Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
We get a lot of messages, day in day out, about what we’re supposed to love and what we’re supposed to hate. In the love category, we find smooth skin, witty remarks and stylish living rooms. In the hate category there’s frizzy hair, naivety and moss in your lawn. For the hate category, we get a whole lot of products advertised that promise to bring all those areas from the dark side over to the light. 90% of the cosmetics industry is based on our desire to look ‘better’, as is most of the home decor, if you ask me. We spend so much money on all these products, that the idea that we could – maybe, just maybe – just be happy with the way things are, has become a danger to our economy. Capitalism can’t thrive on happiness.
So for this post, I want to plant a tiny seed in this slow, but steady, revolution that I’m (luckily) not walking alone. I want to share with you some of the things I love about myself that I’m not supposed to according to our cultural programming. These are things I no longer want to ‘fix’ about myself. This list is one in progress. Many of the things on here have just made their way here recently, some I’ve come to terms with a long time ago. Many of them have to do with my body, since I’m a woman and I’ve learned to hate many parts of my body throughout the years. (Though men go through similar programming.) Learning to love all these different parts of myself, is learning to love myself a little bit more each day.
- My birthmark
I have a birthmark on my left thigh, about the size of a walnut, that I was very self conscious about as a child. I remember worrying that people were going to laugh at me if I wore short skirts or shorts. I’ve now learned to love it as part of what makes me me.
- My feet
I have rather large feet for a woman (size 42 (EU) – 10 (US)) which means that for much of my life, my first question when buying shoes was “Do they make my feet look smaller?” About two years ago, I switched to barefoot shoes, which actually make your feet grow even larger by not forcing them into narrow shoes. My feet offer me great stability and carry me where I need to go. I love them dearly.
- My undetermined hair
Is it curly? Is it wavy? Is it straight? It really just kind of depends on the day. I’ve bought straighteners before, a keratine treatment and I’ve tried lots and lots of products. I still use some of them, but I don’t really worry that much about my hair anymore. It’s okay if it wants to be something in-between, if it doesn’t want to shine or stay voluminous. I try to keep it healthy by not doing too much to it, and that seems to work out best.
- My undetermined passions
My hobbies, passions and interests tend to shift often. I’ll dive into one topic and let it go completely in favor of another after a couple of months. (I wrote about this before in my post on what I call ‘patchwork living‘). It used to feel like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t focus on something for years on end. Didn’t I have any grit? How could I possibly master a skill? Was I ever going to be successful?
I’ve now fully embraced this part of myself as something that keeps my life incredibly interesting, and that allows to me relate to so many different people. So what if I never become an expert in any field? Maybe that’s not a definition of success that works for me.
- My cellulite
I know this is a weird one. How can you possibly love that cottage cheese skin texture? Well, I think it looks really fun, all bumpy in strange and fascinating patterns. It also looks real, authentic, and soft. I love when I see cellulite on other women as well. It just makes them a little more of who they really are.
- My period
This is still a work in progress. I’d be lying if I say I am always thrilled when my period rolls around, but I don’t hide it the way I used to. Our economy would rather have women that perform the same every day, and provides a ton of products to regulate or even stop your period. I’ve also learned to see the benefits of living life in a cyclical manner: there’s a time for planting seeds, a time for growing, for harvest and for rest. My cycle helps remind me that I need to allow for all of these phases (rest remains a tricky one, as I outlined in this post), and that all of these times have something to give us.
- My sensitivity
I spent years learning how to build armour so I wouldn’t appear too sensitive. I didn’t want people to notice when I’d got hurt, so that they would never make the mistake of thinking I was weak. My fear of my own sensitivity made me interpret a lot of conversations, looks and gestures as attacks where they may have been completely innocent.
Now I know that my sensitivity is also the reason I can often intuitively play into other people’s needs. It’s the reason that I can go into trance listening to jazz, pause to look at the stars at night and can be moved to tears watching children play. It enriches my life immensely and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
- My careful, introverted nature
I’m not the person who will jump out of an airplane tomorrow or will dance on the table at a party. At least, not until I’ve thoroughly investigated the whole procedure and have deemed it wise. I don’t get tempted (too much) to shop impulsively and I don’t want to go out to eat every night. If you’d ask my mother, she’d say I’m not adventurous. Yet, I like that I’m careful about where my energy, time and money go. It may not always be spontaneous and carefree, but when I do make a decision it’s often well-considered and thoughtful.
- My soft belly
My stomach used to be really toned and flat. Then I had children, covid happened and I found a lover who’s an amazing cook (in that order). My belly became soft and squishy. I worried about it at first, about the rolls above my pants or how it shows under my dress, and I still want to make sure I maintain good health, but I also love how soft it is. I love how it makes a great cushion for a sleepy head or how my belly button can now ‘talk’ to my kids in funny voices. I love how it stretched, twice, to such an enormous size and now reminds me of the time it housed my two babies.
- My willingness to trust others
Our society is full of messages teaching us to distrust one another: it’s in the news, in advertising and on social media. We get the idea that everyone is just out to get theirs, and that nobody really cares about other people anymore. This is great for selling home security systems, passing laws and keeping us from uniting for the common good. The thing is, I just don’t buy it. Most people I meet seem to be very well-intentioned, extremely so, even, if you compare it to image we are presented with.
Learning to love these things about myself also allows me to love them more in others. I like that my children trust other people, even if it does mean I have to remind them not to go with strangers. I can appreciate the sensitive nature of my partner, because it allows him to sense what I need so clearly. What I accept and cherish in myself, I can accept and cherish in others.
Loving something we’re not ‘supposed’ to love, is an act of rebellion against consumer culture. Loving yourself, being happy, having strong and healthy relationships, basically anything that counters the culture of ‘lack’, helps us grow a kinder, more generous and healthier world. Oh, and as a bonus: it’s also way more fun than the alternative.