What's Radical Self-Love, And Why Should You Care?

"love begins and ends with me"

In a world of selfies and #TreatYoSelf, taking the time to love and appreciate whom you are, doesn’t seem like it would be revolutionary. The thing is, loving yourself is revolutionary and Gala Darling, the woman behind Radical Self-Love, knows it. She literally wrote the book on it. But unlike people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, Darling knows what it means because she’s lived it. The New Zealand native has experienced both sides of the story, and let’s just say, loving yourself has a pasture with much greener grass.

Radical self-love became a part of Darling’s journey when she was just 22 years old, battling depression and an eating disorder. The light at the end of the tunnel came when she discovered tapping—acupressure combined with positive psychology—which transformed her whole world. It was when she dismantled all limiting beliefs, that the whole world took on a new color, she explains, and that is when radical self-love was born. It was around this time that Darling started her blog, which has grown from a haven for style and self-expression to an exploration of happiness and self-love, and a forum for manifesting a dream life. 

In her new book, Radical Self-Love, Darling gives tips and tricks for leading a life that revolves around adoring and appreciating yourself, and she makes it really, really fun with lists of what you should be grateful for and love letters to yourself. But, what is radical self-love? According to Gala, “Radical self-love is choosing to love yourself despite all the messaging we hear to the contrary. Radical self-love is a revolutionary act.” And it feels revolutionary from all the flavors and textures that come with noticing the intricacies of your own soul and truly basking in them.  

If there’s one thing that Darling stresses, it’s that radical self-love is the foundation of all good things. “When you truly love and respect who you are, you're more likely to take creative risks, to ask for a raise or a promotion, to leave that subpar relationship,” she explains. “We can't do those things without a healthy sense of appreciation for who we are. Instead, we stay trapped because it's all we think we 'deserve.' Deserving is a ridiculous concept. It is your birthright to be blissful and free,” Darling emphasizes. 

And even though loving yourself can manifest miracles as Darling knows—she went from moving to NYC alone at 24 to starting multiple businesses—she also reminds her #RadicalSelfLoveCoven that it’s a process. The journey to honoring yourself is one that can feel long and tedious because the work is never finished, and it’s not always fun. It’s hard, something that Darling is real about—it’s something that takes commitment, like watering a plant every day, but it’s the little things over time that can get big results. The trick, as Darling puts it, is to start with gratitude, to go easy on yourself, and to not expect miracles to happen overnight. Instead, you have to celebrate all the small successes along the way. 

The other half of living in a place of absolute self-love is to have a tribe that supports you in your own journey. Kitty Cavalier, author and professional seductress, and Ellie Burrows, author and owner of MNDFL, are two advocates who are spreading Darling’s message, although in slightly different tongues.  

For Cavalier, this comes through seduction, but “not the traditional meaning of seduction as control, sex, and manipulation, but seduction as a force of magnetism in ourselves and in our lives. My spiritual practice is to create my life around the things that seduce me on a soul level, and my work is to teach women how to do the same,” she explains. Like many people’s journeys to loving themselves, Cavalier’s doesn’t start intentionally. Battling a lifelong hatred of her own body, combined with growing up in a deeply religious household, led her to find a community that preached the opposite of what she had been taught: you have a right to love and enjoy the skin you live in. 

And if there’s one thing that Cavalier gets, it’s that self-love is sexy, and that this form of seduction is a communion of body and mind, rather than a collision of the two. By living a life that is filled with romance and sensuality, Cavalier is able to connect to her senses, which she says is the whole point of being alive. She continues, saying “Our senses are what separate us from the celestial, but simultaneously they also grant us access to an experience of the divine. When I am grounded in my sensuality I make very wise choices, because I'm not afraid to slow down and feel my way through the decision-making process, rather than trying to think my way through.” It is through this balance that Cavalier has been able to seduce life into being her mistress. 

Finding a balance between your spiritual and professional life can also be strenuous. Burrows can attest to that. Burrows made the transition from working in the film industry to opening up MNDFL, a meditation studio where she helps others gain familiarity with themselves. And although Burrows grew up in a loving home with an empowered mother who passed this value along to her children, a health scare led her to really examine how she was choosing to live her life. And for her, self-love comes in handy at moments that are painful or difficult, especially when trying to navigate the choppy waters made of other people’s opinions. For Burrows, self-love is a vessel that can ensure regularly smooth seas no matter what the weather is like.

The golden rule, however, is still applicable to loving yourself. “I am a big believer in giving what you would like to receive. Essentially I feel responsible for what I experience and co-create on a daily basis,” says Burrows. “If I want love, I must give love. Love can be increased just by the act of giving it, so it’s inherently valuable. Love begins and ends with me,” she finishes. And one more piece of advice that she stresses, it’s to leave judgment at the door because life is an unbound experience. 

If there’s one thing that all three of these women want you to know, it’s that loving yourself takes work, but it’s one of the worthiest difficulties you will face. It’s a practice, something you will come back to time and time again, but fostering a loving relationship with all the quirks and deviations that make you, YOU, should be a non-negotiable. So whether you’re taking a bomb selfie, or simply writing a list of things you love about yourself, get to work. You deserve it.