5 June 2013, 15:08
This morning, I woke up at 6am and hopped in the shower to get ready for Jonathan Fields. He was interviewing me for his Good Life Project, and after a green juice and an iced soy mocha, I was raring to go.
I love doing in-person interviews because they are so much more real than anything text-based. With an email inteview, I can go back and rework and refine my answers until they sound like perfect little soundbites; in-person you have no such opportunity. Whatever comes out of your mouth is what will be heard, for better or for worse.
Jonathan is a sweetheart. We were laughing and having a great time perched on our matching chairs. And then Jonathan asked me about radical self love: where did the idea come from, and how has it evolved?
And I just couldn’t stop myself. As I explained it, a feeling of deep-seated anger swelled up inside me.
“As happy as I am to have stumbled upon something that women need,” I started, “It makes me really SAD. It hurts my heart to know that self-love is so desperately missing from our lives that we have to go out and educate ourselves about it; that we have to LEARN to love ourselves.” I took a breath. “Why are we not taught this in schools? It’s a fucking travesty that we’re taught sex ed but nothing about how to take care of or nourish ourselves. It’s so wrong. It makes me so angry.”
(I’m paraphrasing, of course. Rage makes me a little incoherent.)
I was surprised by my reaction. After all, I’ve been talking about radical self love for years, and not just online: I’ve spoken at venues as wide-ranging as Carnegie Mellon University and high schools in New Zealand. Often, I talk about the statistics: the number of women who stay in abusive relationships, or the percentage of women who believe they’re beautiful (4%).
But this morning, I was reawakened by my own anger and sense of conviction.
“The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.” (Gloria Steinem)
After all this time, I still can’t believe that self-love is something we’re expected to somehow magically discover for ourselves. It makes me crazy with rage and frustration. The number of women I’ve met who have never had an orgasm, who prioritise their looks above everything else, or who see women as enemies rather than allies, is a crying shame.
The thought of it makes me froth with seething and sorrow, but it also fills me to the brim with vast hope. I don’t plan on having children, but maybe you’ll tell your daughter about something I wrote. Maybe your own experiences with body image will inspire you to teach your niece to love herself more. The thought that the next generation of women could be strides ahead of us in this arena softens the edges of my sometimes stormy soul.
I don’t have all the answers, but radical self love — in all its guises, from style to spirituality, and lovers to life choices — is my cause. It’s my mission. For as long as I live, I want to show women that they have options; that pursuing their passions should be the rule, not the exception. I want to keep telling you about the things I’ve discovered that have helped me.
If you’re grappling with feeling not-good-enough, struggling with your body and suffering from a lack of self-love, I would always recommend traditional therapy or counselling. But therapy alone is probably not going to solve all your problems. Growing into ourselves and learning to become comfortable with who we are is an ongoing process, one which requires a lot of energy and attention.
Maybe, like me, you will have revolutionary breakthroughs using EFT. You might find solace in reflexology and Crossfit, or soothe your soul with meditation. Yoga could be the right way to reconnect with your body, while CBT might help you plow through your limiting beliefs.
There is no golden ticket. It’s likely that you will stumble upon a combination of techniques which teach you how to make sense of your emotions. Hopefully this will allow you to enjoy life, rather than perpetually feeling like a passenger on a runaway roller-coaster.
Whatever method(s) you use, just know that you are not alone. We are all wrestling with sadness, confusion, loneliness and apathy. We all feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. We all have pieces of our psyche that are fractured and poking through the skin.
We hope that one day we’ll wake up and the fog will lift, but the reality is that we have to learn how to generate our own light.
I am evolving too. I have come a long way since I started on my transformation in 2006, and I am so thankful for that! My life isn’t perfect, but I can say that I am happy; that I am delighted more often than I am despondent; that I don’t want for much.
As one of my dearest friends said to me recently, “What more can you want from life? To be perfectly happy where you are.”
I love you, and I hope you love you, too,
13 February 2013, 15:24
I walked into Rite-Aid today & was horrified by the never-ending aisle of chocolates in tacky heart-shaped boxes, cheap teddybears & ugly tchotchkes. What could be less romantic than planning to be romantic?!
Two years ago, I wrote one of my most popular articles ever: Very Definitely Not Dinner & A Movie: 50 Alternative First Date Ideas! If you’re in a relationship, you might find something within that list that makes your Valentine’s Day a little less conventional & a little more cozy.
...But we’re not all in relationships. This one’s for all my single ladies… !
Yes ma’am! What follows are 50 ideas to make being solo not-so-sucky. In fact, being single is awesome... Embrace it!
Share it around, send it to your girlfriends or boyfriends, & enjoy the day!
