Have you noticed how, these days, you can’t open a magazine or hit up the internet for a browse without coming across some form of content centred around the art of “being kind to yourself”? Whether it’s last year’s on-trend Scandinavian “hygge” concept, or one of the many hashtags created on Instagram about #slowliving, it seems everyone, everywhere is all about the self love.
The more articles, blog posts, tweets and Instagram photos I see instructing me exactly how I need to be kind to myself, the more I think the whole idea – the very essense of self love – has been taken out of context and muddied up a bit.
Let’s start with the paleo / clean eating / green juice brigade. “Eat well and be kind to yourself” they say. And while I tuck into a chocolate biscuit after yet another night of sleep deprivation a little piece of me wilts. I suck at being kind to myself, I think, as biscuit crumbs pour from my mouth.
Or how about the current hot topic of clutter-free living? “Get organised and you will achieve serenity and inspiration,” chirps lifestyle guru Marie Kondo. As a fellow tidy freak I hear her – I hear her – but my children don’t. I look around my house at the bits of plastic that seem to multiply faster than I can banish them and yet another part of myself deflates. Huh, I suck at being tidy and serene, I think, as I tread on a piece of Duplo.
And then there are all the daily mantras intoning the importance of getting enough sleep / drinking enough water / doing enough exercise and, just like a failing heart monitor BLIP BLIP BLIP, my inner happy person flatlines quicker than you can say Casualty.
The problem is, you see, that I am just a normal person. Like every other normal person I know, I don’t have time to perfect the art of #slowliving or whip up a fresh kale juice for breakfast every morning. I’m lucky if I can make my weekly yoga class, let alone cram in a session of Downward Facing Dog each lunchtime.
I’d love a tidy, spotless house but my kids aren’t on board. I’d love a neverending supply of Jo Malone candles to burn while I sit meditating, wrapped in a soft angora throw, but my bank balance says no. I’d love half an hour to read a book every evening but the truth is, once my head hits that pillow I’m too flipping knackered to do anything but sleep.
My mornings are spent frantically picking up the bits of toast my toddler is intent on sprinkling across the floor, while trying to jolly my five year old into her school uniform. When I’m not chasing after children (who have this incredible ability to hang onto my ankles at just the point I need to do something, so that much of the time it feels like I’m wading through sinking mud) I’m working.
When I’m not working I’m trying to stop the house from descending into total chaos. When I’m not trying to stop the house descending into total chaos I’m attempting to keep my marriage alive. When I’m not attempting to keep my marriage alive I’m doing all the other stuff that needs to be done when you’re a grown-up: paying bills, doing DIY, making World Book Day costumes.
And so, on the occasional moment that I get to treat myself, the last thing I want is a kale juice or a lecture on “being kind to myself”. I don’t want to be guilted into self love. I just want to enjoy my cold glass of wine guilt-free and give myself a pat on the back for surviving and winning at another day.
THIS is my form of self love.
Forget “being kind to ourselves”. How about we all just give ourselves a break?