Social media is absolutely filled with people telling you to love yourself.

People who tell you that your stretch marks are tiger stripes. Your body weight is natural, you are a real woman and therefore you are not expected to look like the women on the covers of magazines.

Maybe you even tell other people the same thing. Maybe you respond to every proclamation of “I’m so fat!” by telling them, “so what? A person’s beauty is not correlated to their weight”, and then you turn around and judging your own image in the mirror.

I know I do.

Logically speaking, I know that there is more than one correct way of being a person in this world. I know that the things we think of as physical flaws are not flaws at all – they’re just parts of us, parts that society tells us that we should be ashamed of, but why? What’s wrong with them, really? Why are we always so hard on ourselves? Why can’t we just learn to accept the parts of ourselves that come naturally, the parts that aren’t hurting anybody, the parts that are not wrong, they’re just different and character-building? What’s wrong with them?

I know all this logically, but accepting that is another matter.

We tend to hold ourselves to a different standard than we do other people. We think that it’s important for other people to love themselves, but it doesn’t matter so much for ourselves. We would hate the idea of someone else staring into the mirror and agonizing over their appearance, wishing that they could change this or that, and yet we do it to ourselves all the time. And of course we do. We live in a society that constantly tells us that we should second-guess ourselves. That we aren’t enough, that we’ll never be enough. We still need to go out there and buy that mascara to make our lashes longer, that lipstick to make our lips larger, do that exercise to make our tummies toned. It’s never enough. The to-do list grows longer and longer with every new advertisement.

But when it comes to body positivity, we need to practice what we preach.

It is one thing to tell people that they are beautiful, that they should love themselves despite how society tells them they should feel. This is a very wonderful thing, because this is a message that we should be spreading. But at the same time, we deserve to know how it feels to truly love ourselves. To look in the mirror and accept all that you see. To know, without any semblance of doubt, that there is no love that we don’t deserve, that we don’t have to settle or hide ourselves, because there is nothing wrong with us. We deserve confidence, and honest confidence – not the sort of confidence that tears other people down, but the sort that builds them up, that makes them look at you and think, “wow, I’d love to be that comfortable in my skin”.

We all deserve that, no matter who you are or how you look.

So start taking the steps toward loving yourself, rather than simply telling other people that they should love themselves. And maybe part of taking those steps is, quite simply, pretending to love yourself. Not necessarily in front of other people – you might do that already, telling them that you love yourself just to prove a point, to pretend to be an example, but when it really counts is when you’re alone. When no one else can hear you, and you have to force yourself to change the language that you use to describe yourself. When you catch yourself thinking something like “ugh, I’m so gross”, change that around to be something positive, something like “I’m really cute today”. Because when you force yourself to think that way, eventually you won’t be forcing yourself anymore – you’ll just start to think that way.

And you should. You are beautiful. You are loveable and unique and amazing and strong. You come complete with so much experience that nobody else has but you – because nobody has lived their lives in quite the same way that you have. You deserve so much more than you think you do, and you deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. So allow yourself. And don’t do it for me, and don’t do it to prove to others that it is possible to love yourself; do it for yourself. Do it selfishly. Do it because you are amazing, and because it will make you even better. Do it because the world is filled with more than enough hypocrites, telling you to love yourself while simultaneously judging themselves, and you shouldn’t have to be that.

Published by Ciara Hall