"When you grow up, get married and have kids, you'll be able to..."
Ah yes, the words I heard many times growing up when I did something that seemed inappropriate because of my age. It was used as a way to remind me that I wasn't yet an adult and I couldn't yet make the decisions an adult could. Of course, to my young, spongy brain this meant I would be an adult with the right to succeed only once a man found me and thought I was good enough to love and impregnate.
Of course, I don't think my family meant for it to come off that way, but still, I had this weird cloud following me around, making my primary focus: find a boy, make him love me, get married and have his babies.
It should come as no surprise that when I was in elementary school, and then high school, I was slightly boy crazy with very little self-esteem and absolutely no knowledge of what it meant to love myself regardless of who loved me. I woke up every morning with the goal of hiding or changing a certain part of me so I would be liked.
It also didn't help that I was bullied to the point where I developed insomnia, a very unhealthy relationship with my body weight (get skinnier! Someone has to like you if you're skinny!) and severe anxiety (the latter I still have today, though it's getting better).
I cried every time I got home from school and would manage the mental unrest I experienced by stress-eating and zoning in on a male figure to try and get them to appreciate me, because I felt if I succeeded in getting male attention, I would finally be good at something! At the time, I did not know this was anxiety nor that I was striving for male acceptance. I thought this was normal (and I also watched too many romantic comedies).
My lack of self-confidence and my inability to practice self-love and self-care were keeping me far away from developing my independence and learning how to rely on my own definitions of success and happiness as measurements of accomplishment and approval.
I had to teach myself to look my lack of self-confidence in the eye and instead of blame previous experiences for my battle with learning to love myself, I had to work on accepting what had happened and use it as a driving force to move forward and make change.
Today, I've become even more passionate about the importance of self-love and self-care because of the struggle I've had with accepting who I am and developing who I want to be based on my own standards.
And this, this ability to even search for positivity, hope, confidence, comfort and love, all without fear, is a privilege.
North America's culture of fear and hate has again been unmasked and there are people of all ages, both near and far, being discriminated against because of who they love, what they look like, the type of reproductive organs they were born with and the god to which they pray.
These people are being told they are undeserving of basic human needs. There are children being denied safety, shelter and food. There are people hoping to visit their loved ones one last time before they die, only to be denied the chance. There are Canadian children with brown skin coming home from school asking their moms and dads if what the white kids say is true - will they be deported because of how they look?
We need to unite and take action against this culture of hate, a culture in which so many marginalized groups have been living for centuries. We need to be strong. We need to be confident.
In a world filled with darkness, we, people with privilege, must remember that small changes within ourselves and our own lives have the power to leave long-lasting impact for generations now and in the future, especially those who do not have the same resources we do.
Learning how to love myself and find confidence in my own definitions of success and accomplishment have drastically improved my ability to focus and my understanding of what is important. These lessons have also shown me it's key to reinforce and teach self-love and self-care, while celebrating, encouraging and honouring these practices.
In February, A Quarter Young, my lifestyle blog, launched #SelfLoveSymphony with support from Amanda Urbanski Creative Photography, Shecoysystem Coworking + Wellness and Do Yoga With Me. It encourages participants to share self-love practices, while also promoting their importance with others on Twitter and Instagram.
#SelfLoveSymphony is a campaign that promotes happiness and brings opportunities to use privilege for positive power.
The goal is to get people talking about what makes them feel good, what keeps them motivated, what they practice in times of distress and how they continue to work towards making health and wellness the forefront of their success, strength and sovereignty.
My hope is to flood the social media waves with positive messaging so collectively, we can challenge adult bullies dictating how to live, dress and pray.
Are you in? We're stronger together.
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