notes on self love & self care

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on self love self care

Edited by Amanda Ong & Allison Ong

WILD GEESE Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese ,high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over and over announcing your place in the family of things.


During grad school, I would sometimes eschew the bus and walk the three miles home. To pass the time, I would call my sister. Like most grad students I was always stressed, and it was on the long walks home from class that Amanda introduced me to her tenets of self love and self care. I remember thinking, ‘this is pretty useful and would make a great zine’. In 2020 Amanda moved in with me and my husband, to wait out the covid-19 pandemic. Since we were stuck together, we started putting the zine together. During that year, we learned a lot about each other and our modes of self care. Mine, escaping to nature and moments of quiet solitude. Amanda, by reaching for her friends and connecting with others. After seeing how Amanda and her friends unyieldingly held and supported each other through the year, I decided it would be fitting to incorporate contributions from them into the zine. I started thinking of this as a Amanda’s quarantine yearbook. They didn’t get a graduation, but at least they can have this. The first half of the zine covers Amanda’s original 12 tenets of self-love and self care, with illustrations from her friends. The second half includes ‘love letters’ from her friends, reflecting on some of the tenets.

Sketch by Allison Ong


Dena Cheng, Tess Hezlep, Cameron Lee, Emma Mizrahi-Powell, Priya Pai, Elsie Platzer, Hana Sun, Akshiti Vats, Maddie Woda, Kenley Ferris, Ning Wan


What we talk about when we talk about love—usually we don’t talk about a tool. Usually it is a soft magic, the kind that you may or may not stumble upon in the wild. In actuality, love is a ubiquitous resource. You can strain it from thin air, you can apply its salve to your own skin. Love is actively produced, love is endlessly utile. I am beginning to wonder, especially in these times of great upheaval, how to love structurally, how to translate the glory of self-love into something that may move and remove entire realities. Too often, the messaging around love in this case gets corrupted. “Spread love, not hate.” “Where they go low, we go high.” These are flawed statements because they confuse “love” with “civility,” an outward appearance of love. If we love someone, how can we let them starve and sicken? How can we stand by while they suffer violence? Like Amanda says, love must work to decrease the quotient of hurt in the world. But love can also be sharp: a pathway, a wedge, water carving into a canyon. You can brandish love like a knife, and begin to cut loose the various dead and clinging objects that entrap you. Amanda wrote this list about self-love, but I think it’s also about hope. That the next day and the next might be better or different. In the end, to love yourself is to look with a full heart towards any tomorrow with you in it.

collages by Emma Mizrahi-Powell

Art by Hana Sun


And when you ask yourself, “What’s it all for? Why should I care?” Remember that we are all put on this earth. And regardless of the reasons, there will be hurt in all of our lives. There will be hurt we cannot control. We don’t need any more hurt, especially not from each other. So love—try to make this life as good as it can be for everyone.


Sometimes trying to be better feels like shame. Sometimes trying to become a better person feels like someone tapping at the back of your head and asking you why the hell you aren’t good enough. But here’s the thing— you are good enough. Just keep going.


And yes, you are responsible for all of your own fuck-ups. But you also have agency. You are also a whole person who has the capacity for so much more, a person who is capable of change. There are many things you cannot control, but if you can take responsibility, if you can make a change in yourself, in some small part of your community, that can make all of the difference.


So keep trying! Put yourself out there! Change some hearts. Help some people. Fuck up. Look at yourself in the mirror—hard— and forgive yourself, and if you can, appreciate yourself. Do it all again.

art by Allison Ong


Stand tall, be proud, and don’t be afraid to cry.

art by Ning Wan


Remember to take care of yourself, and remember that sometimes taking care of yourself doesn’t mean doing what you want to do right now, but doing what’s good for the you of a month from now, or the you of five years from now. Sometimes taking care of yourself means putting on PJs and eating ice cream and watching a movie. Sometimes taking care of yourself means going out into the world and doing all the things you don’t want to do.

“Recognize Wholeness”, a tenet of disability justice. Art by Dena Cheng


Silence has its time as does speech. Don’t be afraid of the quiet, of listening. Don’t be afraid to sit with your feelings until you are ready. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

art by Allison Ong


The most radical thing you have is your love—your love for other people, and your love for yourself. Listen to that love.

