‘I deserve to take up space.’ The Mamamia team share 16 lessons on self-love they wish they learnt sooner.

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If you’ve ever sat yourself down for a meditation to quiet your mind and instead you’ve been served with a plate of loud mental spaghetti of self-doubt and negative self-talk – this is for you. 

When it comes to feeling invisible, disconnected and prohibited by societal expectations 'at a certain age' – the rose-coloured glasses have truly been shattered into a million bits.

What needs more air-time, is the inner-work that we’re all doing in the background, to celebrate exactly who we are, at every stage. The unlearning. The discovery. The ‘a-ha!’ moments that make us wonder what we’ve been doing all this time, and oh how we wish we celebrated and gave space to our authentic selves sooner.

We asked 16 women at Mamamia to share the self-love lessons they wish they’d learnt earlier in life. If you’ve struggled with where to start on your own self-love and self-care beat, you may just find the first push pin on your vision board below.

Liv loves her natural curls.

“I battled having curly hair for years and when I finally embraced it, I was a new woman!”

Jess loves moving her body at the gym.

“I didn't think I was fit enough to exercise. I am now a 6 days a week gym person and am always the one to go up to the ‘big intimidating muscly people to ask for help when I need it. Moving my body and asking questions is much better than avoiding it because of being worried about looking silly!”

Annaliese loves celebrating her own freedom.


“I wish I had appreciated how gorgeous I was when I was younger. I look at photos and don’t see any of the imperfections that I imagined at the time. I wish I hadn’t covered my arms up with self consciousness. I also wish I appreciated how uncomplicated life really was and relished the freedom of being single and not always yearning for a man, to feel the pressure from the narratives we were fed as soon as we could watch a movie. The Princess rescue myth. That the real secret to life is learning to rescue yourself and love yourself and your life without feeling the need to have someone else in it to complete it, because you really don’t.”


Holly loves her freckles.

“I wish I appreciated my freckles decades earlier – now I look at my daughter and they are just the cutest. I was always looking to cover mine, I regret not embracing them sooner.”

Sydney loves showing her real smile.

“When I properly smile or laugh my face scrunches up and I used to be SO embarrassed, and would never have shared a photo of me with my real smile. Now I love how expressive my face is, and that I really show my joy.”

Amy loves embracing her natural skin.

Image: Supplied.


"I wish I didn't skip my skincare routine and hide my freckles with layers of make-up because I wanted that flawless and glowy look that I felt I needed and saw in magazines. I now embrace them, and invest in products (SPF!!) that protect the skin I'm in." 

Marie loves that she has many meaningful friendships without needing a “best friend”.

“I wish I accepted sooner about myself, that when it comes to my friendships, I'm not a “best friend” kind of person. I've always been a bit of a floater, in a few groups at school but never really have a bestie. It’s funny now that my kids are at school, I find myself in the same situation: friends from all of the different groups but not a singular best friend. I used to think this was a flaw or a lack in my ability to make good friends. Now I know it because I love to get to know lots of different people. I'm the one who actually doesn't want the commitment of a best friend.”

Em loves that she is tall.

“I had a massive growth spurt when I was 14 and ended up being the tallest person in my grade. I hated that I stood out from everyone else. I wish I hadn't been so caught up in worrying about what boys thought, because my height is the least important thing about me (and boys can be real dumb). And I can reach the high shelves and I never have to alter or take-up clothes for being too long, so, bonus.”

Frankie loves embracing her present self, and living unafraid.

Image: Supplied.


"The biggest learning I wish I embraced earlier for myself is just to be happy in the now… not to worry so much about what happened in the past, or what’s going to happen in the future. Also get comfortable being uncomfortable. Try new things and let go of old things. Not all friendships are forever, and that’s okay. And don’t be afraid to ask anyone, anything. What’s the worst that can happen? Getting over that internal feeling was a game-changer."


Maddie loves taking up the space she deserves.

“I used to really fixate on the number on the scale, and the size of the clothes I was buying, always trying to weigh less and fit into a smaller size. I made an effort to take up less space in everything, including not speaking up at work, in friendships, and in relationships. But I decided (after years of therapy) that I deserve to take up space. Now I buy clothes that feel good, I have a much healthier relationship with my body and a more assertive approach to my work life and relationships.”

Lisa loves that she expresses her emotions.

“I have always been someone who feels a lot of emotions, and really used to struggle with verbalising this as I felt if something impacted me but not the people around me, that I was the one with the problem or I was being 'too emotional'. Fast forward and I love this about myself. I am a much more understanding and caring person because of it. I have also become the counsellor among all my friends.”

Carla loves that she is loud.

“I spent my school years always being told to be quieter and softer. F*** that!”

Helena loves feeling in control of her identity.

“I felt very sexualised from such a young age because I had the body of a 15 year old when I was 9. Once I left high-school,I finally didn’t feel embarrassed or voiceless around adults, or that they had the right to comment on how I looked. Using Instagram to present a version of myself that I actually liked really helped me learn to love myself. I was in control of it - like I could reclaim my identity.”

Bonnie loves her natural red hair.

“I was teased about my red hair in high school… Now, I love it! Dark brown box dye is not my colour.”


Cathy loves embracing her body, as it is.

“I wish I had embraced my body rather than try and cover it up. Until very recently my large boobs have been something I’ve always tried to cover up. I wish I’d just accepted my body as the gift it is.”

Isabella loves healing her inner child.

“Growing up, I would compare myself to my friends based on looks, intelligence, experience with dating, you name it. I wish I could yell to my 14-year-old self, 'Please see a counsellor already!' In my late teen years I did – and it really showed me the importance of self love. Now whenever I find myself being too comparative, I stop and remember the phrase 'Good for them, not for me'. I find it helps me stop being so self-critical and realise that we're all just running our own race.”

These women inspire me every single day, but as you’ve just read – it’s not accidental. It’s taken work, mistakes, practice, unlearning, therapy and an active rejection of societal pressure to embrace their authentic selves in their 30s, 40s and beyond, but it’s worth it. Oh, it’s so worth it.

The long reign of self-deprecation is coming to a grinding halt. We can be proud of ourselves, set boundaries, break tradition, challenge expectations – we can love ourselves. A new wave of appreciating and caring for the vessels that carry us through this crazy world is upon us, and celebrating all the soft and beautiful things that make us unique. 

Feature Image: Mamamia/Supplied.

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