Words by Aurelne (she/her), 24 WA
In a world where the term “self-love” has been hijacked by social media, transformed into a glamorous performance to be emulated, and presented as an ideal to which we should all aspire, we’ve drifted away from its genuine essence.
By no means am I criticising the concept of self-love.
Self-love initially blossomed as a pure and profound understanding of oneself. An understanding of oneself is a breathtaking realisation: to grasp your own existence, to acknowledge your inherent worthiness of love, and to recognise that you don’t need external validation to experience that love.
In a world where everyone seems to demand fragments of your identity, where you feel compelled to share bits of yourself, it becomes increasingly essential to reserve some pieces of your heart for yourself too.
However, amid the grandeur of our “self-love era” and the polished social media posts portraying meticulously curated coffee scenes, opulent spa sessions, and lavish indulgences, the original, genuine concept has become distorted.
I think this is something I realised when I began this journey of self-love. That the constant backlog of aesthetic photos and videos – that the overshadowing feeling that I needed to show others what I was doing to love myself… It was no longer love.
My question is, if self-love is truly for the self, then why do we feel the need to show the rest of the world the most perfect way it is done?
Self-love need not be epitomised by a meticulously arranged cup of coffee beside a fresh vase of flowers. Self-love need not be a lavish bubble bath with plush bathrobes. Self-love need not manifest as a shopping spree.
It can be – but it doesn’t have to be.
Self-love can be messy, unscripted, and wonderfully imperfect. It may be a spontaneous, five-minute walk in the brisk morning air, an extra hour of sleep tucked under the covers, or simply sharing an imperfect smile with yourself in the mirror.
In fact, the messy side of self-love is where its true beauty lies. When we embrace the messiness, we embark on a journey of self-acceptance that goes beyond the surface. It’s where we begin to understand that perfection is not a requirement for love – self-love thrives in authenticity.
This is the space where we confront our flaws, not with self-criticism, but with compassion. We acknowledge our vulnerabilities, not as weaknesses, but as part of our shared human experience. It’s where we come to terms with the fact that everyone has their own unique set of imperfections, just like the brushstrokes on a painting that make it uniquely beautiful.
When we allow ourselves to be imperfectly human, we gift ourselves the freedom to be our true selves, unburdened by the need to meet external expectations. It’s in these moments of raw authenticity that we discover the profound power of self-love. It’s not about achieving an unattainable and unsustainable standard of flawlessness, but about recognising and cherishing our individuality.
I have realised that when you love yourself, the most important person is, in the end, still you. So, remember, self-love doesn’t require perfection; it thrives in authenticity.
Embrace the messiness and live in the moment – not the highlight reel – for it’s in these imperfect moments that you’ll truly discover the boundless beauty of loving yourself.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio