When I initially discovered Gala Darling online, I thought she was self-absorbed. She was always posting outfit photos and linking incessantly to her blog, and I thought, “Wow, she really thinks highly of herself.” Hypocritical, for sure, since I was also posting outfit photos and blogging at that time. What an oaf I was.
Little did I know, this kind of snap judgment about women’s right (or lack thereof) to proudly love ourselves is exactly the kind of thinking that Gala seeks to dismantle in her work on radical self-love. And it’s exactly the kind of thinking I badly needed to dismantle in myself at that time.
At age 14, I was a surly, snotty, deeply insecure dork. I believed with certainty that I was ugly and unloveable. I felt awkward in my body, hiding away my curvy femme flair in baggy, masculine clothes. I hated most people I met, because I projected my insecurities onto them and that made me perceive them as shallow, mean, boring, and stupid. I thought I was smarter than everyone – my friends, my family, even my teachers – and that made me feel desperately alone, like no one understood me. Classic teenager, right?
Worse yet, some part of me believed this negative viewpoint made me special and unique. My bitter façade felt central to my identity. I thought my sarcastic snark was all I had to offer, because (I thought) I wasn’t pretty, sexy, or worthy of love. If I could be dark and sharp, hardened and smart, at least I’d be something.
Oh, I was “something” alright. If by “something,” I mean “miserable.”
When curiosity finally got the better of me, I clicked through to Gala Darling’s website after seeing her link to it in many an outfit photo description. And as I read page after page of her blog – first begrudgingly, then perplexedly, then rabidly – I felt something once-solid inside me start to break down and shift.
Gala wrote about positivity, love, living a celebratory life, unconventional personal style, treating people well, kissing, blogging, confidence, and embracing your inner nerd. She wrote about getting dressed up for the sheer joy of it, courting yourself like you were your own cherished lover, and making your daily life lovelier. She wrote about sex appeal, magic, and knotted pearl necklaces. I loved her, immediately and profoundly.
In the days after combing through Gala’s entire blog archive, taking fervent notes in my Moleskine the whole time, something remarkable happened to me. I found myself starting to feel happier, lighter, more self-loving and self-accepting. And to my immense surprise, that feeling didn’t go away.
A lot of Gala’s writings about self-love resemble a framework I now recognize as cognitive-behavioral. That is to say: she addresses your tangled thoughts, in all their maladaptive disarray, and your actions, encouraging you to actually go out and do things differently.
I did a whole lot of things differently in the months after devouring Gala’s blog. I started making gratitude lists, began dressing how I actually wanted to dress, and set concrete goals for myself that I started moving toward, little by little, day by day. All of those habits are still with me today, and they’ve completely transformed my life. I honestly don’t know who I’d be right now if Gala Darling hadn’t entered my world.
So, needless to say, I was over the moon when – after almost a decade of following Gala’s adventures like her writing was gospel – I finally got to meet her in person this past May.
I was visiting New York for a threesome, because of course I was. Gala had mentioned, on numerous occasions, her love of witchy East Village shop Enchantments, where you can buy all manner of occult treasures: incense, essential oils, herbs, tarot cards, and talismans. I tweeted about wanting to visit Enchantments while I was in town, and Gala asked if I wanted a “witchy date” to accompany me. Um, yes, I very very very much did.
We made plans, and met up on my last day in New York in the dark, cozy, half-underground front room of Enchantments. I was nervous, but I was also surprised by how easy our rapport was, right off the bat: it felt like I’d known her for years, because in some sense, I had. We hugged, and chatted about our lives, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Enchantments’ most exciting offering, if you ask me, is their custom-made spell candles. They’re enormous pillar candles, colored and carved and anointed and blessed according to whatever specific concerns are troubling you in your life. I told the shop’s resident witches about my romantic situation at the time: a hopeless crush on someone who would never love me back, and a string of recent bad relationship decisions that probably stemmed from the distraction caused by that endless crush. They listened to my tale of woe and determined I’d be most benefited by a “Love Uncrossing” candle, which can help clear psychological blocks around love and promote clarity in that area. The witches asked me for some other details, like my name and astrological sign, and had me taste some ceremonial honey as part of the process. Then Gala and I absconded to a café to sit and chat while my candle was being prepared.
After she bought me a frozen hazelnut latte with almond milk (the yummiest, and such a sweet gesture), we sat down and talked for ages, about blogging, boys, sex, Tinder, goals, and so much more. I felt like I was in a dream – one of those dreams where you inexplicably get to sit down with your hero and ask them all the questions you’ve always wanted to ask them. It was weird and wonderful and I couldn’t believe it was real.
The aforementioned romantic situation was very much on my mind at that time, so I may have sliiiightly talked Gala’s ear off about it. But she was so gracious and kind. She told me she thought I should cut off contact with the boy whose lack of affection for me was hurting me every day, even though my poor smitten heart wanted nothing more than to be with him all the time. He was just taking up space in my life, she said, that could be better filled by people who actually would love me and treat me right.
It’s funny how you can read about a concept at length, and understand it on the theoretical level, but still suck at actually implementing it. That’s how I am with self-love, sometimes. If a friend of mine told me she was stuck on some dumb boy who didn’t like her back, and it was breaking her heart every day, I know exactly what I’d tell her. I’d tell her she deserved better, that he didn’t know what he was missing, and that her time and energy would be better spent nixing him from her life and moving on than pining and obsessing. It would be tough advice to hear, but it would be rooted only in my love for her. And of course, that’s the same advice I want to give myself, when I’m truly radiating and living self-love.
Gala is my idol, so when she told me I should phase that dude out of my life and move the fuck on, I listened. I’m not saying I cut him out of my social sphere entirely, or vowed to tell off anyone who mistreated me from then on, or announced a dating hiatus while working on my self-love; after all, I’m only human, and I’m prone to backsliding like anyone is. But Gala reminded me of what she’s been teaching me all these many years, over and over again, in so many ways: that I am worthy of love, even (and perhaps especially) when I’m the only one who’s madly in love with me.
I’m so lucky. This year I got to meet two of my heroes, two of the people who shaped me for the better at crucial times in my life: Kidder Kaper, and Gala. In both cases, they taught me things that made me want to do better, live better, and be better.
I realized recently that now, at 24, I’m as old as Gala was when I discovered her blog and it changed my goddamn life. And if that doesn’t make me want to be a beacon of light every day, writing helpfully and openheartedly for the people who need to hear what I have to say, then nothing will.