This past Tuesday one of one of our beloved Ryerson Fashion alums Mary Young gave a very important talk on the act of self-love; and the timing couldn’t have been better. A week before Valentine’s Day, the former Fashion Communications graduate at the centre of her eponymous lingerie and loungewear brand Mary Young, decided for one night only to set up shop in the ballroom of the Gladstone Hotel and get real about loving herself. She also gave tips on how we can all do the same.
As Valentine’s Day creeps closer (t minus two days people), ideas, clichés and notions of love feel to be swirling around us at a dizzying pace. Romantic shades of pink, red and gold seem to be present on everything from cards and candies to carnations and cupcakes. For some of us out there, this holiday brings feelings of joy and excitement as we look towards showing the ones we love how we feel, and that we care. Whether it’s best friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, parents, grandparents, anyone you love, February 14th can be a helpful reminder of how we are surrounded by amazing loving people everyday. It can also feel incredibly stressful as we try to show our love and appreciation through gifts while being on a budget. But for others this holiday is less a time of celebration, and more a time of sadness and isolation. If we don’t have a significant other, or a ginormous group of friends, or our family members are on the other side of the country (or another continent), Valentine’s Day can quickly make us feel alone. If you’ve just ended a relationship, that feeling can be amplified tenfold. Society has told us over the years that if you don’t have a hot date, or if you’re not in a serious relationship you somehow receive less love. Somehow we equate independence with sadness, failure, and a life less well lived. We have been conditioned to feel that in order to be happy we need someone else to deliver flowers to our door, or tell us that they love us. If we are single on Valentine’s Day we resort to hanging with our girlfriends sobbing over Ben & Jerry’s (which is not a bad thing if done for the right reasons) – or at least we are expected to be. But during this process of self-pity we forget that there is a very important person out there who loves us unconditionally all the time. That person is ourselves. The thing is, we are never truly alone, but at times we feel as though we are because we disregard the person inside and neglect to take care of them too.
As students this is even more relevant as we struggle to stay afloat in school, maintain active social lives, and hold a job that pays the bills. By putting these things first we far too often neglect the crucial elements of self-love and self-care: eating properly, sleeping consistently, bathing, etc. As creatives attempting to break into demanding industries, we often forget to put ourselves first. As we tirelessly attempt to beef up our resumes and portfolios, we forget the artist inside needs a break too. This Valentine’s Day, Mary Young has some ideas for how we all can celebrate the person inside on this overwhelming holiday (and every day to follow).
Enter: The Self Love To Do List.
On Tuesday night’s talk, Young presented every guest with a custom curated self-love to do list containing eleven small acts. These acts (however daunting or embarrassing they may seem) are meant to develop a subconscious self-love cheerleader within us over time. Young admits that some of the items on the list do feel very weird and uncomfortable the first time you do them; trust us she’s tried them. She says: do them anyway. Young warns, “it’s going to feel weird, and it’s going to feel awkward because we have been conditioned to not consider ourselves as people needing love and support”. It’s become weird to love yourself and feel secure in your own company. To go out for coffee by yourself or to a movie alone is to make ourselves appear sad and abandoned. For example, number two reads “look yourself in the mirror and say ‘you are beautiful’”. Number three says “repeat the following: I am kind, I am smart, I am important”. Now I don’t know about you, but telling myself out loud that I am awesome has never been a problem so these recommendations feel pretty natural for me to adopt. But I know I am one of the lucky ones; not all of us can be our own cheerleaders easily – it’s not easy. That being said, saying them to myself out loud is a completely separate challenge. And Young acknowledges this.
At one point in the evening she confides with the audience that her journey to self-love is a recent one, and that she has worked at it every day for a very long time. She also confides that her journey is not over. The act of loving yourself unconditionally, with no doubts of your own self worth and beauty, is a very hard thing to do. It is especially hard in the age of social media. Young explains that being a creative female entrepreneur in Toronto is very challenging both from a business standpoint and for her personally. There is no secret that the fashion industry still has a very specific idea of what it means to be beautiful. Social media campaigns and Dove commercials are not the end of the industry’s journey to accepting all forms of beauty. As a professional in the industry she says there is constant pressure to be the “ideal” version of yourself: to always be perfect, put together, and camera ready.
One way she combats this is being secure in her own skin, in her intelligence and in the skills and views she brings to her business and industry. She tries daily to look at the beauty in other women without questioning her own. She compliments others whenever she has the chance and follows her self-love to do list. Young also stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with other women who inspire you, encourage you and make you want to work harder. She credits her incredibly supportive friend group as one of the main reasons she has been able to achieve what she has, and feel the way she feels about herself. She cites supporting other women to follow their goals as inspiration for following her own goals and setting bigger ones. She says the key to self-love is looking at others without questioning your own self-worth.
The other key is making an effort. Make an effort to look after yourself first. Eat good food, get good (consistent) sleep, and be active (if that’s what you want to do). Fill your home or apartment with things you love and make your home your sanctuary; somewhere you feel invincible. Curate your social circle to include only those people that mean the most to you, that enrich your life and that respect your time. Cultivate fewer deeper relationships that can last a lifetime, and support those who support you.
So this Valentine’s Day, gather your loved ones and celebrate together if that’s what you want to do. Have a party, go out for dinner, shower your loved ones with love and sweetness. But also remember that if it’s just you, that’s okay too. Buy a fancy bath bomb and a cheap bottle of wine, make a bath, put on your favourite music or grab your favourite book. Celebrate you. Love you. Pamper you. Happy Valentine’s Day to you.
Written by Naomi Brearley (@nbrrly)
Photos courtesy of Robyn Bell (@jeze_bell)