Today, we talked about self-love. I was nervous about bringing up this topic, just because I used to get annoyed at how much I heard this phrase thrown around carelessly during undergrad. As if loving yourself is a trendy, clean fact and not a messy, scary, contradictory struggle for some of us. Speaking with other women and listening deeply to myself, I now know that some people truly don’t love themselves and don’t know how to. And they certainly don’t need to be pressured or shamed for not being able to. Keeping this in mind, we tried to tread very softly for this topic.
Our Healing Circle today was also an outing. Sahar* had suggested a new place, and the rest of us figured it would be nice to take a break from the stuffy classroom and loud street noise we’ve grown accustomed to in Esenler. Gulhane Park was scenic, breezy, shady, cathartic.
We started by going around and sharing one thing we love about ourselves. Jannat* loves that she is tender-hearted. Tala* loves her nuanced outlook on life. Khalto Ayat* loves her taqwa, her relentless closeness to God. Faten* loves her laugh. Dina* loves her ability to guard her rights.
We talked about acts of self-love and exchanged ideas on tangible things we can do to remind ourselves why we are brave and wise and lovable. To renew out commitment to working on loving ourselves. To affirm that we are worthy of a whole love. Sahar* says she likes sitting in front of the mirror, brushing her beautiful hair, and complimenting herself. Someone stepped in, asking if she did this because she felt she lacked compliments from others or if this was her way of prompting others to compliment her. She firmly said no. That she did this because she genuinely wants to remind herself what she loves about herself. And because she really just loves her hair. In this mirror exercise she doesn’t only compliment her physical looks, but also praises what she loves about her personality. “Sometimes, I’m just like wow, who is this fabulous person in front of me!” People giggled, but really, we probably all want Sahar’s* self-love.
Another person, Inayah*, said she recently started to write down the things she likes about herself in a notebook. She comes back to this list when she is angry with herself or too tough on herself. Khalto Wafaa* said that she compliments the things that she does, even when they don’t turn out good or as expected. For example, if she cooks something for the first time, before/while serving it to her family, she talks about how delicious this meal is and how everyone is so lucky to have a chef like her around home.
Since we’ve managed to build some trust and intimacy during the past weeks, we didn’t skirt around the difficulty and struggle that comes with self-love. We talked about how sometimes, even the things we love about ourselves, can be a source of shame or guilt because of what others around us say or because we prioritize others’ feelings/perspectives over our own. For example, Dina* who had mentioned in the beginning that she loves that she defends herself and is able to stand up for herself, said that sometimes she simultaneously feels bad about this. When she replays images of scenes where she defended herself, she begins to question herself: was I too harsh? was it bad that I hit him on the face? do I overreact?
Others expressed similar sentiments of shame or guilt about things they would otherwise love about themselves. “I love that I’m tenderhearted, but it causes me so much pain when people take advantage of me, so I also hate this about myself,” Jannat* shared. Similarly, Shayma* who mentioned in the beginning that she loves her ferocity/rage, shared that it is some thing she is also very self-conscious.
Someone asked how we can change these things that we don’t like about ourselves or what we can do to work on them.
Huda* mentioned that perhaps the solution to these deflections from our self-love is to drop the people who get in the way of them–instead of dropping the things we see as precious in ourselves. What a comfortable thought to sit with.