Self-Love: In Progress
Art by Scatterbee.
Guest Post by Ghaida Moussa
I used to scoff at the idea of self-love.
Where I come from, we don’t really talk about ourselves as individuals, let alone talk about loving ourselves. Self-love felt like such a foreign concept, a self-indulgent excuse for navel-gazing, a convenient way to look over our mistakes or shortcomings.
I would look at others (often white, thin, straight, wealthy able-bodied people) loving on themselves on social media, and I would think, “how hard is it to love yourself when the world is built to lift you up, to validate your self-importance, to guarantee you succeeding and thriving? How hard is it, really, to love yourself above everyone else when you are loved, basically, above everyone else?
Truly, how is that even the same process, the same thing as those who have to love themselves not because it is the last piece missing of the puzzle (already laid out, waiting for you to love yourself to be completed), but despite.
Despite, despite, despite.
Despite being gaslight by institutions and people to the point that we cannot trust what our body is telling us, what we experience, or what we feel. Despite not fulfilling the criteria to be automatically loved, to earn love. Despite being so not loved on that our existence is disputed or actively limited.
How can we be told that we are so unworthy of love and then shamed for not loving ourselves? How can we be deprived of the possibility of love, when this discomfort in our own skin is the consequence of our discomfort in society?
You cannot love others if you don’t love yourself.
It is this line that kept me from loving myself.
I would read it over and again. I would see it everywhere. And every time I did, I froze. It was haunting me. Because of that line, I retreated from the love in my life, from the people I loved. I was worried that they would know that I did not love myself, and then declare me unable, inadequate, unworthy of loving them.
I’ve come to know that self-love is not a container, dividing me from you; not a one-person project that I need to achieve on my own so that I can come back to love you. Self-love is not a loving me over you, not a loving myself more than you.
Self-love is not possible without you. I do not end where you begin. You teach me what loving myself can look like when you love me. I teach myself what loving myself can look like by loving you. Self-love is connection.
And this is one of the reasons we struggle to love ourselves.
So many of us are disconnected - by way of colonization, settler-colonialism, economic marginalization, deportations, the prison-industrial complex, slavery (name your own misadventure) - from our communities, our families, our place in the world. Self-love can be easier knowing who we are and what we mean to a community. Self-love can grow when we know our part in the story.
So if you cannot love yourself fully now, love yourself in the tiny places where it radiates more easily. Let it grow by letting it be enough for now. Extend yourself to your ride or die people. Love the hell out of them. Find out what your story was, and if you can’t, help shape your history and community now by showing up in your dig-way-deep, not-there-yet, work-in-progress way.
Self-love is often talked about as a place or time we arrive to, but for many of us, it will always be a haunted arrival - one that is always negotiated in relation to history and power. For me, self-love is a place that carries with it other places, a time that carries with it other times, and hopefully, a me that carries with it others that I can love enough to start loving myself.
Ghaida Moussa is an Arab QPOC living in Ottawa, soon to have completed her PhD at York University where she writes about chronic illness. She is the co-editor of Marvellous Grounds: Queer of Colour Histories of Toronto, Queering Urban Justice: Queer of Colour Formations in Toronto, and Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections of Identity, Space, and Resistance. She is currently a life coach-mentor who helps marginalized folks find their power while fighting structural power. You can find her on Instagram @hawasawalife and at occasional dance parties as dj yalla!yalla!
This is the fifth blog post for our 2019 Summer of Self-Love! Every week for 12 weeks, we're sharing questions, activities or ideas that we hope will help you fall more in love with yourself this summer. You can find our first post here, or sign up for our Summer of Self-Love Newsletter here.