On self love and fallen idols

It’s still self-love September, and it seems self love is a hot topic at the moment, lots of people are talking about it, which is great! It’s important and needs to be normalised and encouraged. Only, there are ways & means, and this, in my opinion, aint it:

Fallen idols is a bit strong, but when I listened to Hannah’s book, Buffering, on Audible last year, she shot to the top of my list of people I admire, respect, and think are obscenely awesome. She speaks candidly about many topics, including mental health, and she continues to share information, and her reality, on her YouTube channel and social media. She does so many wonderful things and is, I’m sure, making mental illness more understood and accepted, but I don’t think that means she gets a free pass when people feel she’s messed up.

I feel she’s messed up. In fact, when I saw her follow up tweet, after many of her fans had explained, in a respectful way, why her first tweet was a problem, my heart sank. Absolutely, loving yourself can make you less likely to have unhealthy, co-dependent, or otherwise awful relationships, but it does not make you immune to them.

It led me to share the following on Facebook:

PSA: Loving yourself is important, and worth working on, but not loving yourself doesn’t make you unable to love other people, or unworthy of love.
Please know that even if you hate yourself with your whole soul, you can still experience love. Love isn’t a special award you get for achieving A* mental health, or anything else, everyone is deserving of & able to love.

It was almost midnight, and it was Facebook, so I didn’t put caveats & explanations, but I want to explain here, because it’s important and widely misunderstood.

Self love is important

I am absolutely an advocate for self love. I believe that it is something we should all be practising and encouraging in others. It is so important to our mental health and, since I discovered & began working on self love, I have seen vast improvements in my own self-confidence, my relationship with my body, and my sense of self. I preach it to friends, I tweet about it, evidently I blog about it. It is ‘da bomb’ as my younger & trying-to-be-cooler self might say.

Important does not equal essential

What Hannah shared in her first tweet is one of the latest, and longest lasting, shareable quotes in the self-improvement sphere, but the idea that you are incapable of loving someone else if you do not love yourself is not only false, it is dangerous.

Do I buy the ‘white knight can save you from yourself’ thing? No. I absolutely believe that you have to save yourself. But having someone you love, and who loves you, stand with you while you’re fighting your demons can be a great weapon against those demons. It can give you something to fight for until you feel worthy enough to fight for yourself. It can provide moments of joy as you walk through hell. It can offer moral support and a reliable cheerleader for when you feel you’ve got nothing else to fight with.

People will tell you that these are bad things, that “you have to do it alone,” or “you have to do it for yourself.” To them I say, or what? If someone is hanging from a ledge part way down a cliff, screaming that they can’t hold on much longer, are you going to throw a rope down for them, or scream back that they have their own rope and they should just use that?
So what if they have their own rope? Maybe they can’t reach it. Maybe it’s damaged. Maybe they’re too damn terrified to be able to use it.

When I was struggling the most, I wouldn’t have done it for myself. I didn’t believe I deserved to be alive, let alone loved. If I hadn’t had an external reason to try to recover, my recovery would never have started.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” ― Arthur Ashe

Additionally, loving someone else can make learning self love easier. I have used that exact tactic; I regularly remind myself to treat myself the way I treat my friends, instead of the way I would naturally treat myself.

The danger

The most worrying and upsetting thing for me though, is the message that if you do not love yourself you are a bad/selfish/horrid person. Do you honestly think that telling people, who already hate themselves, that they are bad people who don’t even have the capacity to love another person, is going to help them? I can tell you from my own experience, it is not. You know what it often does? It makes them hate themselves more. It adds fuel to their self-loathing fire. It pushes them further & faster down that spiral, so it’s even harder to get out.

Dear self-loather

You are capable of love, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are also capable of self-love, even if you don’t believe it.

And on those fallen idols? Turns out, yeah, your fave really is problematic, and that sucks.

Update

Hannah has now uploaded a follow up video. I’m not sure I have much else to say about the situation right now, but here it is:


Also published on Medium.

2 thoughts on “On self love and fallen idols

  1. This is such an important post, and really true.
    My relationship with myself ebbs and flows, I struggle to accept myself and it’s hard work to do it.
    But I love my partner, and accept him, easily and with joy.
    And loving him helps me to understand how to love myself.

    • I think it’s a struggle for most people tbh, which is really sad in itself 🙁
      It’s great that you’re getting there though, I find it hard to remember that it’s a journey not a destination, so it’s easy for me to get into a mess when I have a period of time where I’m sucking at self-love and self care.
      Glad you’ve got a lovely partner & that you’re able to sort of practise love on him 🙂

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