Art by Cameron Lee


When all else feels dull, go outside and look around. Really look at things. Look at the sky, feel the air, breathe. Try and feel the beauty of the world in your bones, try and see the magic and wonder of life in every crevice of this earth. I promise you it’s there. And then just let the world be content to have you— because really, the world is so content to have you.


And in the end, know that the only thing you need to be in this world is full of love to give. And the only thing you need to do is share that love.

Art by Allison Ong

The house to which many letters were mailed Art by Allison Ong


By Maddie Woda A Meditation on #8: As our college experience comes to an end, I find myself taking moments to just stare at the people I love and let myself be filled with gratitude. It's physical, like a balloon in my chest, as I watch Emma dance at a party or Danielle and Lexa eat Goldfish or Jasmine and Amanda make brownies. Four years ago, I liked the people I met, but I didn't understand how'd they fit into my story. Now I can't remember how I ever existed without the knowledge and strength and support of the (mostly female) friends I've made at Columbia. This love feels revolutionary sometimes, especially when I am so deep in despair it seems impossible to love or be loved by anyone. It is revolutionary to find people who make you feel like living and then do life with them, go to clubs and talk on the couch. For so long, romantic love seemed like the only aspiration I could achieve: to be loved and seen by a man was the pinnacle of validation. But as that notion crumbles around me, the radical love of my female friendships rebuilds me.


Akshiti Vats

LETTER #3 Buy the Fucking Mascara Kenley FK One of my favorite pastimes is browsing aimlessly through the aisles of a Sephora. Inevitably, my wrist becomes a palette for a kaleidoscope of assorted pigments, shimmers, creams, and glosses. Each liquid lipstick (long-wearing! smudge-proof!) and exotic skincare potion (rejuvenating! pore-reducing! really works!) carries the promise of a better, optimized version of myself. The ravages of sleepless nights can be erased with this 24-hour new-and-improved formula concealer. No one will sense my inner dread and self-loathing if I sport a punchy red lip. Rouged and highlighted cheeks to bring a dewy, youthful glow; winged liner to lengthen the eye and evoke a confident, bitchy attitude. Of course, this is patently bullshit. When I was a child, I was contemptuous of the many shiny, Botoxed foreheads and overripe, overfilled lips prevalent in the affluent, Stepford-y Southern California suburb I grew up in. I cast swift judgment on any and all peroxide blondes and Kate Spade handbags. I clung tight to the idea that a natural, unadorned appearance was representative of “inner beauty”—dignity, self-respect, moral substance, self-love. Once I leave Sephora, carrying my new purchase and free birthday gift in a little black-and-white striped bag, I inevitably feel the pangs of shame wash over me. Shame that I have once again bought into an inauthentic version of “selflove” doctored up in corporate conference rooms to sell and sell again, shame that I have given into the illusory high of desirability, shame that I have betrayed my principles.

I don’t know how to love myself. I don’t know if I ever will. But I think I’m learning how to accept myself. I am learning how to accept that I am a human with inconsistent human desires, how to accept that I am neither evil nor pathetic for not living up to my own imagined standards Branded eyeshadow palettes marked down 15% are not the solution to achieving self-acceptance, nor are they the solution to mass-scale corporate marketing schemas advancing self-obsession (whether self-indulgence, selfimportance, or self-loathing). I believe we all have a duty to think critically, choose responsibly, and act compassionately within an overarching economic and cultural paradigm that pivots around exploitation: the exploitation of gendered and racialized beauty standards to sell products, or the exploitation of labourers in the global South (in the cosmetics industry, largely young girls) who manufacture and extract materials for products. Try as we might, however, these paradigms will take decades to work through. But I also believe that it is unfair, unreasonable, and ultimately unproductive to focus our energies on overanalyzing and rejecting our desires to manifest our outward selves as we see fit. On the contrary, I think it is necessary to accept, and perhaps occasionally indulge, that our authentic selves have earthly wants. Perhaps the world’s ails require a big-picture approach. So if it’ll help you get out of bed, out of your own head, and invested in caring about others, then buy the fucking mascara. Or don’t.

