I’m sick of self-love

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‘Guys, I really want a nose job’

‘The things I would do to have Kendall’s body’

‘Look at this girl on TikTok, she’s 13 and she looks like THAT’

’How is her skin so clear, what does she stir hyaluronic acid in her coffee instead of sugar?’

I’m sure we’ve all had a conversation along these lines. It’s a prerequisite for friendship, a way us girls bond. A ‘I hate my nose’ is quickly interrupted by a ‘Nooo I love your nose, I hate my nose’ and within seconds a ‘No omg I’d die to have your nose’ follows, and boom, you’re friends!

Jokes are exchanged about the cat-fishing powers of makeup and ground-breaking potential of plastic surgery. We rant about how we would sell a kidney to get Alexa Demie’s cheekbones but soon the laughter fades away and in silent acquiescence, we realise that something as superficial as beauty, has tremendous power over us, more than most us would like to admit.

We all advocate for self-love and body positivity, but adhering to these feminist commandments is harder than it seems. I started thinking about my self-love truth a few weeks ago. A few hours into my classic Friday evening binge-watch of Fleabag, I came across an interesting dilemma. The pilot episode features a scene where Fleabag, the protagonist of the show, attends a feminism workshop with her sister Claire. The workshop leader poses a question to the audience, ‘Raise your hand if you would trade five years of your life for the perfect body’. Without an iota of reluctance, the two sisters shoot up their hands, only to realise they are the only ones. ‘We’re bad feminists,’ Fleabag whispers to her sister. This scene got me thinking: would I have raised my hand if I was present in that room? The voice instead my head was in a predicament and posed two options: 1. State the obvious, NO, how could I possibly let go of FIVE years of my life for something that shallow? Or 2 (the truth): Yes, god, forget about five, I’d give away TEN years for the perfect body!

I was disappointed. Why do I feel this way about myself? Why do I conflate validation with confidence? How could I succumb to societal pressures so easily? These questions filled me with guilt and shame. But soon I realised, I am not the one to blame. And I’m here to tell you, that if you feel this way too, you aren’t a ‘bad’ feminist. The truth is that body acceptance goes beyond social media’s ‘love yourself’ chants and fleeting body positivity movements that are more often than not, hijacked by the same mainstream brands that capitalise off women’s insecurities. These are systemic issues that cannot be solved by a forceful adoption of self-love, but through vulnerability and a genuine understanding of why we feel the way we do about our bodies. It is high time we realise that this problem doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is an inexorable consequence of a society driven by centuries of capitalist and patriarchal doctrine. And while I don’t claim to offer a panacea for these societal ills, one thing I am certain of is that shoved-down-your-throat self-love and toxic body positivity bombs are not the solution.