Let me start this post with a very clear disclaimer that we hurr at #RTU are huge advocates of self-love. We believe that each one of us holds immense power and potential–(hell, if ya wanna get spiritual, we really believe we each have the power of the universe inside us because we are the universe; you know, that stuff)–and we believe the way to harness that energy is to begin from a place of intense love and praise for who we are as well as who we are not.
With that said, self-love doesn’t mean self-lie. To love ourselves does not mean to pretend that all of our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are positive and loving; rather, it means loving ourselves enough to understand our shortcomings, continue self-love even through imperfection, but strive to get better in the areas we’d like to. One of Mac’s and my favorite metaphors for this concept can be illustrated through two mirrors: the natural mirror and the funhouse mirror.
We strive for realistic self-appraisal in the natural mirror. This means we see reality for what it is: the good, bad, and everything in-between. In this mirror we see everything that’s going well–our accomplishments, successes, on-point hair, and other victories–but we also have a clear enough vision to see the parts of ourselves we don’t care to see–not just our huge pores, but our biases, unhealthy norms, ego, pride, and other areas that exist because we’re humans trying to make it werq.
When the natural mirror gets too real, we sashay our way over to the funhouse mirror, where we get to see reality distorted in a way that gives us comfort. Our flaws aren’t flaws in the funhouse mirror; in fact, we can’t even see the truth because our legs are so long and our heads are so squished. That gives us the excuse and toxic permission to believe there is no work to be done. There is always work to be done, henny. The funhouse mirror inhibits our ability to realistically self-appraise.
Think about selling your car. First you’ll need to get it appraised. While you believe your car is the best thing on the planet, you might realize your judgment has been clouded because you love it so much–you’ve had hella road trips in that car, named it, cherished it, and trusted it for so long. The objective car appraiser, however, doesn’t care about memories; they have to call it what it is and say, “Sweetie, you need four new tires, an A/C filter replacement, and a wax and dry!”
The lesson here is how you respond to the objective appraiser. Do you roll your eyes and scoff, undermining the feedback given to you, only to run into the arms of the funhouse mirror and see what you want to see? Or do you think about it for a hot second and say, “Well damn, I guess that car was feeling bumpy for a bit, and I guess I was sweating bullets in my car.” The hard truths aren’t fun for us. Interpreted incorrectly, people run down the negativity rabbit hole and begin a life of self-depreciation and lack of self-love.
Which is why one of the best ways to achieve self-love is to achieve self-truth. Here are some ways to cultivate it:
1. Reflection: Realistic self-appraisal is both a process and a goal and requires 360-degree input. On the journey to self-truth, you need the objective appraisers in your life, but you also need the ability to realistically self-appraise. One way to do this is to journal frequently about areas of growth you’d like to achieve. This can even be framed in positive, rather than deficit, based language. “I’m too judgmental” can become “I strive to be more open and accepting in my daily interactions with others.”
2. Asking for and receiving feedback: When enough wine is flowing (and even when it isn’t), your friends will let you know. Last week Charise and I did a new personality test in which we had to rank strengths and weaknesses. A few drinks later, we were ranking the words for each other; we needed to know! Because we have that closeness, we are able to laugh along the way and understand the truth in how people perceive us. That feedback matters from people who know you well as well as people who don’t.
3. Understanding how to measure progress or setbacks. Depending on how much change will need to occur, you might need to be comfortable with the idea that small wins are just as important as significant change. For example, when I remind myself that I’d like to be more kind and patient, I can honestly assess myself in certain situations and say, “Damn, you did so well,” or “Damn, maybe next time.” There’s also value in unapologetically owning what you already do so well and never letting anyone take that away from you.
This is a hard, hard, hard lesson, kitty boys, kitty girls, and everything in between. Many of the pieces involved in realistic self-appraisal could be karmic lessons in need of balance, or perhaps the idea of self-work is one of your soul’s strengths, so you just keep getting better with time. Whatever the case is, the truth actually makes us better. Instead of running away from it, let yourself drift into truth’s open arms, unafraid to learn from what you might find.