Unlearn: Self-Love is Paramount

Often as children in Jamaica we are not taught to love ourselves. The prevailing mindset is that children should be seen and not heard, displays of emotion are frowned upon (worse if you’re a boy) and the needs or wants of a child in a family with many older members are usually overlooked.

Contrast the technicolor televised images of my childhood where Foreign children are raised with so much self confidence it seems like entitlement, where people are consoled when they cry and where parents/extended family seem attuned to the emotional needs of the younger relatives.

Because I had the privilege to be exposed to this alternate experience of childhood, I was aware that the way we do things here is not necessarily the best way. I also had the opportunity to observe the difference in outcomes when children are raised in a loving and nurturing home instead of a yard where every man is for himself, and I remain convinced that the way we parent in this country is largely responsible for the way we deal with the deeper problems that plague our society.

But why is this relevant.

Most of the time I write because I hope that something in my words will resonate with the right person at the right time. Hoping the current of the universe will push this cobbled craft to the person who needs it when they need it most. A lot my posts start their lives as ‘what I wish someone had told me’ and I’m vain enough to believe that if I needed to hear this, then someone else does too.

So this is relevant because we need to be reminded that it is okay to love yourself. The lessons I learnt growing up as a child in Montego Bay (bloodthirsty and falsely cheerful Montego Bay) are lessons I had to unlearn as an adolescent (and which I’m still unlearning as an adult): sadness, disappointment and insecurity are not things to be ashamed of. Wanting affection, support and stability is not a sign of weakness.

Lessons I am working hard to teach myself are exercises in self-care, developing my psyche and feeding my soul. Giving myself permission to make mistakes, backtrack and be better than I was. I’m being deliberately vague because this process is different for everyone, and in the various stages of your life self-care means different things.

But everyone should start from a position of unconditional positive regard for who they are. There will be aspects of yourself that you think are flawed and fucked up, there will be voices in your head with many negative comments (likely honed from a lifetime of hearing  those comments out loud) but the first step is to open your arms and love yourself.

It is okay to love yourself; it’s actually a good thing. It doesn’t mean you’re prideful or you won’t get into heaven; it doesn’t mean you’re conceited or you think you’re better than people. And newsflash: negating your self-worth will not make people like you more. The sooner you learn this the better.


That crazy little thing called friendship

Disclaimer: I am not the world’s best example of a good friend. I am not even a good example. But I could point you to several. I also apologize in advance for the rambling nature of the opening paragraph. Not this one. The next one. Sorry.

When I was younger, I took to heart Enid Blyton’s well-meaning advice that if you wanted a friend you had to BE one, and I was somehow convinced that I had to change into whatever sort of friend I thought the people around me wanted, which led to a host of self-esteem issues and not a little identity confusion.

One of the things I used to do most often was force myself to be interested in whatever my friend at the time was interested in: slash fanfiction? Yeah! Indie music? Bring it on! YOUR lord and saviour Jesus Christ? More like OUR lord and saviour Jesus Christ, amirite? And all of that meant I was never short of people to talk to. But it also meant that I always felt like a fraud, and I had to work hard to seem interested in something I really was not all that enthused about. But I went through with it because I was afraid my friends wouldn’t like me if I didn’t like the same things they did.

It is a good thing to be able to talk to people about their interests, but I didn’t need to misrepresent myself just to make friends. In the long run, I don’t think any of it was worth the paranoia of rejection that plagued me when I thought about coming clean with them. It was all so unnecessary. And it retrospect, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

But I learnt two things from the troubled teen I was in high school.

One is that pretending to love something just because your friends do never pays off. (And by extension, it’s never cool to force your own preferences on your friends. Music, books, movies, and TV shows are all a matter of taste. And it’s so much more fulfilling to find people who genuinely share your tastes than to be disappointed when your friends don’t like something you recommend).

The second thing is that I am probably better off without people who will stop being friends with me just because I don’t like Fifty Shades of Grey (Game of Thrones, Hannah Montana, GTA5).

Although, I may have to stop being friends with YOU if you don’t like Harry Potter (Macklemore, Doctor Who, Pride and Prejudice).