Self-Love: An Invitation to Forgive and Let Go

Self-Love: An Invitation to Forgive and Let Go

Welcome to the fourth installment in our collaborative self-love blog series with Psychology/Behavioral Science PHD student Ali Szarko. As 2020 winds to an end, Ali is here with helpful tips on practicing body neutrality and letting go in order to build a more loving relationship with ourselves as we head into the new year.

To accompany this post we are pleased to have artwork by our good friend and local artist/musician, Tara Tran.

An Invitation to Forgive and Let Go

There are a lot of people that have been challenged to explain their existence – all to a varying degree dependent on each of our own unique experiences within the cultural milieu. I understand what it’s like to experience self-stigmatizing thoughts based on extrinsic, cultural forces continuously telling me there is a “right” way to be and a “wrong” way to be. Those extrinsic forces feed into the narrative that there is always something that could be “better” or “fixed” (which often leads to a detriment to one’s personal well-being while simultaneoulsy benefiting the current capitalist enterprises to which much of our existence is contingent upon). However, my experiences of self-stigmatization are not synonymous to someone else’s personal experiences of self-stigmatization and never will be. We each have our own unique challenges with respect to self-love. If left unattended, the shaming we experience from outside forces is planted deep within our psyches – so deep, that we unconsciously shame ourselves for being who we happen to be. Learning to untangle these deeply cultural, deeply ingrained feelings of shame is a life-long practice, where healing occurs both in isolation and within community.

Regardless of your own current relationship with self-love – you are invited to end 2020 with self-compassion and forgiveness. You are encouraged to honor and appreciate the unique capabilities and beauty of your own self, however it is showing up for you today – knowing there is not one “right” way to be. You are invited to forgive yourself for the shaming thoughts you’ve had about yourself and to forgive yourself for the hurtful thoughts and/or comments you’ve made to others about themselves (acknowledging that those words were generated from a place of pain). Remember that you deserve love, attention, and nurturance. And you are capable of providing yourself with love, attention, and nurturance in whatever form works best for you.

Here are some small practices for building a more loving relationship with yourself:

Practicing Body Neutrality – Spend some time attempting to evaluate your body from a neutral perspective. Perhaps by listing all of the things your body provides that are not intricately tied to its aesthetic appeal. For example, acknowledging your own unique body’s ability to move. Whether that be the ability to walk from one location to another, to wiggle your toes, or to blink your eyes – whatever ‘movement’ means to you. Or, take a deep breath and acknowledge your body’s ability to nurture itself with oxygen – even when you are not consciously noticing the sensations of an inhalation and exhalation. Acknowledge how your body continues to nurture itself with each new breath. The point of this exercise is to practice holding space for those aspects of our body that are not tied to physical features. Rather, it’s to foster an appreciation for our bodies’ capabilities that we often forget, due to their ‘neutral’ characteristics.

Drop the Rope – Take a moment to imagine you were playing a game of tug-o-war. It’s just you and your opponent going head to head. You’re pulling the rope as hard as you can. Your hands are getting blistered and bloody, sweats dripping down your face, your feet are pressed deep into the ground, jaw clenched, and every muscle is aching in pain. You’re putting 100% of your attention, time, and energy into the game and committed to bringing down your opponent. Why? Because your opponent is every bad thought, feeling, and emotion you’ve ever had and you want nothing more than to take this demon down once and for all. Only the harder you tug, the stronger the monster on the other side of the rope becomes. And the rest of the world (all your loved ones and everything else you love about life) is moving along without you, because you’re in the midst of this exhausting, painful game. In this game you have two options: you can continue to struggle, watching yourself grow weaker and your opponent go stronger with each tug. Or you can drop the rope. You can let go of your struggle with your demon. You can drop the rope so you can regain your strength, tend to your wounds, and attend to your loved ones and the things in life that make you feel whole and connected. So go ahead and drop the rope. 

Self-Love is Self-Defined

For each post, we ask one self-love thinker what self-love means to them. This month, we asked Nicole Jackson. Nicole is an artist, a broadcast journalist, and a previous resident of Reno, Nevada. Here are their thoughts: 

Self love is letting go.

I made a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas to visit my mom and my granny who was recently diagnosed with cancer. On day 2 of my visit, my granny died. The final moments replayed in my head for weeks – my grandmother lifting her body to hold my mother, the glow of their final embrace and my hand placed firmly in the middle of my mother’s back. 

That moment rocked my existence. I felt the ground shaking until my friend put me on to the practice of letting go of attachments. There it was, staring me right in the face – 


I needed to let go – my life depended on it so I responded to my fears:

  • Death is inevitable
  • Control is imaginary
  • It’s okay to be alone
  • If he leaves that’s okay
  • Pain comes and goes
  • The universe has your back

Self love for me is recognizing your fear and telling it to fuck off. It’s living and loving in the moment. It’s cherishing what you can see and not sweating what you can’t. Self love is remembering that you’ll be okay even when fear tries to tell you otherwise.

To learn more about Nicole, you can follow them @nicolecharissej on Instagram. 

To learn more about the Holland Project Self Love Series, you can follow @globalselfloveclub on Instagram.