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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
It's so easy to love yourself when you're having a good day. When you're able to face yourself in the mirror, appreciate the waves your body creates in the shadows. When you're being loved by the person you want most in the world. When you're feeling pretty. When you don't have to consciously look after your heart state, body and mind. 

Yet I always find it interesting how quickly our self-love turns into self-hatred when shit hits the fan. Of course, it feels agonising and perhaps irrelevant, to cherish yourself when you're going through a hard time, as we all experience months or even years when we're just trying to exist. However, me, you and that block you've been pasting over need to have a talk.
We need to talk about this overused term the internet and corporate feminism speaks of. This phrase that's thrown out as quick-fix advice. This image of what 'self-love' should look like. 

I need to know that when you're having a bad day, you'll get through it inshallah, because you've previously loved yourself so deeply, that the divine maya that's been sent down to you, overflows to your untended wounds. That loving yourself doesn't feel like such an impossible task. That you're forgiving yourself for the days it has.
July was the month when women from all corners of my life called me to say they don't know how to feel their own love. That self-love is something they're failing at. It's made me realise that self-love has become another thing to tick off on our to-do list and that we've genuinely missed the point of it all.
On Thursday 6th August, I'll be in conversation with Brita Fernandez Schmidt, Executive Director of Women for Women International for The LoveCrafts Festival. We'll be talking about self-care that doesn't cost a thing. Join us at 5pm.
Self-love, in all honesty, isn't usually pretty. It looks like clawing back the life you know you deserve after you've lowered your own standards. It's hours-long phone conversations with the people that are able to make you feel still when you've been exhausted and lost. It's crying to yourself and asking what's wrong with me when nothing's technically happened and then getting up and healing, as if by miracle.

It's for example, changing the language and stories you use to describe yourself that no longer serve you. Self-love is in the work of continuing, peddling forward through the thick of it when there’s no plan in the waters. It’s in understanding the difference between what’s a good opportunity and what’s good for you. It's in recognising how much you are already doing.
The thing with loving yourself is that it is your life's work. There is no time frame in which you should have been good at this by now. No accolade achieved that can merit a sense of self-completion. Nothing which means you don't have to try with yourself anymore.

Did you think that just because your body is the only home you're ever going to live in, you don't have to court yourself? You don't have to be mindful of how you talk to yourself? Have sabr for the things that weren’t meant for you? That you don't have to kiss it where it hurts and kiss it harder when it's better?

I'd like us all to stop for a second. To stop thinking that just because we're mothers, intellectuals, founders or those who know our own minds that we're somehow 'dumb' or 'silly' for feeling a certain way about ourselves. To leave the 'but I'm better than this' attitude at the door, as well as the myth that we hate ourselves just because we may not be able to balance loving ourselves right now. Just because you can see the holes and what to unlearn, it doesn't mean the fog should automatically disappear.

Stop feeling bad about feeling bad about yourself. Just pause. Too many of us feel far too guilty about too many things in life. Whether it's the way we receive a compliment, when we answer the phone too abruptly or the ever-popular: was that email too cold? 
The topic of self-love has understandably become a trope of itself. Loving yourself sounds like such a privilege conversation to be having right now, with the countless tragedies happening in the world; especially when Black and Muslim women are rarely given the space to be themselves, never mind love themselves. But what is the point of fighting for any of it, if you can't give it back to yourself?
I know I’m brimming yet contained with self-love when I’m thinking of myself less — not less of myself. But I don't think many of us were raised in a way where we were taught to love and prioritise ourselves. We've always been told by the romantics to be fearless in love, so what does that love look like when it's etched in you? What does courage look like when you're risking it all for you?

Write yourself a damn haiku. Nurture your body. Be patient with your mental blocks and physical mistakes. Make-up with your self. Pray for yourself. Take yourself out for dinner. Save up money for yourself. Show up for yourself. Do something for yourself, one thing at a time. After all this time my dear, don't you think you ought to?

With aram, balobashi, maya, shanti and khushi,

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Recommended Uplifting Reads
Secrets of Divine Love by A Helwa
More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth 
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Love Looks Pretty On You by Lang Leav
The Power Of Breathwork by Jennifer Patterson

Things To Lend An Eye And Eyeball To
'Our Secret Stories' by Ben Okri
'Michaela The Destroyer' by E. Alex Jung (The profile of the year tbh)
'Racism Is Terrible. Blackness Is Not.' by Imani Perry
Salaams, I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, essayist and editor. If you like The Aram, feel free to support my work and buy me a digital Ko-Fi

Artwork credits in order: Maria Martorell @iretio @the_dailybren

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