Do you cringe just reading that word? I used to all the time. At first, self love made me think of some like hippie, Buddha type of “finding yourself” and the “love within”. But honestly, it’s way more complex than that. Self love is a hard concept to grasp at a ripe young age of 15 or so. That’s when hormones go flying and you start comparing yourself with literally every single person in the world. Some girl in your class has black hair and you think your blonde hair is boring. Some boy in your class has a crush on a girl with glasses and you decide maybe you should get a pair to see if a boy will like you. None of that thinking is rational, but what part of your life is rational at that age anyways? And as you get older and mature, it’s like that thought process follows you around wherever you go. Self love is hard to find when all you do day in and day out is compare yourself to people who are never going to be YOU. And you start to put your trust, faith and love into other people. And there is nothing wrong with that, except you don’t leave any love for yourself.
I was that girl a long time ago. I thought there were so many girls that were way prettier than me, cooler than me, funnier than me. I focused my energy on finding all of the things I hated about myself and changing them. I focused on telling myself every day in the mirror the things that were “wrong” with me, and never anything positive flew from my mouth. I compared my life to others countless of times, wondering how I could have what they have. I wondered why I had to go through certain things that none of my friends seemed to have to go through. Instead of loving myself, and going easy on myself, I was my toughest critic. No one disliked me the way I disliked me. I was like a masochist. And as I continued to grow up as an angsty teenager, I had others who liked to put me down as well. Boys telling you you aren’t even worth their time, one even not having the guts to tell you it’s over. Girls making snide comments when you walk down the hall because they don’t understand why you continue to hide behind that “tough girl” persona. I started to resent basically everything I was, and everything everyone thought of me to be. I decided instead of trying to be “soft” and open to everyone and spread joy, I would cut anyone off that tried to get too close to me, so I could cause them pain instead of the other way around. Then, I decided I liked the response I got from people when I decided to start acting like a teenage asshole. People were actually scared of me. I always had some smart ass comment to make about everything and I would walk down the halls with my headphones in drowning out the sea of people I had no interest in befriending. I was like that for almost two years, right up until senior year.
Now I don’t really know the exact moment I realized how much of a jerk I had become, but I did realize it. I felt lonely. Most of my friends weren’t really my friends anymore because they got tired of hearing my negativity, they got tired of my actions. There was no big moment though that made me think “aha, this persona isn’t working, this self hate is debilitating”. I just slowly started to realize I didn’t have to be the way I was. I realized after a long time of hating myself and everything I stood for, that other people were struggling just as I was. And that I wasn’t aiding in acting the way I did, but I was truly hurting some people due to who I had become. And I got to the root of the problem. I was self loathing. I had no ounce of respect for myself to even try to love who I was. And that caused my heart to ache. I’m a cancer, if you don’t know that, and cancers are sensitive people. And that whole time I was fighting myself on caring or loving basically anything. There’s a quote that I stumbled upon a few years ago that says, “If you keep avoiding self love, the universe will keep sending you people who also avoid loving you, hoping you get a little clue…”. And for some reason, that quote came back to me and I kept over-analyzing like I always do, trying to think of how that pertained to me. Despite the fact that I had this tough exterior, I really did love so many people. And none of them seemed to love me like I loved them. And I thought to myself, maybe that’s why no one loved me like I loved them, maybe it’s because I allowed them to think I didn’t even love myself. So why would they waste their time trying to love me back?
That didn’t settle well with me, and over time I have learned to celebrate my setbacks because they always lead me to comebacks. I have learned to challenge myself to be more, say more, do more. I have learned that the only person that will 110% of the time have my back, is myself. And if that’s who I have to rely on, then by god, I will have to trust myself. I realized that some of the things I absolutely couldn’t stand about myself, other people found amazing. I over think and feel way too much, but others think that’s a super power. I can basically feel what anyone around me is feeling to the depth of my soul and it helps me connect with people. I am fiercely loyal to my friends and family, and I used to think of that as a fault because I hated that I left myself so vulnerable to others. I started to really understand that self love didn’t mean you had to love every single thing about you, but just respect who you are as a person and celebrate your flaws despite yourself. I learned that when you begin to love yourself, to completely, unapologetically be who you are…. other people want to get to know YOU. They want to celebrate who you are with you. They start to see the joy you have in simple things and love that about you. They begin to come to you when they are having doubts about how great they are and lean on you, so you can help them find their own self love. And there is no better feeling in the world to me, than to know I have helped another person in any way, shape or form, by being me. By loving myself, and in turn loving others even more. So to the girl/guy who currently feels lost, unloved, or unworthy of someone loving them, you aren’t alone. And I can promise you there is some part of you that other people would really enjoy if you let them in. If you could find your own strength to pick yourself up and love on yourself. If you could see the greatness that is you, that other people see. I have given this so much thought. I do believe despite how cold, calculating, depressed, angry, hateful or rude someone is, there is something….some little part of them that craves love. And if only they could see how much love they could have, if they opened themselves up, and began to love who they are…
Some of my tips for learning to love yourself or practicing self care:
- Stop comparing your life to others, no one has a perfect life. Every time I have ever felt like someone’s life is better than mine, I have found out later after talking with them that they too have been dealing with things that have hurt them.
- Every day, find one thing to celebrate about yourself. One personality trait, physical trait, something.
- Put more effort into loving others, they also can help you find other things about yourself you would have never seen without their guidance.
- Stop being your worst enemy. Learn from your mistakes, and MOVE ON.
- Find things that really bring you joy, things you are passionate about. And don’t let anyone dissuade you from doing them.
- Stay away from toxic people. You know those people I am talking about, the ones who never seem to have a positive thing come from their mouths. The ones who thrive on bringing others down with them. You cannot let them win.
- Exercise. When you exercise, its been proven that chemicals in your brain lead you to feeling happy and helps with mental health. I have never felt better than after a really good workout. My muscles might ache and I can’t sit on the toilet to pee the next day, but dang do I feel good about myself.
- Take baths. Now, there is no proven science fact that says this helps. But sometimes a nice bubble bath and a good book really help me clear my mind and just relax.
- Be comfortable enough to talk about your flaws, and if they are really toxic, change them. Better yourself. Continuously grow.
- Help others. There is no better way to feel good about yourself than giving selflessly to others and making people feel loved.
So I’ll leave you with some self love quotes that motivate me every day and if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask for help. From me, or someone else you know. There’s someone out in the world who knows just what it feels like to be lost.
“It’s not your fault and you aren’t less than enough. You aren’t what they did to you. You aren’t that person that grew in all crooked and bent under the pressure of what happened to you. You aren’t awkwardness that came from being stepped on and over-pruned. You are the spirit that survived. You are the deep roots that continued to grow beneath the surface even when you were outwardly rejected. You are the life that went on despite being mowed over time and time again. You are the beauty that remained, waiting patiently for the right time to bloom. And now, because you held on even when the world turned away, your strength and compassion are the kind that know no end. You, my dear, are so much more than enough. You are exceptional- because you survived, because you beat the odds, because you are a warrior, a self-taught healer, and because you have become a beacon of hope for others who suffered like you.” -Cristen Rodgers
“Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” – Rudy Francisco
“Self love is an ocean and your heart is a vessel. Make it full, and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.” -Beau Taplin
“In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.” -Rachel Brathen