When I first saw girls post bikini photos on social media with the hashtag #SelfLove, all I could think of was “put some clothes on”… and for a while… I thought that this ‘Self Love Journey’ felt like an excuse. It felt like women needed to get likes to approve their love for themselves – and I couldn’t stand it.
Then I started to think a little deeper into why. Is this all coming from a place of misunderstanding or more from a place of… I need to feel that too?
People see a Muslim girl in flamboyant colours and a bowtie and immediately think she loves herself (maybe sometimes too much). So, I think to myself, how many people are seeing this self-love journey of women and think it’s done for online approval? Why does how I look and how I act determine if I do or do not love myself? What if I mentally deconstructed what this all meant and started to explore it? Oh yeah, it went there.
I realised I do a lot of loving – both of people but also of materialistic things. The more I dug deeper into my unconscious, I started to split how many times I said a positive thing vs a negative thing to myself. I notice on a percentage balance; I love myself 15 – 20% (25% on a REALLY good day) and it made me sad that I thought that little of myself.
This was a can of worms I shouldn’t have opened at that time in my life; statements start to ring through my mind;
I am confident. I am bold. I am beautiful… I am happy in who I am. Am I saying this for fun? Do I believe this?
The battle of my mind was at it’s peak, like a dark theatre room in between the show and you don’t know if it’s the interval, so you wonder whether to clap or not.
I start to delve into moments in my life that I didn’t feel confident. In large groups of intimidating people; when I am not 100% sure on a topic; when I finish a new poem and begin editing.
When am I not bold. In my room, alone; When trying to disagree with a big personality; When I am in love.
When am I not beautiful? The minute the idea of beauty was decolonised and I had no idea what defined beauty.
When am I not happy in who I am? Ah. This is where it got a little too deep for a blog.
I started to realise every time I told myself I was not, I was agreeing with people who didn’t accept me to begin with. I do nowhere near love myself, because I have constantly been told to be a certain thing.
Instagram says: “Be a Muslim role model.”
Twitter shouts: “Make sure you connect with people who will give you work.”
Facebook screams: “I want attention.”
And I shut down; mentally, I close off from thinking that deep into my mind. But in reality, these things that don’t make me love myself, hold me down to the floor in the long run.
What I am trying to say is, don’t be intimidated by other peoples self-love journey. Instead, be supportive – they are so so brave to do it, and I like to think that people only share it to inspire others. Find some inspiration in their journey.
Be okay with delving into what you do not love about yourself, but also be okay with the fact that you won’t love everything – that’s okay. Don’t ever assume because someone dresses in a certain exterior that they wouldn’t walk out their house if they didn’t.
Like my friend Laura Yates once said (which she took from some quote in a film, book or something) “Assumptions are the mother of all f*** ups“.
Be beautiful. Write soon.
Written by Amerah Saleh.
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(Photography by Paul Stringer)