Recently I have become painfully addicted to the Reality Television Show RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s probably because it’s a mixture of every reality show I enjoy, It’s part Top Model, part Idol, part Project Runway. It’s kind of like when you were a kid and mixed a bunch of different soft drinks into one cup, no matter how odd it looked or tasted it was still pretty sweet. I also identify with the queens so much
Although after each hour episode I’m left feeling a tiny bit uneasy as Ru always signs off with her mantra ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’. Having that repeated to you every episode over the 6 seasons that you’ve watched within 3 weeks really makes you wonder if you actually do love yourself, and what the hell that even means. Fortunately (or unfortunately for my mental health) I have had a lot of time travelling solo to think about this.
I’ve always thought that people need to know how to handle themselves before they could be in a healthy, mature relationship – that they needed their own identity and ability to function without having to fact check every thing they say with their significant other (whose hand they are holding) starting their questions with ‘Baby’. The reality is that I wasn’t sure where I stood with the whole self love thing.
Spending time alone with myself while travelling was good and bad. It was inevitably and undeniably lonely to begin with. Having being used to non stop chatter for hours, suddenly I was going days literally without having a conversation with anyone. There was a lot of opportunity to get introspective whether I liked it or not. It was a bad time to only have the Tegan & Sara discography and Lana Del Rey album on my iPhone while on long train rides. The more time I spent with myself the more I realised the things that annoyed me about myself, things I wanted to change, things I wished I was, things I was scared that I could never be or could never have.. Although I was being reflective, it didn’t make it easy to like myself when I kept identifying things that needed fixing.
Travelling alone also helped me realise the things in life that I naturally gravitated towards. I’m still really into my writing without any pressing need to be, it’s just something that I enjoy doing, and heck. Do well. Despite years of my family describing me careless, clumsy, and ‘would die if left alone’ I managed to navigate my travels pretty seamlessly, and with a calm mind and without getting mugged (apparently a huge feat considering some of the places I went to). I realised that I was pretty good at life and had a lot of skills and strengths that I had never previously identified as skills or strengths. Although loving yourself felt like code for narcissism or arrogance, or code for the kind of people whose Instagram feeds are like 90% topless selfies of themselves (hashtagged with #sexy #lyk4lyk and a paragraph of other hashtags aimed to generate some validation from spambots and tag surfers) maybe it was time to take more ownership of the things I was good at and passionate about and toe the line of pride.
Still after feeling a little better about the positive parts of the drawn out, involuntary and inescapable self-examination I was bugged about the parts that didn’t fit what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a person who didn’t have irrational emotional feelings about things I couldn’t control. Particularly I didn’t want to feel homesick or jealous over a guy that I had really spent no time at all with. During a dinner with RealRaven I sort of unloaded about everything that I had been feeling and everything that was going on while she trying to sober up from her work drinks and in a very self aware way kept prefacing my sentences with, ‘this may/will sound insane/crazy’ but she stopped me midway through and was surprised that I was describing myself as crazy (the fact she had come from a private girls school adolescence may have something to do with her relative scale of crazy), and that my thought processes were apparently very on-level and ‘normal’.
I had never considered that my thought processes were natural human thoughts and feelings. I just knew that I hated them and wanted to get rid of them ASAP. I knew where I wanted to be and I wasn’t there and it was frustrating, because why couldn’t my cerebral rationalising dictate everything else? RealRaven continued on to say that she felt that I was really harsh on myself a lot of the time, and that I needed to cut myself some slack and also give myself more credit – again something that I had never considered. I thought about how I approach my friends neuroses and issues and I’m pretty patient with it all – it’s a strange thought to think that it’s hard to treat yourself the same way you treat your friends.
There’s no instant fix, I’m still probably closer to where I began than to where RuPaul hollers at me to be. I’m realising slowly that loving yourself is not perfecting yourself to a shiny trophy but rather having the self-awareness of your flaws and knowing that how you are at the moment is the way that you need to be at this moment in time – and that’s okay. Loving yourself is being proud of what you’re good at and not feeling invalidated by things that you lack. Most of all, loving yourself is not apologizing for your mistakes – because you can always fall down, as long as you get back up