What's self-love got to do with it? Erin Klassen invites women to explore how to really love themselves
Bath bombs, pedicures, Netflix and take-out. These are things that make you feel good, if only briefly. But is there a difference between the sell of self-care — those lady-centric quick fixes in listicles and hashtagged throughout your Instagram feed — and the art, the honesty, the mess of learning how to really love yourself, for the long haul?
My friends say I have a "type A" personality. This is a label that's often perceived as a negative way of being, but my type-A-ness allows me to plan ahead, get more done, and dream big.
On the flip side, these traits come with a tendency to judge myself harshly. I joked with my therapist that because I have high expectations for the world and for the people around me, I have the same high standards for myself. She responded, softly, "Maybe too high."
She hit the nail on the head — my middle name might as well be the adverb "too." I laugh too loud, I talk too fast, my ideas are too ambitious, I care too much. I am fighting a constant battle internally, caught between my instinct to reach for the stars and feeling like I'm not doing a good enough job, at anything. As a born perfectionist, it's my instinct to try to get an "A" in everything — including my self-care practice. Self-care, as it's brought to you by GOOP and Instagram, proposes a better, healthier way of living, that is, if you can get your act together.
I'm thirty-three years old. I have a good job, a great apartment, a long-term partner, and solid friendships. But I can never find matching socks. Sometimes I eat too many slices of a Domino's pizza. I've spent more than a few Sundays watching back-to-back episodes of Gilmore Girls, even when Rory continues to make bad choices and the narrative leaves me feeling deeply unsatisfied.
Gwyneth Paltrow, with her shiny golden hair and love of moon juice, is beckoning millions of women to be kind to themselves. The celebrated call to action is, "Treat Yourself." Which sounds nice, of course, but leaves me wondering, What do we do when that list of things isn't enough to make us feel better? What if we need more?
Hoping to find answers, I called on 17 talented female writers and artists to contribute to a book called You Care Too Much, which I published this November. The anthology sets out to uncover why women are so hungry for the kind of self-love that will address our complex and unmet needs, while we balance the high expectations that we so often place upon ourselves.
What I found out, through the process of editing the vastly different essays, fiction, poetry, photography and artwork, is that there is no one solution, there is no magic mantra or quick fix, or a single path that will lead women to wellness. The path will be different for each woman.
They say practice makes perfect — Malcolm Gladwell might suggest the answer lies on the other side of 10,000 green smoothies. I'm not so convinced. Losing ten pounds and organizing my sock drawer might make me feel good, sure, but I can't imagine it's the path to true peace of mind. I'm more interested in learning how to love myself despite my many imperfections — a lesson I'm starting to be ok with learning one day at a time.