LETTER #4 By Hana Sun

Some thoughts on #12: LOVE! Is so important! Give love, share love, love yourself. This year has definitely hit me harder than I expected it to, and I know I’m not alone in saying this. It has felt as if 2020 has been a continual downhill; where smaller victories feel taboo within the realm of the current events. But! Never forget to take care of yourself, and of the people who you love. The world is chaotic but you owe it to yourself to be loved and to heal. Being at home always sparks my urge to craft. Something about being surrounded by my old high school memorabilia brings out my creative side, a side that was much needed now as it has provided me with an escape and comfort. At first, I would make excuses for my crafting, saying that I have always wanted to be a pen pal and to send watercolor postcards to or that I had yarn lying around and might as well try to make a shirt. Eventually though, this crafting blossomed into a way for me to share my love with people who I care about, and for

people who I don’t know as well. I have felt helpless so many times over this past year, like I had no control over anything. But through art, I’ve realized that by sharing my crafts I’ve begun to heal as well. My mom always asks me if I’m tired of knitting yet, if the small details and tediousness of each project is too much and I can honestly say that it isn’t. I didn’t realize that a small hobby could bring me so much joy, especially knowing that I’m making something specially for someone else. Each project I make is so full of love that I can’t help but feel the effects of it as well. Love is so powerful! Share it with others, it will help you as well :)



Tess Hezlep

Like you wrote to me before Paris, “Rule #1 of selflove and self-care is STAYING HYDRATED.” So, I stay hydrated. As best as I can. Sufjan Stevens, Harold & Maude, you have always exposed me to the refined yet wholesome arts that make life more colorful and dynamic. I see things the way I do because of our friendship. And I am able to trust and to love because you are proof that it’s real, along with a very select handful that most of us call our inner circle. You are a necessary thimble in my circle. And without you it would be incomplete. From Sean to my dad. You held up your hands and I could see the sun in all the small lines on your palms. And we still laugh all the time. And we don’t even talk on the phone like people might think, but when we do it’s always good and full of serotonin. The ultimate anti-depressant are those phone calls, and those times in person. Remember when we tried to have a picnic on the lawn off the highway by those absurd rows of perfectly trimmed, fattened palm trees??? And I felt like we failed so hard that it became a success like no other.

You run late. So do I. One day, I will finish and perfect the toast for your wedding. Anyway, I love you. These are fragments of how much I love you.


For a few years now, I have been fascinated by the concept of matter. If middle school science serves me right: Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space.

Maybe it’s silly to be so literal, but I can’t help but think that when we believe we don’t matter, we are really saying that we are undeserving of space, that we lack mass. And if we lack mass, we lack substance, and if we lack substance, then we are nothing at all. If we believe we don’t matter, then we are a vacuum, a space where nothing exists.

There is, frankly, so much pain in life. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of denying our own existence, our substance, our right to take up space. We yearn for love, but we forget what it means. We think love is control. We think love is when we meet certain criteria in life. We think love is a have, rather than a will, an act, an intention. This is a crisis of capitalism, but it is also simply a crisis of humanity. To choose to love and care for yourself is not just important, it is survival. It is radical transformation in the face of oppression. It is an affirmation of existence. When I realized this, I made the choice to center my life in all of its facets around love. I have failed a lot since. I have given too much and too little, I have hurt and been hurt. Choosing love is so, so hard. We get lost. We mistake many non-love things for love, we fumble to obtain them, we punish ourselves when we can’t. We get swallowed in the vacuum. It should be the simplest, most innate thing to love ourselves, and yet we struggle to constantly. When I wrote these notes at seventeen years old, I wrote them because I experienced grief for the first time and needed to know why anything was worth it. I needed to know what you find after wading through the excess. I needed to know what we have to live for. So much has changed since then. But this is still true—when you look past the rubbish, love remains. These notes serve as a guide to love as generously, as boundlessly as possible; to

love as an extension both to and of the self without borders. It is frightening to ask these vulnerabilities of ourselves, because to do so means we must challenge the limits we have always known and accept the possibilities of hurt, and pain, and failure as our most earnest selves. But I think there is no other way to live. When you center your life around love, the world opens. It is a risk, but for all of the hurt there is always reason to keep trying. Engaging with love is the only real way that we can learn to see through mess, to connect, and persist, and fight. Love isn’t a commodity. It is a way of living. Self love and self care are about making the choice to see value in ourselves because that is enough. We give ourselves and our lives meaning. We make life worth it and we move onward. It has been a privilege to collaborate with my sister and friends on this project, all of whom I can hold as close as I do in part because of the lessons I learned writing this. Producing this zine together was an act of love in itself, and I cannot thank you enough. For those who read this, if my words might provide you any comfort, I am grateful for that alone. And know this: even if I don’t know you, I love you. I hope in reading this you may feel that too.