My Mom and I Dedicated an Hour Each Day to Self-Love—Here’s What We Learned

I inherited several things from my mom, both good and bad: my long legs and tall body, my headstrong personality, my acne. She passed down her chin-up, shoulders-back style of confidence, but she unknowingly passed down her insecurities, too. All the things she was insecure about while growing up (having acne, being taller than all her friends, gaining weight) became the things she gave me and my sister tools to conceal. She did this out of her protective motherly nature, never wanting us to feel insecure ourselves or be made fun of, and although it wasn’t a foolproof method, her teachings are the reason I’m so confident today. Recently, though, I’ve learned that there are holes in that confidence and that it does not always equate to true self-love.

Since I started quarantining at home with my mom and sister, I’ve noticed how much negative self-talk we engage in. Many of our conversations center around the way we look. My mom talks often about how she’s put on weight, shares details of new diets she’s trying, and hesitates to step outside into our gated backyard with her arms showing. Seeing this has led me to spend more time looking in the mirror, fixate on new hormonal breakouts as they’ve popped up, and not want to join a single Zoom call without first putting on concealer. My sister, dealing with her own skin frustrations, has been complaining about the appearance of her pores and the many unsuccessful products she’s used to make them appear smaller.

I’ve always tried to monitor my fixations with my skin and body, pushing back on my negative self-talk. Living with other women who are each working on their own self-image issues, though, it’s hard to push these thoughts aside and pretend they don’t matter.

Some of these conversations with my mom and sister have felt cathartic, since we’re honest about what’s bothering us on the inside—but they’ve never actually gone anywhere productive. Even in quarantine, I know there are better ways to fill our time than with self-critique, and it pains me to realize how much headspace we’ve collectively wasted thinking about our appearances. It’s especially difficult to hear my mom, the woman who gave me my confidence, talk negatively about her body nearly every day. Even though I’ve always been thin, I feel myself internalizing the things my mom says about her body and applying them to my own. As much as I’m working to unlearn body-shame, I’m also worrying about experiencing more significant weight fluctuations as I grow older and having my weight dictate my happiness. And it’s not just my mom’s comments; I’ve become guilty of negative self-talk, too.

So, recently, I asked my mom if she would take a digital self-love course with me so that we could work on being kinder to ourselves together. I was nervous to ask at first, worried she would take it personally, but she was open to the idea. My sister was less enthused, but she participated as a spectator and chimed in when she felt inclined.

The first thing we learned? Self-love apparently isn’t free. Various self-love courses on the internet—ones that have the tone of “Yes, girl, you got this!”—are priced at around $300 to $500 and include weekly modules, reading materials, and motivational prompts. Because I didn’t think self-love was something we needed to buy into, I started searching for self-love resources that were free or low-cost instead. I scoured lists of the best self-love books, found an e-book from Empower Your Mind Therapy filled with daily affirmations, and looked for TED Talks that brought in new perspectives. For the past few weeks, my mom and I have been “studying,” learning new ways to think about self-love and having some uncomfortable conversations about where we’re currently coming up short. We’ve dedicated about an hour each day to responding to self-love prompts and talking through what we’ve learned. It can be draining to dig into this work, but we’ve already learned a few things that I hope we’ll take with us moving forward.

The lessons we learned about self-love:

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