Odds are, if you're a young woman on a college campus, someone you know has preached to you about how you just gotta love yourself.
It's the cure-all, right? Just do it. Just look in the mirror and just… love it. Your life, your day, your body, your smile, your job… just do it! It's honestly simple.
That's what I feel like when I go on social media or talk to friends or even just live on a university campus. I'm fortunate… I only have the typical internal image struggles of a young woman where I feel like I could be a little skinnier or maybe be better at makeup. Just everyday things that I see as personal imperfections. Not everyone feels that way, though.
So what about the girl who looks in the mirror and instead of a groggy, coffee-less student on a Monday morning, she sees her depression. Or her failed test. Or her anxiety. Or her break-up. Or whatever is a little bigger than herself at that moment. What about the girl that had to pull herself out of bed? That feels the pressure of her family's hopes for her future? That is stuck under the crippling claw of an eating disorder?
What about her? What about them?
Do they just… love themselves?
Now, don't get me wrong -- self-love is crucial. It will amplify, build, and empower any generation of women, forever. It's crucial we embrace who we are, how our voices sound on this Earth, and how we can discover, serve, lead, and learn. Self-love is important.
But how do we get there? How do we love ourselves, and how do we teach girls growing up what it means to love yourself?
Some days, maybe we can just look in the mirror and fall head over heels with the women we are.
But some days are a lot harder. No matter your circumstance, life can be difficult and sometimes, it takes more than the proclamation, belief, and words that pronounce a love for our own person.
On these days, and most days, I believe self-care is about action. Taking action for you, in a way that makes sense for you.
I'm a firm believer that not everyone can just believe they love themselves. Sometimes it takes more than that.
In the past 3 months this concept has been eating me alive, and when I hear people act like self-love is simply a choice, I'm frustrated for the girls that it's harder for.
Sometimes I have my hard days, too. For these days, we have to find what works for us. And these skills I've learned from the best women and men in my life while figuring out some on my own.
It's not always about a face mask, a bubble bath, or your favorite dessert. A new book, a Netflix binge, or a trip to the beach won't always fix it all for you.
If you can manage it, here are some of the things I'd recommend to get yourself going, to get a smile on your face, or to simply feel okay:
Set aside time for your morning routine. I try to build it into my day, setting a good chunk of time to getting ready. Whether you dress up or down for school or work, or you go full-face or no makeup, taking that time to listen to music or watch a show while you put yourself together makes you feel like you have at least one thing in control.
Drink water. I know, this seems dietary. But it helps you feel energized, helps with your overall health, and makes you feel so much better. Get your favorite bottle and consider it an accomplishment if you finish it!
Add something to your outfit -- a favorite ring you never wear, a necklace on some days, or a nice blouse on a Friday. Spice it up so you have something to look forward to and something exciting on more difficult days.
Cook your meals when you have time. It takes your mind off of everything going on and often takes you down a healthier path when you decide on more ingredients. It's fun and often therapeutic.
Set aside a day to clean your space and organize your bag(s). Picking this day will allow you not to worry about a mess you might not have time for during a busy week.
Understand the importance of rest. Take time off from your studies, go to bed before an exam, and understand that your body needs fuel not to just work and get around, but to think.
Work to be patient with yourself and take baby steps. Accomplishments aren't always large -- they can be small. And if you can't make it happen that day, remind yourself to believe in the power of tomorrow.
It's not easy to love yourself. But by taking action to take care of yourself, you might fall a little more in love with your life and how you feel, building up your ability to embrace who you are. You can't simply will self-love, especially when it's more of an uphill battle in your heart. Take care of you, work to find a way to make it through a day, and in thanking yourself for patience and care, love for that girl in the mirror will follow.