Love Yourself – And Everyone Else
Written by Alaina Pepin
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about self-love and how to foster it within myself, despite everything surrounding me that encourages otherwise. On my quest, I find myself struggling to maintain a balance between self-love and being just plain selfish. As someone who is dedicated to taking care of others around me, taking time to care for myself makes my stomach feel weird and my arms itchy. I feel guilty if I can’t help everyone who asks, and even for people who don’t ask. One of my favorite things is being able to give people what they need before they even realize they need it. But putting so much effort into other peoples’ happiness exhausts me, causing me to have a huge mental, emotional, and physical breakdown every few months. That’s not healthy!
So, with the guidance of some of my powerful female role models, I cut myself off from other people for a day or a few, and sometimes a week or more. It’s still really hard for me and I have to be told specifically what to do in a step by step process. I thrive on to-do lists and accomplishing things on the list, so making self-care a checklist really works for me. One of the things that is always on my to-do list when I feel really icky is to listen to an obnoxious pop song that makes me want to dance. Some of my favorites right now are “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor, “Sit Still, Look Pretty” by Daya, and “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara. They all have a lightness and sense of empowerment that perks me up. They make me want to dance, drive with the windows open, and help me feel like I can do anything.
However, a problem I have with these songs, specifically Trainor and Daya’s songs. Both include lyrics that intend to make the listener feel like they are powerful, beautiful, and don’t have to conform to anyone else’s standards. Examples include Meghan’s lyrics “I thank God every day that I woke up feelin’ this way. And I can’t help lovin’ myself, and I don’t need nobody else, nuh uh. If I was you, I’d wanna be me too” and Daya’s “I know the other girlies wanna wear expensive things, and diamond rings, but I don’t wanna be the puppet that you’re playing on a string. This queen don’t need a king. Oh I don’t know what you’ve been told but this gal right here’s gonna rule the world.” Both of these feel amazing to jam to, especially when I’m feeling bad about being single or if I feel I’m not good enough. But at what cost am I feeling this way? Both songs pit listeners (most likely female) against other women to build confidence. Meghan encourages listeners to be jealous of her lifestyle, and Daya calls out other women who live different lifestyles than she does. I also have this problem with another of Trainor’s popular songs, “All About That Bass,” where she shames other body types and puts females’ genuine womanhood in question based on their curves, or lack of. I’m always in favor of girls and women feeling independent and like they can succeed in life without a man (or another woman) behind them, but the way these artists, and many others, approach that issue could use some work.
Jealousy is something I have had problems with since I was in middle school. I always wanted to be thinner, prettier, more charismatic, smarter, and I couldn’t stand when other girls had the characteristics I lacked. My jealousy was instrumental in ruining my first serious relationship. Looking back, it wasn’t the right relationship in the first place, but I can’t help but wonder how things would have gone if I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to other women in my ex’s life. Maybe this is why these songs, despite their flaws, speak to me so much. They aid in making me feel better about myself in a way that puts me in a position of feeling more powerful, or better than other women. That’s not okay. If our society is ever going to move past the strong patriarchal overtones that run how people perceive women and their roles, women can’t pit themselves against one another. It makes us weaker and less likely to overcome the patriarchy. We should build one another up, celebrate one another’s strengths, and give support for our weaknesses. To quote author and feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, “We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.” Rather than competing for approval and admiration of men, we should work against those feelings and allow ourselves to build confidence and strength based in other types of success.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a jealous person. I surf one woman’s Instagram often, wishing that I could be more like she is, hating both myself and her for it. That’s not fair to her or to myself, but I can’t help it sometimes. All I can do is think more consciously about the roots of my feelings and remember what a good friend told me when I talked to her about it: “Someone probably looks at your Instagram that way, too” and my favorite of what she said that day: “Everyone is an idiot, for real, me included. It’s hard because we’re all idiots trying our best to be happy.” So instead of building our self-care and self-love out of a desire to be better than other women, let’s do it for ourselves. Let’s do it because the world will be a better place if we respect and love ourselves and each other. Let’s listen to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway,” Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire,” Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.,” and others that don’t beg us to feel more powerful than other women. Let’s find good female role models to remind us of our value and keep our feminism intersectional and inclusive. Let’s be revolutionary in a way the world doesn’t want us to: let’s love ourselves.