I believe in self-love; not selfish narcissism, but the love that comes from truly seeing myself. My brain could easily be trained to remember that it’s “i before e, except after c” and to recall the Pythagorean Theorem, but learning to love myself is not something taught and recited in classrooms. Self-love took the kind of effort that was sustained over years and replenished in tiny dewdrops the size of the freckles I hated so much that wrap around my shoulders anytime I avoided my reflection.
I believe in smiling at myself in the mirror, as silly as it sounds, because it shouldn’t be just my friends or family I’m happy to see. I’ve made it here, to this placid, silver lake: I don’t drown in my reflection like Narcissus, but I linger. I seem like a different person than who I was before; no longer the child I was in middle school or the child-adult hybrid that wanders high school halls. The hair I used to call “dishwater blonde” now drips like caramel down my neck; the scars of womanhood on my hips now seem more like lightning bolts or zig-zagging rivers than anything else.
I believe in womankind, in sisterhood. Ugliness does not exist: Aphrodite appears differently from me to you. I wear her symbol around my neck and clutch it with the same ferocity as I would a cross in the presence of sin, as hatred is everywhere, and feminism is the cure. Self-love is at feminism’s core, and it is held steady and safe by the pillars of intersectionality and acceptance. It’s hard to find things to hate about yourself when those same imperfections radiate such beauty in others. No one is ugly: not me, not you. I believe there is beauty in everything. Sometimes I just have to stare a little longer; count another freckle; trace another stretchmark; run my fingers over another curl: Each one is perfect, and each one is imperfect; but none are ugly.
I’m not a narcissist, I swear, but I refuse to be humble: I’ve avoided my reflection long enough: Please forgive me if I stare. I invite you to join me upon the shores of this placid, silver lake. Someone calls for you, telling you to be careful not to tumble in: They warn you of the tide, but the tide did not bring you here. I know the way to these calm waters: It is not an easy walk.
I believe you should be the greatest romance of your life. This I believe wholeheartedly and viciously. It is the one and only commandment of my religion, and I am too devout to be swayed. You can call me a narcissist, but when you do, I will take your hand and lead you to the placid, silver lake. You don’t need me to validate the beauty you could not see: It is there, in the water: a still figure staring back at you: You are Aphrodite, and so am I.