Transcript: Gala Darling on Radical Self Love at TEDxCMU 2012

Gala Darling

Blogger, author and speaker Gala Darling presents Radical Self Love at TEDxCMU 2012 event. The following is the full transcript.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Radical Self Love by Gala Darling at TEDxCMU 2012


Only 4% of women would call themselves beautiful and that’s a stunningly small statistic. So basically, if this entire room was somehow magically transformed into women that would mean then less than two of you would say that you thought you were beautiful if you were asked.

Young girls are more afraid of being fat than they are of getting cancer, nuclear war or of losing both their parents. And there are so many statistics that support all of these things.

A recent study in the UK said that 6 out of 10 girls thought they would be happier if they were skinnier. And a study of 455 college women said — 80% of them said that they had been told negative things about their body from — not their friends or society but from their parents and siblings.

Low self-esteem is a major problem and especially through women. Women with low self esteem are more likely to stay in abusive relationships. They are less likely to start their own businesses. They are more introverted and they also earn less money than their more confident counterparts.

I believe in the power of women. I think women are so amazing. I think they are sacred neon-pink sparkly amazing. They are subversive and wild, they are fierce and strong. We can really do anything that we want to do but so few of us do it. We all feel like we’re being held back by an invisible hand but the truth is that we’re the only ones holding ourselves back.

Even though we’re told all kind of things by society and by the media, once you realize that all of that is total nonsense and most savvy women realize this by the time they are about 14 years old. Once you realize that, you’re really free to do whatever you want to do. I mean, okay, so they are quite beautiful but there’s no diversity — even the women who are not white are extremely pale. They all have the same waist size, they’re all the same height, they’re all gussied up to be sexy for a man and I mean, that’s not really all there is to it.

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So all of this stuff kind of converged and came to a head for me on Valentine’s Day in 2010. So, I’ve been writing online for about 5 years – and actually I have been writing online for about 13 years, but let’s forget about that.

So I’ve had my blog for 5 years and I started off writing about fashion and style. But as I kept writing I realized that what women really wanted wasn’t like, “What’s the perfect dress for my body type?” They really wanted to know how to be happy in themselves.

If a woman would write to me and say, “Well, what should I wear to disguise my chubby thighs?”, I don’t think the answer is, “A 350 dollar pair of jeans.”

I think the answer is, “You need a major dose of self-love and you need to focus on your assets and not obsess over your flaws.”

So, Valentine’s Day is this ridiculous anomaly where all women no matter how brilliant or genius, become these blubbering messes because some dude didn’t spend all his money on an overpriced bouquet of flowers. It’s like, this is the only thing that matters, “You have no value in our society if someone didn’t buy you some chocolates on the 14th February.” And it’s so tragic.

And I would see these incredibly brilliant genius women on Facebook, complaining, like, “My life has no meaning.” And it’s like, “Come on, you have to get over it.”

So, I decided that on Valentine’s Day, I was going to start this movement. The thing with Valentine’s Day is — even if you have a partner and you’re desperately in love, it doesn’t necessarily make your life any better and it doesn’t necessarily make you any happier. If you don’t feel comfortable within yourself your relationships are going to turn to custard because you’re not comfortable saying who you are and what you want. You probably won’t be able to tell your lover what you want in bed and, it’s just not going to go very well.

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There is an amazing quote by RuPaul. At the end of every episode of RuPaul’s drag race she says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else?” And it’s totally true. We need to stop looking for validation and acceptance outside of ourselves and realize that it’s all within us.

And, by the way, isn’t that so amazing, it’s an assemblage art piece and you can see, like, there is a bottle of Nair in there. I love it, I think it’s so brilliant.

There is another brilliant quote by Buddha and he said, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” And again, it all comes from within. If you don’t have that, then life becomes very difficult.

So, I decided in February of 2010 to start this radical self-love movement and I figured that I would start writing about my journey in loving myself and getting comfortable with who I am. And I put it online. And if women want to join in, then that would be fantastic. And I hope that they would learn something from my mistakes.

And radical self-love has been this amazing thing. It’s still going. It’s brilliant. Women have used it. And they’ve emailed me and through their own discoveries they have left abusive relationships. They’ve started their own businesses. They’ve traveled the world. They’ve gotten over eating disorders. And most of all, they’ve learned to be really comfortable with who they are and I think that’s the most important thing. It’s all I ever really wanted.

My story is not a really pretty one, actually. The reason I feel like I can talk about radical self-love is because I’d been on the other side of the coin, which I like to call “radical self-loathing.” Although it’s not that radical, mostly, it just sucks.

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So, I grew up in New Zealand, hence, the accent and I had a pretty idyllic childhood. I was very lucky, but of course, you don’t realize that until much, much later. And — but somehow when I became a teenager, it was like I transformed overnight and I became this horrible person. I was really, really miserable. But mostly I was just really angry. And I didn’t really know what I was angry at, I just knew I was really angry. And I didn’t know how to deal with it at all.

And I was a teenage goth, it’s true. I would wear like all black, and I bought this dog collar from the supermarket with spikes on it, and I would wear like every day. Stripey stockings and combat boots, and it was like the whole thing. And even though, I kind of make fun of that now, I think a lot of that was because I was looking for people who were outsiders as well. I always felt very different to everyone and I was looking for people who could kind of empathize with that.

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