Five men open up about what self-love means to them
Some of our favourite writers explore how they give themselves some much-needed TLC
Here's a mandate for loving yourself. This week we're encouraging men to get into the habit of dosing up some self love. Whether that's admiring their own beauty, exploring what feels good to them and why or finding out why they have crumbs in their beds, this is a week of self exploration, because you can't love anybody else if you don't love yourself...
Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, have a huge group of friends or are more a one-on-one type of guy, there's one person you always end up winding a huuuge junk of precious time with: yourself. And as much as we can try to work on our relationships with others, that work begins at home. Cultivating self-love is a crucial part of improving our mental health and how we move through the world, making us more compassionate and kind while helping us to take things a little easier on ourselves.
No one person is the same, which is why no one person's version of self-love is the same. That's why we called up some of our favourite writers to talk all about how they practise softness and tenderness towards themselves, and what it means to them.
"Self-love can be expressed through style"
"While some might see my deep adoration of fashion and sneakers as a materialistic obsession shrouded in nothing but vanity, for me, it's self-love and self-acceptance, in its purest form. Around fifteen years ago, I would dress myself in nothing but black to blend into the shadows and hide my insecurities. I was in a dark place — both in a physical sense and an emotional one — and being a first-generation immigrant, as well as a man, I was always told to stiffen up my upper lip and keep my feelings hidden away from view.
As I started to get into fashion and trainers, I realised that it was actually okay to add colour to my everyday outfits and experiment with jewellery and accessories. Immediately, I began playing around with splashes of baby pink and neon green. Not only did this brighten up my wardrobe and sneaker collection significantly, it also added a dash of vibrancy to my mental well-being as well. It allowed me to feel a lot more confident in my own skin, and it helped me to take bolder steps, not just in my sense of style, but in all areas of my life. While I have to admit that I’m still learning to open up verbally, I can now unashamedly express my emotions through my own personal aesthetic. Just remember: Every single piece that you put on is what makes you the special and unique individual that you are, and you should never have to change for anyone else."
Words by Adam Cheung
"To me, self love is time for creative fulfilment"
"My self-love is centred on giving myself the time to find fulfilment. I've learned that feeling creatively fulfilled is central to my happiness, and I can't achieve that without giving my brain space: to experience things and work out what I think about them, to spend time with people I care about and, crucially, to think of new ideas. A key part of following through on this is accepting that, sometimes, one area of my life has to take priority over another — and instead of viewing that as a failure, making a conscious choice to be kind and patient with myself in those moments."
Words by Louis Staples
"Self-love means embracing myself unapologetically"
"Self-love is hard - especially when you’ve been taught that fundamental parts of yourself are “wrong”. Right now, I’m working to unlearn the years of shame I internalised about being queer and trans and disabled and autistic. Self-love means embracing those parts of myself unapologetically. Shamelessly. Self-love is correcting people who misgender me. It’s advocating for my needs. It’s refusing to be embarrassed when I realise that I’ve been verbally stimming in public. Self-love is not toning down any part of who I am to make other people more comfortable.
Self-love feels like looking in the mirror when I’m binding: happier than I thought was possible."
Words by Quinn Rhodes
"Community brings me closer to self-love"
"What self-love means to me is a state of gratitude for oneself, nurtured from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth on this life journey. We must cultivate self-love in a communal aspect as it is impossible for us to love ourselves in isolation — and community is the fertile ground to foster self-care. We must also see experiences in this world in chapters we reflect on and learn from to be the most progressive change we want to see and to love ourselves abundantly."
Words by Emmanuel Onapa
"I show myself self-love by spending time alone"
"Lately, one way I’ve been showing love towards myself is by carving out time and keeping evenings free to watch movies alone, often slow-burn mystery thrillers or horrors with nostalgic 90s or 00s vibes. It’s strange that, as a society, we consider an activity that you’re not going to talk to someone for the duration of as an event for dates or groups only. More recently I decided that just because a friend might not be available to come with me (or, more likely, doesn’t want to not sleep at night from the dark, cursed movies I adore) doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still go.
Besides, I find when I’m watching a movie with other people I unintentionally focus on their reactions and what they smile or jump or laugh at. But on my own, with no company but an unshared share packet of maltesers, I allow myself to fully get lost in the escape of these fictional worlds — not to get all Nicole Kidman AMC advert on you — and inspired to create my own. As the credits role, I often feel both emboldened and with a head full of ideas. It’s the same bubbling excitement I had as a child dreaming of one day being a writer, writing up short plays and recreating them with my brother and our toys. Amongst the chaos and confusion of working as a creative, getting lost in a movie reminds me of my simple, naive love of just telling a good story."
Words by Tom George