The Salience of Self Love | Simone Hanna

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

It has often been said that a mistake that makes you humble is better than an accomplishment that makes you arrogant; I have spent a large portion of my life disagreeing with this statement. There have been many times where I have wished the mistakes and flaws in my life had built me up, even if that meant developing an exterior much harsher than generally necessary. For many years, I would have taken the arrogance firmly over any humility, solely due to the nature of my own insecurity, never allowing myself to come to terms with my feelings, address it, and finally allow myself to move on.

The inspiration of this thought comes from an event from my earlier years. I was at the young age of five when my mother made the incredibly irresponsible and reckless error in judgement to enter me into a beauty pageant. At the time, I had no protests; she was my mother and, naturally, I was in no place to believe that she would ever put me in a situation that would be upsetting or harmful. I had happily complied with her orders and did as she told me. I was more than willing to wear a long pretty dress while she did my makeup, not able to predict the amount of discomfiture I would soon feel.

I had watched many young females take to the stage, waltzing around in their gowns and evening wear, all looking glamourous, singing, strutting and showing their pearly white smiles to an audience of predominantly older men who clapped and cheered away at them. I remember watching my mother as she left me backstage; walking in a long silk dress that had been the ‘grown up’ version of my own, smiling widely as she accepted cheers from people who sat below. Watching in awe, I wondered whether I would be like her, and whether I would be as loved and adored by people that saw me too. I was certain that I, being my mother’s daughter, would radiate the same amount of cheer and love, desperate to obtain the same validation from strangers my mother had.

My version had been quite different, I had been planted onto the stage alongside some of the prettiest girls I had ever seen in my life, each one of them looking as radiant and as full of life as I had considered myself to be too. Every person in the audience had a flower, their job was simply to hand their flower to the young girl they considered to be the prettiest. Long story short; I had not received any. Instead, I stood on the stage as my peers were flooded with flowers, smiling graciously as they took them in the handfuls while I stood in complete and utter humiliation, completely degraded and feeling the ugliest I had ever felt in my life. As any child would, I had made my way off the stage, sensitively blubbing away into my mother’s chest as she seemed to find entertainment in my embarrassment, patting me as she giggled over how embarrassed I had felt in this moment.

Furiously wanting to go home to the safe hands of my father, I sat backstage and waited for my mother to be finished with the shambled and shallow event she had so happily dragged me into, soon looking up to see a kind old man holding a flower for me. I accepted it, but soon watched as he handed one to another girl who had received next to nothing. That was when I realised – he had given me a pity flower.

In the months that followed, my mother had left both me and my father and moved to California to be with her sister, and though I now realise her personal reasons where the main factor in this, my younger self had spent the months after her departure secretly wondering whether she would have left if I had been beautiful enough for her.

Now, in the passing years, I would confidently say that I had a fairly normal childhood; I was privileged enough to have a father with enough love for me in his heart for me to fill up two, a roof over my head, a group of kind friends, a good education and collection of all the nice things that would keep a young child happy. Unfortunately, while I had a lot of love for the things I had in life, there was something wired in me that I had always failed to shake – I was incredibly shallow. I had spent years and years of my life viewing my female peers as competition, not for their academics, not for their assets, and not for their personal attributes, but simply for their looks.

The more beautiful someone was, the more I envied them. There was nothing I aspired for more than physical beauty. If I did not look beautiful, I was not happy. This followed into my teens and became more openly noticeable with peers who grew tired with my failure to be reassured, I would not listen to the counter arguments, I did not believe them and I did not want them. I had become so lost within my looks that I had lost part of myself. I would spend nights wallowing in my own pity, becoming an embodiment of self-hatred and a person that I did not want to be.

As I do during many of my summers, I had spent the last one with my mother. Despite using previous years of this holiday time to pick on aspects of my appearance, she had actually been fairly kind to me in comparison. Towards my final weeks in her home she had described me as ‘beautiful’, something I had not been used to from her. Coming from anyone else, this compliment had been meaningless and had been for many years; for any positive comment on my appearance had been the equivalent of the ‘pity flower’ from many years ago.

In the night that followed I had observed my mother before a meal, she stood in the mirror looking displeased. I, of course, could not figure out why. My mother was beautiful, there was simply no question about it, but as I watched how she picked at her face, complained about non-existent fat, and pointed out completely unnoticeable wrinkling –  it was in that moment I had realised; she had been picking out my insecurities which were simply a reflection of her own.

My mother was just like many women of this time, blinded by an unattainable and flawed idea of perfection that leads them down a road of constant self-deprecation. I did not want to fall into this, my teen years had been enough for me, I was not ready to fall into the same trap as many. I knew my time of tears and disordered-eating had to end, I would not allow myself to become another woman falling into a life that fears flaws, and I would most definitely not become the mother who makes her child question her own beauty.

Now, on a journey to self-love I often like to repeat a line from the beginning of the bible that states: ‘God created mankind in his own image’ –  it reminds me that we are all equals, whether we realise it or not, because of this, we all have the same worth. One of the main issues today is that not all of us know our worth, this lack of self-worth has led to a society of brains filled with negativity, dissatisfaction, and self-deprecation.

What I had learnt from watching my mother was that I was so obsessed with my own flaws, I had never taken notice that she had her own, nor had I noticed just how ingrained they were. The same can be said for many of us. There is an old Eleanor Roosevelt quote that says ‘you would not care what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did’ and I often look back and wish someone had emphasised this for me.

I am not flawless by any standard, but I am now accepting of that. I believe we should all do the same, I have wasted so many years of my life being bitter and resenting myself, constantly counting my problems over my blessings. Once you realise your self-worth, you will find peace within yourself, not only will you feel it in your core, but other people will feel it when they speak to you.

We all manifest what we feel, it is our job to treat ourselves well. To spend our lives wishing we were something else or that we looked a certain way is a complete waste of life, we are all flawed in countless ways, but that is the beauty of life – imperfection. Do not allow yourself to drown in your flaws, learn to bathe in them. Become mindful of your thoughts, counter every negative thought you have with a positive one, do not ever be ashamed to be happy with yourself, self-love is not easy to attain in today’s world – but it costs absolutely nothing, and once you have it, you realise just how truly beautiful this life is.

I’m eighteen now, I want to begin my adulthood with enough confidence for a lifetime of love, one where I do not need to look for it in other people, not because I do not want it, but simply because I already have it within myself. The woman I want to be is no longer the one who looks the most beautiful, but the one who feels it.

I am happy with myself; I would like to live in a world where you do too.

Photo by vshorty on Flickr.

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