WHEN I was around nine or ten, in the unusually warm summer days of my childhood, I used to douse my hair in lemon juice, convinced that if I sat out in the sun for long enough, my hair would lighten to a dazzling shade of bronze. Suffice to say, this never came to fruition, and all I got in return was really sticky hair.

I have always set myself high expectations. I have conventionally thought this was because my Dad did, and continues to give me that grand old speech that “I have to work twice as hard as everyone else.” This is sound advice if what you are working towards is better grades, a job, all the other things you need to receive the status of an adequately functioning civilian; but can be equally dangerous if what you are aspiring towards is everything that you are not.

Take my most recent attempt at dating. He was younger, full of teenage angst, and a friend of my brother’s. If you think this was an odd set-up, you would be correct, and that’s what made him all the more attractive. He was everything society (not to mention just about every one of my friends) and good old fashioned common sense was telling me I couldn’t have.

Charles Darwin, that famous thinker and lesser-known racist, once said that you have to adapt in order to survive. So I adapted. I resisted the urge to argue or complain, even though I sat in a McDonald’s drive-thru on Valentine’s Day (true story, but one that shall remain in the back pages of my diary) whilst repeating “this is fine, this is just what teens do for fun” over and over again in my head.

I made every effort to get to know him and his life (because that’s what the Idiot’s Guide to Dating says you’re supposed to do) whilst all he gave me was backward compliments and raised eyebrows (“I read one of your articles. I don’t know which one, something about being a minority”). In not feeling confident to express myself, I repressed everything I was, redesigning myself in the image I thought he wanted.

When everything came crashing down, or rather, fizzled out with small talk and passive aggressive full stops, as these things usually do, I wondered what I could have done wrong, what I could have said or done differently.  Saying I missed him would be the easy way out. The truth is, I missed the person I was when I was with him, which was, in essence, an 18-year-old girl with no responsibilities but A-Levels and scraping enough cash together for next weekend’s drinking session, a girl I never was because I was the one whose only weekend plans involved having a breakdown over my psychology revision.  The only thing I had done wrong was shown my true colours, a grown ass woman with her own opinions, even if she hasn’t completely got her shit together yet. This, evidently, was intimidating, and did not fit within his colour scheme.

There is a certain curriculum you need to follow getting over these kinds of things. One only has to watch countless episodes of Gossip Girl and stream entire Beyoncé albums on Spotify to grasp this. With a gaping hole in my social calendar and my train of thought, I needed to distract myself. In what seemed like a perfectly logical decision at the time, I brought a new pair of shoes, I worked myself to exhaustion, I went to the gym, I escaped to my friend’s house and cried into mango sorbet. They all worked temporarily, but after the gym, I went home and promptly ate peanut butter out of the jar, and realised the chronic state of my bank balance after my shoe splurge.

I was poor, confused and three pounds fatter. Isn’t this what all those #selfloveclub and “YASSS QUEEN” memes were about? Being selfish to make yourself feel better? Maybe I should’ve done something more drastic, like get a tongue piercing or dye my hair purple? Sure, my Mother might disown me but I’d be so much happier.

If you’re having a particularly bad day and fancy some comic relief, try typing “Self Love tips” into Google. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have clicked on the world’s most hippy-go-lucky site, but it does have exactly 21 tips to “Release self-negativity and love yourself in action,” because these kinds of things never come in even numbers. Some of it was obvious, like “take a break from technology” or “go outside because there are trees and shit to look at,” which I will be sure to add to my to-do list. I was a tad confused over what individual they thought had the time, money and brain capacity to “work on your personal and spiritual development,” “live in appreciation” and “SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP” (capitalisation intended) all at once, but then again, I have none of these things.

“Self-love,” the term we like to throw about so much in pop records and Instagram posts, is a con. It’s something capitalist ideology made up to make us feel less shit about ourselves, thus blinding us to the crumbling, 1984 approaching world in which we currently live. And just like all ideologies, there are certain steps you have to take in order to achieve “self-love” in articles that often crop up when you’re feeling particularly depressed during your lunch break at work.

How do we feel good about ourselves? We buy more shit and buy into more shit.

I’m no expert. In fact, I’m a 21-year-old with a love life almost as disastrous as my bank balance. But I shouldn’t buy into the narrative that I need to resolve both of these things in order to be happy. I haven’t quite found the quick-fix for self-love, but I do know that for me, it doesn’t come in the form of revenge-bought shoes and drunken rebound hook-ups. Right now, it mostly comes in the form of peanut butter and binge-watching Netflix with my best pal, but hey, I need a place to start.

Where does that leave you? Well, even if the only bit of advice you picked up from this article was not to date your brother’s friends, then I’m satisfied. The rest is up to you.

 

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