Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who is the fairest one of all?
HAVE you ever caught yourself comparing yourself to others? Telling yourself that you are not good enough or that you do not match up? I have spent some good time looking at others and telling myself that very same thing. Fortunately for me, those moments are only fleeting and I always manage to return to the mirror and smile appreciatively.
A friend and I were looking at some images of a popular artiste and agreed that the artiste was very comfortable with his mirror image and displayed his beauty with confidence. In the words of my bredrin, “He is calm, fearless, and very happy…not many people face the viewfinder with this desire or confidence. He has only love to give, it's his spirit”. While confidence is what is presented outwardly, self-love has a deeper emotional value and reflects in our ability to feel good about ourselves and others. As my bredrin comfortably shared his thoughts on the artiste's image, it struck me that we often find it easier to serve up beautiful compliments or words of encouragement to others but not to ourselves.
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
As a child, I recall being encouraged by adults around me that I could be anything I wanted to be — that I was bright and beautiful. I remember falling while learning to ride a bike and having my older cousin pick me up with the assurance, “You can do it, just try again”. I also remember other voices that were punitive and humiliating, saying things like, “Anything too black nuh good!” or “Yu nah come off to nutten.”
Do you find yourself making outside voices your own?
There is no question that our sense of self or self-esteem is often determined by these voices in our past and our levels of self-love, self-care and compassion are determined by how those outer voices impacted us.
How do we cultivate a positive inner voice and move away from harsh self-criticism to gain the kind of confidence of the loved artiste?
It is as easy as learning our ABCs — we learn by repetition. And so, consider carefully what you tell yourself daily. When you fail at something, remember the kind voices, and repeat to yourself what they would have said to you. A kind friend sent me a message some time ago — I kept it and it is now my letter to myself when the persecutory inner voice rears its head. “You are generous and selfless. You are well and you are doing well. You are a complete being, in complete control of your complete life and related affairs. You have no lack, no shortcomings. You are wonderful because the source of wonderments placed you here…”
Those positive words replace the habit of negative self-criticism I cultivated while aiming for the hallmark of perfection. I have also learnt to identify self-indulgence or self-pity which is disguised as a 'sweet' emotion and affords us a short-term release from feeling bad about ourselves. For me, self-pity comes from a place of ego and self-centredness, and so, rather than lament about not fitting into an old dress because of weight gain, I consider the larger problems of hunger and starvation in the world. I recognise, too, that what I refer to as self-pity is perhaps what we describe as compassion when someone else reaches out to us with their problems. So I allow myself the same compassion I offer to others.
Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Learning to love yourself is learning to care for yourself. Taking the time to care for yourself tells the world that you value yourself and are ready to take care of others. Self-care is taking care of your body, mind, and soul — from exercising, eating right and practising proper hygiene, to taking time out for yourself. The way you treat yourself encourages others to treat you the same, so start loving yourself. Take your place in the world with confidence.
Coleen Antoinette is an Arts Educator and lover of culture and people. She is currently the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. You may share your thoughts or own experiences with her at email@example.com.