Daya From ‘OITNB’ Has The Best Advice For Practicing Self-Love, Even When It’s Not Easy

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There are plenty of conversations these days about how important it is to love yourself. No doubt it's a positive message, especially since it's far too easy to be self-critical and feel like you aren't enough. But the thing is, it's not that realistic to imagine that one day, you'll wake up and suddenly love everything about yourself unconditionally. And Orange Is the New Black's Dascha Polanco's advice about loving yourself speaks to this exact dilemma: From her perspective, it is indeed possible to love yourself without liking yourself all the time. In other words, there are no rules or formulas when it comes to the relationship you have with yourself and your body, and some days will be better than others.

In a recent article she wrote for Women's Health, Polanco talked about how the common practice of posting about body positivity and self-love on social media can sometimes have the effect of making it seem like it's "easy" to feel good about yourself. To this, she says, not so fast, y'all. The 35-year-old actress wrote about how self-confidence has been something she's personally struggled with for her entire life:

My whole life, I’ve had ups and downs when it comes to confidence. I remember looking at myself as a kid and knowing I was different than the other girls—I was chubby and curvier and had rolls and thick thighs. My school uniform skirt never fit right—it was longer in the front and too short in the back. In reality my body type was the norm, but I was always looking at it negatively and comparing myself to the super-slim “cool girls.”

Not only did comparing herself to the people around her create some self-esteem issues, she wrote, but it also caused her to struggle with self-hate at times:

I got to a point where I wished I could cut off my rolls with scissors. I would grab at my thighs and say, “Ugh, I hate you, you’re ugly, I don’t like you! Oh my God, I just want to get rid of this!”

You've been there, I've been there, we've all been there. No matter who you are, what your body looks like, or how much fame and fortune you have, everybody deals with body image issues (even Beyoncé struggles with it at times, too). For Polanco, she wrote in Women's Health that one of the biggest things that helped her shift her perspective on self-love was when she became a mother. She said she began to appreciate her body for what it was, what it could do, and what it could provide for both herself and her baby, rather than focus on any "flaws" she wanted to eliminate. What's more, the OITNB star shared that realizing her goals of becoming an actress, not to mention volunteering in her community, gave her a sense of confidence and inner strength she never knew she could have:

I started focusing on the things I really love about myself. Like, I’ve achieved the dream I had my whole life to be an actress. That’s incredible. I’m a leader and a volunteer in my community. And wanting to eat a burger doesn’t impact my acting or my ability to help people. Neither does getting older—reaching new decades and going through physical changes is something we should celebrate, not fear.

Polanco's insight here shows that, more often than not, true self-love really doesn't have anything to do with how you look. The most rewarding sense of self-confidence, in Polanco's view at least, comes when you watch yourself achieve your goals and contribute to communities and people who matter most to you. And after all, that sense of pride you have in your success is sure to last longer than anything aesthetic or materialistic.

Of course, it's not always easy to practice self-love or to arrive at this place of contentment that Polanco seems to be in these days. But she admitted in her Women's Health article that she, too, still has her moments when she's hard on herself or picks herself apart. It's an ebb and flow, a never-ending process, to learn to love yourself. So on those days when it feels like self-love is impossible to come by, consider Polanco's perspective on the whole thing:

Learning to love yourself is just like learning to love someone in a relationship. You don’t like every single thing about them, but you love them. You can love yourself without liking everything all the time.