Editor’s Note: FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth for February, 2022 is Redefining Love. We invite submissions on the many layers of love, throughout the month. If you’d like to contribute, kindly email your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the many ways in which oppressive structures like capitalism and patriarchy stay intact is by consistently gaslighting us. It tells us how much one is worthy of love and respect, who is worthy of it, and who is not. So, it is not a surprise to see women and people belonging to other marginalised genders struggle to embody the confidence that comes with self-assurance and care.
Under these circumstances, self-love is not just a series of simple acts of kindness towards oneself, but also a radical form of love. It propels you to provide yourself with the care you have been denied, the care you deserve to claim in a world that profits from your insecurities. It also aids you in unlearning the harmful, self-destructive behaviours that you may have picked up while trying to fit in.
Most of us experience a cathartic journey of healing and loving ourselves while battling the lies of patriarchy. The personal stories of such individuals often bring comfort and emotional solidarity to many others. With the advent of social media, personal narratives chronicling self-love have become a shared resource of guidance and solace for many people.
Although this has made the concept of self-love and self-care more accessible, it has also given rise to a new form of marketing for brands to latch on to. As is the case with many movements like body positivity, numerous brands have capitalised on the profits made off this narrative by positioning various products and services as a necessity to achieve uninhibited self-love.
Not that companies should not promote body positive movements, but the problem lies with how they choose to do it. Industries that profit off our insecurities, the industries that have long been making people believe they are unworthy of love unless they buy a particular product, now commercially appropriate the language of self-love.(I am staring at the beauty and fitness industry).
Further, this disjointed form of self-love simply caters only to a portion of society that can accommodate the time, money, and energy for the commercial definition of self-care and love. It holds no space for healing (sometimes, from the wounds caused by this very capitalistic world) which is critical in any journey of love.
From slogans like ‘treat yourself to the new wave of wellness‘, companies make billions of rupees every year by selling our love back to ourselves. This process has not only corrupted the meaning of self-love and care, but has also removed it from the context of a radical and resistant form of compassion, and planted it into self-absorbent consumerism. This blunt commodification alienates the people who need it and struggle with self acceptance the most.
When you live in a world where you have to purchase everything from sanitary napkins to food and water, it is hard not to give into consumerism. Furthermore, there ensue instances where prioritising one’s material needs becomes necessary. For instance, patriarchal conditioning forces many married women, especially those with children to put their family’s needs over their own, all the time.
In such cases, buying something for oneself involves a form of untethering from systemic, expected gender norms. However, at the end of the day, consumerism is not going to provide any real form of liberation and while we engage with materialistic pleasures, it is important for us to trace the true source of self-love.
So, how do we love ourselves without buying into the brainwashing of brands? We have come a long way by rejecting the lies the heteropatriarchal, capitalistic system serves us and we should continue to do so. Perhaps, we can achieve radical self-love by taking back (again) our love from the hands of systems that undermine and commodify it.
Besides, we need to constantly remind ourselves that like any other form of love, self-love is also rooted in understanding and accepting the person as is. It grows as we try to be there for ourselves through good times, difficult times and daunting times. Most importantly, self-love is not all about stocking up the shelves as the advertisements would want us to believe.
Priyanka is a writer from Bangalore. She is always searching for stories to listen to— from TV series to literature. She also enjoys making art. You may find her on Instagram
Featured Image: Shreya Tingal for Feminism in India