Buy yourself a sex toy. My favourite is Jimmyjane’s Form 2. You will never need anything else, I promise! Spend the day relaxing. Put on a face mask, order some food & watch your favourite movies all night long. Go & get a massage… ...Or reflexology… ...Or a session of hypnosis… ...Or a glittery gel manicure… ...Or whatever else really makes you happy. Get really dressed up. Wear something fantastic on your head, like a flower crown or a pair of ears. Invite your BFF over for dinner, & have her/him spend the night. I love late nights & early mornings with friends. If you’re feeling bad, go for a really aggressive workout. Dance in public. Plan your perfect day, then go out & make it happen! Write love letters to all your closest friends. Buy yourself flowers… Not just today, but at least once a week! Clean your bedroom & rearrange it according to feng shui. Commit yourself to radical self love! Take a burlesque class, & smile at yourself while you shimmy in front of the mirror. Volunteer. Sleep in… & have wonderful dreams. Write a list of the things that make you fabulous. Stick it to your mirror & re-read it every morning. Bake heart-shaped cookies, write compliments on them in icing, & hand them out to your co-workers. Talk back to anyone who tells you “no”. Do a love spell. Celebrate the fact that you don’t have to compromise with someone else’s taste! Paint one wall of your apartment bright pink & delight in it. Buy a piece of art! Spend some time with a dog. Lounge around all day in a vintage slip, like a sultry sex kitten. Splurge. ‘Cause you’re an adult, & that means you get to do whatever you want! Take yourself out to brunch, like Skylar! Light candles & meditate. Start a magnificent project. Like Lady Gaga says, “Your career will never wake up one morning & tell you it doesn’t love you anymore.” A little cynical, perhaps, but she has a point. Invest in yourself! Re-read your favourite book. Wear bright pink lipstick. Drink champagne with your best friend & laugh until you cry. Write postcards to your long-lost buddies. Buy sky lanterns, make wishes & release them with your friends. Go on the hunt for your new signature scent. Decorate your bicycle! Wear a tutu. If not today, when?! Move on. Find a trampoline… & jump on it. A lot! Go to IKEA & buy yourself something to make your home a little more magical: fairy lights? A plant? Sequin cushions? Plan a trip to an amusement park with someone who makes you smile! Get rid of all that stuff your ex gave you. Get your tarot cards read. Start writing a journal. Read comics. Be your own valentine. Spend the day by yourself, doing whatever you want…
Have the best day ever. Tweet me & let me know what you get up to!
Photo by Lisa Devlin.
21 January 2013, 10:43
Illustration by Raquel Gonzalez.
Too fantastic not to share! You can pin it, too!
Make yourself proud,
20 December 2012, 11:35
Sometimes, terrible things happen. People let us down. We are disappointed. We get rejected, left behind, or forgotten about. No matter who you are, & no matter how wonderful you are, we don’t always get it right on the first try. It happens to every single one of us.
You could have planned for every possible eventuality, & still fall flat. You might have all the resources in the world, but still have the rug pulled out from under you.
As much as we may wish it were the case, & as much work & effort as we may put in to cultivating our dreams, life is not all love & sequins all the time.
So, now that we’ve established that stumbles, setbacks & consternation are totally unavoidable, let’s look at how to get through it.
Stop. Put your phone down. Don’t tell anyone straight away. I know it’s tempting to want to get it off your chest, but just wait.
Most people, bless ‘em, upon hearing bad news, will rush to tell you about the silver lining. There’s a silver lining to everything, it’s true, but going straight there can be detrimental.
We can’t immediately gloss over everything that goes bad. For example, when you break up with someone, a lot of people will advise you to go on the rebound.
“It’s the only way to get over it!”, they’ll exclaim excitedly.
Sure, this might help for a moment. But as soon as you’re alone again, all those feelings you tried to block out will just come crashing back in. So don’t try to rush through the “badness” of it all. Just sit with it, as uncomfortable as it may be.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Breathe them in & out, & don’t judge or berate yourself. It’s totally okay to feel bad, sad, disappointed, or sick. When you start to guilt-trip yourself about your feelings, you do yourself an enormous disservice. Know that it is perfectly normal & okay to have an emotional response to whatever has happened.
Don’t push your feelings away. Just accept them. Sometimes it helps to say to yourself (either in your head or out loud), “Yes, I feel sad/angry/lost/hopeless! Yes, I do! I accept this.” This might make you feel silly, but it can really help take some of the pressure off.
This stage, by the way, of just allowing yourself to feel your feelings, can take a while. Depending on the severity of the situation, these feelings can exist for as little as half an hour or for as long as several months. Sometimes our sadness comes & goes in huge waves, sometimes it just lingers around like a bad pong. All sadness is different.
