Pull up any social media app, navigate to the search bar and type in the phrase “#selflove,” or any iteration of it, really. Your search will, almost certainly, yield thousands of posts from women, to women; anecdotes, advice and self-care tips will flood your screen. All this content will be geared toward a very particular audience: women who desire to take on a self-love mindset.
Self-love is a constructed state in which one appreciates their own mind, body and spirit, oftentimes through self-care practices such as relaxing activities, regular exercise and positive thinking. To love yourself is a noble, necessary and legitimate way for all people to lead their lives; however, this self-love mindset has been popularized among girls and women through viral social media trends and endorsed by social media influencers who glamorize and capitalize on self-love as their own brand. These influencers aren’t to be villainized — their fight and support for self-love is admirable and has helped many people love themselves. However, this popularization has caused the self-love movement to be targeted, by trends and social media popularity, at particular groups such as women and girls. People who desire a wake-up-at-7 a.m., run-ten-miles and then decorate-your-bullet-journal lifestyle are much more likely to fit into self-love culture because its aesthetics already match their own.
I don’t mean to accuse anyone of exclusion — that is clearly the antithesis of the self-love movement. Rather, I think it’s important to recognize that the aesthetic and vibe of self-love pushed by social media does not appeal to everyone and even has hazardous effects on society itself.
One group that the self-love movement leaves out is men — in particular, young men harboring both varying levels of toxic masculinity and an absence of a comfortable space to accept self-love. Thus began the rise of social media personality Andrew Tate, whose brand is built to be a guidebook of the world for young men; from women to fitness to mental health, Tate proclaims that he has the answer key to life for his audience. Young men flocked to Tate for the answers to being their best selves. Self-improvement is not a far cry from the sentiments expressed by followers of self-love culture.
However, the traction that Tate gained, partially due to exclusionary self-love culture, has only added fuel to his misogynistic, dangerous and, frankly, abusive fire. Along with allegedly physically and emotionally abusing his ex-girlfriend, Tate has repeatedly reinforced disgustingly misogynistic viewpoints that feature women as deserving of subjugation and idealizing the “alpha male” persona. Tate’s viewpoints have amassed a massive following, even as he has been detained by the Romanian police on suspicion of several crimes, including organized crime and human trafficking.
Tate’s success among young men, along with other influencers popularized by toxic masculinity, is not wholly due to self-love exclusion. Nevertheless, it has been proven that a toxic masculinity mindset can contribute to men not being able to be vulnerable and perpetuates mental health issues, such as depression, increased aggression and violence, low self-esteem and loneliness.
Not only does Tate and his self-improvement philosophy continue to harm women and perpetuate toxic masculinity and sexism, but also it substitutes his followers’ need for a healthy relationship with their own identity, body and emotions with those harmful principles. “If you’re the kind of person who feels like you need therapy, you need someone to talk to, do you know what you are? You’re useless,” said Tate in one of his TikToks. Whilst the self-love aesthetic pushes some away, sentiments like Tate’s pull them into this unhealthy substitution. Instead of striving for Tate-style hypermasculinity and awful behavior, men, along with other excluded groups, deserve to connect with and love their own identities, emotions and physicality.
Loving yourself is a popular message that will continue to be spread throughout our society, both as a result of the social media hype and also due to other factors such as increasingly important mental health. My hope is that we can push past this era where self-love — and the focus on mental, physical and emotional health that come with it — is sought after as a brand. While many people today healthily apply self-love to their day-to-day lives and routines, many still feel ousted by the stigmas, stereotypes and characteristics that surround loving yourself. Anyone can love themselves: it’s not a lifestyle, indulgence or anything in between.
Self-love is personal, and if you chose to share it online, that’s within your right; however, I urge us all to take a step back and assess why we feel the need to show others how wonderful and healthy our lives are. There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media influencers or promoting self-love online, however, social media presence and branding should not be the extent to which your self-love stretches. Love yourself, not the version of yourself that goes online. I deeply admire influencers whose goal is to push forward the love they already have for themselves to a greater audience and aim to make everyone feel comfortable and loved. However, the, admittedly blurry, line should not be crossed into territory where getting behind a camera is for the purpose of promoting a self-love lifestyle when you lack the internal self-love to match the external. It’s all about intentions and correcting your own intentions will help you feel loved and happy with yourself before you carry it out online.
Most of all, people who feel excluded by the self-love movement should seek ways to make self-love their own. Perhaps it won’t go by the name of self-love, but nevertheless, prioritizing the appreciation and respect we have for ourselves is essential to live happy lives.
This Valentine’s Day, love your friends, love your families, love your hobbies and love your significant others. However, above all, remember that you need to love yourself first, and remember that you deserve to feel comfortable and welcome doing so.
Ellie Fivas (24Ox) is from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Ellie Fivas is from Cleveland, Tennessee, and is double-majoring in political science and English & Creative Writing. Outside of the Wheel, she serves on the Student Government Association, edits for the Oxford Phoenix literary magazine and writes for the Emory Political Review. In her free time, you can find her reading historical fiction, enjoying the outdoors or doing crossword puzzles.