Self love. A love that causes all sorts of inner turmoil and shit on Twitter. But why do we have such a hard time showing ourselves the sort of love we show our mates, asks Vix Leyton.
In Love Yourself, an ode to the girl who was apparently a bit of a rubbish girlfriend, Justin Bieber issues his ex this loaded advice: “Cause if you like the way you look that much, then baby you should go and love yourself.” But when did being told to ‘love yourself’ become an insult? What’s wrong with loving yourself*?
*Not in that way, you scamps – although there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Ask a group of women about their least favourite body bits and it can fast become a ‘who harbours the most self-loathing’ contest. Switch it up and ask them what they like… and hit a wall of awkward silence.
Why? We all secretly have a favourite bit. Mine is my eyes: with the right make up/lighting/false eyelash level, I can make them practically Disneyesque. I also harbour a secret closeted love for the shape of my ankles. I feel wrong sharing this, but would have had no problem confiding in my swimmer’s shoulders (bloody nightmare for shirts), hobbit feet, and the oh-so-occasional dreaded chin hair (‘The Chinnigan’).
Like a lot of other women, I struggle to accept positive feedback without putting up a fight. “This old thing? [That I scoured ASOS for hours to find and ate emergency couscous for days to afford and fit into?] I look like a lumpy potato in it.”
My husband, who accepts compliments at face value (sample exchange: “That shirt’s nice” “Thanks”) finds it fascinating and frustrating in equal measures. As a person who spends most time with me in ‘getting ready’ mode, he questions why I solicit an opinion when it appears to have no bearing on my choice.
“Does this look too tight?”
*already wriggling out of it* “It’s too tight.”
He occasionally goes as far as to suggest it is offensive, like his opinion isn’t valid, particularly in the face of my allegations of bias.
He makes a compelling point: what’s wrong with bias? As per the Roald Dahl quote that nice people are always beautiful, we know this ourselves. I consider all of my beloved friends and family extraordinarily attractive – they’re all good looking (dicks) and all amazing, talented people. I consider myself the runt of the litter but the sad thing is, having embarked on this piece of thinking, I suspect deep down, maybe they do as well.
“Lowri had already come to the conclusion that maybe she should start being the best friend to herself that she was to others. To be kinder, to talk to herself in a different way.”
I throw compliments around like snuff at a wake, and in deeply socially inappropriate situations, including waiting for a bus and on first contact with a new member of staff at work. I can’t help myself. And though I will rail against them when confronted, I love to receive them – giving myself a secret tiny thumbs up that whatever vibe I was going for, it worked. But I feel it would be arrogant and wrong, unduly smug and self-satisfied, to accept said compliment without objection.
And yet, who am I kidding? My social media profile is full of carefully curated photos that would not have seen the light of day if I didn’t think I was looking at least a bit of a fox. Even as we type the status ‘looking rough at 3am’ we’re possibly posting it because we have a good angle on our cheekbones, or exactly the right level of smokey eye.
Confession time: as nice and well rounded as I consider myself to be, and despite my stealth self-promotion, I have sometimes – to my shame – piled in on Kim K’s latest attention-seeking effort, joining in the snarking that she should be a little less full of herself and brought down a peg or two. Kim inspires stunning depths of vitriol for having the nerve to like her figure and want to show it off. Why? I think, in part, it might be the seemingly unsinkable confidence that gets under our skin. Kanye, her bookend, doesn’t get away scot-free, but his ingrained overconfidence invites more mocking than deeply personal abuse.
If I had such a massive Twitter crowd, I think if I framed the usual flattering (10th time lucky) selfies I post on a regular basis with a caption that suggested I thought I looked hot to trot, I’d probably get a few likes, maybe some comments like “SLAY’ but Whatsapp groups of acquaintances and friends would light up. Who does she think she is to post such self-confidence? It isn’t done. Burn the witch.
For whatever reason, publicly liking yourself apparently goes against the grain. What I have instead, however, is a shy, underground scene that started with my beautiful friend Lowri (@Flowri if you want to follow her – she’s worth it). Lowri, spurred on by cheering up a friend going through a break up, started a conversation among a group of her nearest and dearest about the things they all admired/were jealous of about each other. The resulting compliments were illuminating, unexpected and empowering.
Lowri had already come to the conclusion that, by virtue of the sheer amount of time she spent with herself and the fact she thought she was good company, that maybe she should start being the best friend to herself that she was to others. To be kinder, to talk to herself in a different way.
Snapchat and Whatsapp conversations with her consist of brilliant no-holds-barred compliment exchanges, for ourselves and each other, under the banner ‘TitCity’, a collective of kick-ass women who know it.
Inspired, I’m taking this out to other people (namely, you). If I think I’m having a great face day, I now have a group I can share this with, and I’m more than happy to endorse the good face/arse/boob days of others. It’s empowering, it boosts me, and reflects the fact that women – despite opinion – do not dress purely to be sexually attractive. Women dress for themselves. And it’s time to come out of the closet about it – let’s own it.
If you like the way you look that much, then baby you should go and love yourself. Damn right. You’re ultimately all you’ve got, so be kind to yourself, compliment yourself lavishly, luxuriate in it. Then compliment other people, even if they resist.
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Vix is a financial PR and ginabler who lives and works in East London. As a result she long ago lost sight of whether riding a unicycle while wearing a monocle is par for the course on a normal day.