Let me tell you about the last time something like this happened to me.
All of my initial responses were physical. First, I felt like my legs were going to give out underneath me. My breathing got really short & shallow, I thought I might throw up, & then I thought I might cry.
None of those things happened, though. I walked home, my body trembling almost imperceptibly. I spent the night on the couch, feeling numb. I didn’t really want to talk about it. I didn’t want to rush to the problem-solving part. I knew I just had to sit with my feelings.
Hours later, when we went to bed, I was ready to talk. My husband & I lay there in the dark, brainstorming what to do next. I woke up the next morning feeling a little sad, but by then, I could see that it wasn’t the end of the world.
I needed a day to just feel those feelings, to wallow in them & get a bit morbid. If you rush through this step, the darkness can sneak up on you again & threaten to swallow you whole. Feel it until it starts to go away.
Once you’ve been sitting with your feelings for a while, you can tell someone else. But be smart about it. Don’t tell the person who believes the worst of everyone, or the cynic. Don’t tell the person who will blame or point fingers. Tell someone who is clever & kind & above all, loves you.
If no one in your life fits this bill right now, sometimes it’s better to keep it to yourself. We all have a tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves, & when it comes to something like this, it’s better to sit alone with your feelings than have someone make you feel even worse.
Having said that, if something truly traumatic has happened, an impartial third party — like a counsellor or therapist — can be an absolute blessing, & finding one you like should be very high on your list of priorities.
Get really thankful. We talk about being grateful all the time on this blog, because it really IS one of the best ways to flip your mood. But if you want a different perspective on it, make like Marie Forleo says, & “Put down the shit sandwich.” (Ha!)
A little bit of perspective will shake you out of your doldrums with the quickness. Okay, so maybe that thing wasn’t a huge hit, or your BFF let you down, but truly, that isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
Get out some hot pink paper & your Swarovski crystal-encrusted pen — oh, & if you don’t have these, I suggest getting them! — & begin to make a list of the things in your life that are awesome. Be specific. My dog’s multi-coloured whiskers. The first track on Rihanna’s new album. The fact that glitter exists. Do this until you feel your mood start to lift. It probably won’t take as long as you think.
If you find that putting pen to paper & writing a list of things to be thankful for just isn’t doing the trick, bring out the big guns: get a bit Byron Katie on it, & do The Work.
Oh, & for a foolproof endorphin boost, throw on your sneakers, hit the gym & sweat it out. It’s guaranteed to shake your mood loose!
Come up with a new plan.
Trust me, it’s normal & perfectly acceptable & okay to mope around for a couple of days. You might not be smiling as much as you regularly would. But you’ll find that taking action is one of the fastest ways to make the heartache subside.
This will happen quite naturally. The human brain loves to solve problems: it is what it does best. Once the feelings of grief start to lift, your mind will begin to tick over with ideas.
It will start to spit questions at you. ‘Why can’t we do it this way?’, it will ask. ‘What about this? Or that?’
Sometimes, when we have a goal, we get so fixated on it that we completely blind ourselves to the fact that there are other ways of doing things. There are so many roads that can get us to that same end point.
Soon, you will realise that there are a million & one ways to deal with your problem… & you might even discover that this problem you have is actually a blessing in disguise.
Allow this experience to make you better.
Maybe the person you love told you they could never be with you. Maybe you just found out you can never have a baby. Maybe you got turned down for your dream job, or someone you were counting on has disappointed you.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what it is that has you feeling this way. What matters is how you respond to it.
Don’t stumble over something that is behind you. (Click to tweet!)
No matter what has happened to you, & no matter how badly disenchanted, let down or sad you may feel, you are still incredible. You still have so much to give. You will always be a shining star, a brilliant diamond. Baby, you’re a firework, & this won’t stop you.
This is a minor blip, a teeny tiny road-bump. This moment doesn’t define you. These hurdles & hindrances can only ever serve to make you so much stronger. They can only ever show you exactly how much of a bad bitch you really are!
You will rise from this, becoming even more fierce, even more fabulous, & a hundred times more ferocious.
The world is waiting for you to storm on in & claim what is yours.
Get it, girl!
Images by Miles Aldridge.
16 August 2012, 10:19
“I hate my nose so much. Like, really REALLY much. It’s huge and has a very noticeable bump on it, it’s probably the only thing ruining all of my pictures and the reason why I try not to turn my face profile for people to see. I have never felt pretty. I know this may sound stupid, and it probably is, but I keep wanting for a small, beautiful, narrow nose, but, of course, I can’t help it. The only thing that I could change is my perspective, but then again, nowadays all of the articles on a “love your body” topic are based on weight, not one of them mentions anything about a “problem” like mine, and I’ve been surfing and searching for something that could help me all over your blog, but my search was useless.
