What is radical self-love?

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Loving yourself is one of the most radical acts you can do in a society that places so much emphasis on appearance, perfection, productivity, and meeting expectations that aren’t realistic across the board for all abilities and bodies. So many of us struggle with feeling like there is something wrong with us or that we aren’t good enough. And, over time, these negative feelings can harm us, even leading to severe mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder. 

Engaging in radical self-love involves loving and accepting your entire self, even the parts you may consider flaws. Once you choose radical self-love, your entire perspective and attitude can change. You can begin to give yourself the care you deserve and feel better about yourself. It may sound silly or over-the-top, but it will make more sense when you start to let go of limiting beliefs and embrace yourself fully.

Last updated on 
May 26, 2022
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Radical self-love defined

Radical self-love involves accepting yourself, caring for yourself, and knowing you are more than enough, and inherently worthy of love, respect, and compassion. (1) Loving yourself is a radical act in a society that constantly tells us we aren’t good enough, we need to lose weight, have bigger muscles, a smaller waist, and so on.

The society we live in doesn’t want us to love ourselves.It wants us to hate ourselves, so we feel shame, buy into diets, detoxes, cleanses, and exercise equipment, accept cruelty and abuse, and don’t demand change. These concepts are so ingrained in our brains, thanks to the messages we get from all angles and media outlets, we often aren’t even aware of how these insidious forces work. But when we choose to radically love ourselves, we are rejecting everything we’ve been taught to hate in ourselves. We are forging a new and loving path to happiness.

Radical self-love is an ongoing process that involves unlearning toxic beliefs about inferiority and body image and replacing them with self-acceptance and compassion. And it’s not just a belief that you are more than good enough; it’s taking action by caring for your body and mind. It involves engaging in activities and practices you truly enjoy, not things you feel obligated to do because you think you “should” do them to be “healthy.” Because this mindset often backfires and does more harm than good, leaving you feeling much worse. Being mindful, intuitive eating, and seeking out activities and movement you actually like are a few things you can do to practice radical self-love. 

Why radical?

The Body is Not An Apology is “an international movement committed to cultivating global radical self-love and bodily empowerment” founded by Sonya Renee Taylor. (1)

This movement defines radical as extreme, particularly when associated with change or deviation from norms. Their self-love is radical, as in, anarchist, as in, emphasizing social, economic, and political reforms. 

The Body is Not An Apology believes self-love is the origin of our relationships with ourselves and our bodies and society is responsible for the discrimination, body terrorism, and shame we internalize and experience. Self-love is innate. We are born loving ourselves. We only need to return to our origins. 

This movement holds that radical self-love enables us to engage in radically loving others, in leading our lives with compassion, empathy, and mutual care and respect. The Body is Not An Apology is a powerful movement, because they assert that the closer we move to radical self-love, the more we become empowered and a force for societal change.

What is body terrorism?

The Body is Not An Apology refers to body terrorism as the violence associated with the hatred of othered bodies, such as people of color, queer and transgender people, people living in larger bodies, and people living with disabilities. 

From racist violence, like slavery and lynching, to forced sterilization of disabled people and sexual assault and murder of queer and transgender people, especially trans women, body terrorism is prevalent throughout the world. And this violence is responsible for countless deaths and physical injuries, as well as severe psychological consequences caused by shame, like eating disorders, self-hatred, stigma, and internalized homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, sizeism, and beyond.

Loving yourself in the face of global body terrorism is a radical, self-empowering act. It shifts the power from external forces to ourselves. We have something that no one can take from us, and that’s a deep and loving relationship with our bodies. 

How to practice radical self-love

After years of learning to hate yourself, your body, and who you are, it can be difficult to just flip a switch and begin loving yourself. It will take time and practice. But everyone is capable of learning to love themselves. 

Here are some tips on how to practice radical self-love:

  • Love every part of you: This includes loving your perceived flaws—which may not even be actual flaws. It means loving every part of your body and your personality. It means loving your quirks and your neuroses.
  • Be your own very best friend: This means treating yourself how you would treat your best friend in the world and practicing forgiveness, kindness, and grace. 
  • Listen to yourself over others: It can be easy to let the overwhelming voices of others drown out your own voice, but set an intention to listen to yourself above everyone else. You are the expert on your body, your mind, and your heart, and you know who you are and that no one can take your worth from you.
  • Write down and recite affirmations: Write down a list of affirmations that resonate with you and put them somewhere where you will see them every day, such as above your desk. Commit to reciting them several times a day, not just saying the words, but really tuning into them.
  • Question your negative self-beliefs when they arise: If you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, whether it’s about the type of treatment you deserve or criticism about your body, you need to challenge these thoughts, where they came from, and why you’re thinking them, so you can then replace them with more loving and generous thoughts.
  • Do things that bring you joy: Doing things you love can help you feel better about yourself. If you love to play guitar, carve time out every day to play it and really be in the moment.
  • Practice gratitude: Creating a gratitude practice can help you to keep things in perspective and to acknowledge all of the wonderful things in your life. You can try writing down three things you’re grateful for when you wake up in the morning or at night. 

If loving yourself doesn’t come easy at first, don’t give up. We’ve been conditioned for our entire lives to hate ourselves and pick apart our flaws, so be gentle and forgiving with yourself. As time goes on, you’ll find it’s easier and easier to not only accept but celebrate who you are.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Resources

  1. Taylor, S.R. (2021). The Body is Not an Apology, Second Edition: The Power of Radical Self-Love. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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