the other neighbouring parents who just all seem to flock to her, for the pearls of wisdom she offers in making the perfect World Book Day costume and how to make the absolute best pea and ham soup. I watch as the mothers either soak up every word she graces our ears with or turn their backs and walk silently back to the car. Do you go home and sit at the kitchen table, a hot cup of tea and hand, and think whether having children was the right thing? Whether you're capable enough to raise one or multiples lives in the ‘right’ way? Does a tear sit in the corner of your clouded vision as you mull over and over and over again how the Queen Mum can handle herself so well and still keep her hair looking so shiny and those kids so goddamn well behaved? Of course the thought has come to mind, even if it's the smallest of lights right at the back of your mind. It's still there. But let your confidence flourish and your mind be put at ease by the mystery of what goes on behind closed doors, for out of everyone you may have it more together than you thought or better still you are not alone in the terrifyingly unpredictable car ride of parenthood. Trust yourself in your abilities and love your body for producing such a being. Let the same be said for the fathers reading this article.

Sitting to left hand side of the room, in the far corner my gaze can easily travel high and low through the figures that are to walk in or out. I'm unfamiliar with the collective noun but I feel like a gang of bulldozers is appropriate terminology for the quantity of rugby players now in the room. Bellowing voices that create a constant background hum sound fills the air and they push and shove one another into lockers, little care for surrounding people trying to place maths folders away. Language, again I can't repeat, falls effortlessly from their mouths and I'm some what transfixed by the exchanges the make between each other; the humorous hate jokes to one another that they all enjoy to no end. As expected, much like the three girls, talk of potential explicit nature comes up before somehow leading onto who bares the most power behind a swing. It's how belonging is made and it is what makes for the male to male brother bond often talked about. But it gets me thinking, how many of those boys (probably best classified as men now) sit in the dark and cry at night? And how many have somebody they can console in? The demeaning talk, arguably said by some to be all with good intent, the competition of who has the biggest build paired with the strongest likability is the quintessential facade to hide the low self esteem and self directed hate.

I've learnt to love myself by watching others and comparing it to how I have been living blindly in other people's light. Taking a step back and focusing on how I have been attaining my original self esteem has been a huge eye opener in understanding how not only myself but also how others work. Maybe my article has been far less impactful than I had hoped but, I at least wish for this to have helped you in a potentially darker hour to know that there are other people who could better understand you then you may have originally thought. Or better yet, offered a hand in the first steps to what it means to really love yourself. 

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