Please Gala, can you help me with that? This could literally change my outlook on physical beauty and myself, and be the change I needed for a long time.”
I received this email on Wednesday, from a girl called Sophie in Lithuania. All I can say is, Sophie, you wrote to the right girl! You & I are like two peas in a pod, ‘cause you might have noticed that I have a big nose too.
Want to hear something funny? I never knew I had a big nose until someone told me I did! Before that, I just thought it was a nose. I didn’t give it much, if any, thought. It wasn’t until someone felt the need to point it out that I started to look around & notice that not everyone had a nose like mine. In fact, most people’s noses were much smaller. Maybe — horror of horrors — their “normal” noses were cuter than mine!
I can’t lie: I have had my periods of insecurity about my snoot. I have wondered if I should get it “fixed”, googled “nose job before & after”, & pondered if I could really stay shut up inside the house until the swelling & bruising went away.
But then I think about the cosmetic surgery industry, a business which literally profits from our insecurities, & I reconsider. To be clear, I actually have nothing against plastic surgery: I believe our bodies are our own to do with as we please, & it’s all too easy to judge or dismiss anyone who goes under the knife. I do, however, think the whole area is a very slippery slope. There’s a difference between having surgery, & expecting that surgery to change your life or how you feel about yourself. One of these things is not like the others.
Plus, choosing to accept yourself as you are is so much cheaper!
Sophie, if you changed your nose but not your attitude, I’m willing to bet that six months down the track, you’d find something else “imperfect” to fixate on.
No matter who you are, there is always going to be something about you that is not “model-perfect”. Maybe, like us, it’s a nose that demands attention! But perhaps you have a round tummy, or uneven boobs, or ears that stick out. Maybe there’s a part of your body that your average cosmetic surgeon would love to “fix” or “improve”, but would that really add to your quality of life?
Your nose is part of who you are, & I think that with time, you will come to appreciate it. If it helps, you’re not alone! Cleopatra had a big nose too, & she was one of the most devastating beauties in history! Other ladies with sizable snoots include Barbra Streisand, Sarah Jessica Parker, Gisele Bundchen, Penelope Cruz & Sofia Coppola... & they’re all gorgeous, talented, brilliant women. Anyone will tell you that their noses add to their character, not subtract from it.
In the Pensées, Pascal remarks “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed” (180). Ironically, what he means is that, had her nose been smaller, she would have lacked the dominance and strength of character which, in the physiognomy of the seventeenth century (or, indeed, the nineteenth century), a large nose symbolized. (Source)
The idea of what it means to be beautiful is changing all the time. Right now, we’re all expected to fit into this extremely dull cookie-cutter ideal of big eyes, a small nose, long hair, stick-thin legs, huge breasts & plump lips, not to mention white & young. God forbid you show your face in public once you have some expression lines; once you have, as Clayton Cubitt says, “earned your beauty.” What a yawnfest! Whenever I go to Los Angeles, I’m totally freaked out by the masses of women who have the same face!
I have come to the conclusion that being perfect is boring. It’s a yawn, a snore; tedious & tepid & tiresome. It lacks imagination. The pursuit of perfection is essentially an appeal for acceptance. It cries out for validation. Pick me, pick me! Accept me! I look just like you.
The quest for perfection is a way of flying under the radar. It idealises the unexceptional. It is such a dull way to spend your time… & money!
Realistically, there is nothing you can do — with the exception of surgery — that will change your nose. It will always look the way it does today. But you have the power to change your MIND about your nose, & that is the most fantastic thing! You can decide to love your nose, decide to see it as an asset! View it as something different & wonderful. It’s something that separates you from other people. It’s something that makes you look unique.
A big nose can be just as beautiful — if not moreso! — than a small or average-sized one. It’s all in the attitude: in how you carry yourself, whether you hold your head high or try to shrink into the background.
As for me? I have my good days & I have my bad days. On good days, I see my nose as something that is regal, unusual, distinctive. Sometimes I think it makes me look like an eccentric European countess, & I like that. Mostly, I am able to see my nose for what it is: just a part of my face.
My nose might not be what a plastic surgeon would craft for you, but I have slowly come to appreciate it. Most importantly, my nose links me to my family, & to my father, who I love. That’s good enough for me.
A question for you: What about you or your body have you learned to love, & how did you do it? What are you still struggling with? We’d love to know!
Super-love & super-noses,
Read more about the-playgirls-guide-to-radical-self-love...