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June 1, 2017

The Pitfalls we run into When Learning to Love Ourselves (& How to Avoid Them).

There was a time in my life when self-love was found at the bottom of a bottle.

If I had something to celebrate…wine. A reward? That’ll be a cocktail. Had a crappy day? Tequila!

Alcohol was my everything. The way to manage and regulate my emotions—to avoid the feelings of being too high or too low. At first, it worked brilliantly. But over time, it caused the very thing I was trying to avoid—the lows became super low, and the highs became manic.

But what does this have to do with self-love? Well, as strange as this sounds, at the time, this was my form of self-love. It was my way of acknowledging my feelings and giving myself something, except that something was alcohol.

I had once heard that self-love is asking yourself what you need, and then giving it yourself. The thing is, every time I asked myself what I needed, alcohol was the response. And it came with a heavy price—depression, anxiety, fear, and recklessness.

In the conventional sense, my journey into self-love began when I got sober. There was a huge space to fill, and I had to learn how to fill it. I needed to make my world bigger. It was like learning a foreign language. I practiced—and over time, I learned a bit more. The language sometimes looked very simple, but was new to me.

For example, learning to “indulge” in taking sparkling water to hang out with friends, or not ordering the cheapest entree on the menu so that I could afford that bottle of wine to go along with my meal. After the frustration of “having” to learn a new language passed, I began to actually enjoy this exploration into self-care and worthiness. I got curious, and I got excited. And so, began the next phase.

In my healing journey, I became a sponge, taking in anything and everything I could. I began taking active steps to heal my trauma, much of which was a result of decade-long alcohol abuse. There were some strategies that were more effective than others, but it was rewarding and exhilarating, and it became a new kind of rush.

Whilst my actions were motivated by healing, self-care, and reclaiming my worth—at times, it felt like I had traded one addiction for another, albeit a “healthier” one. Instead of the answer being at the bottom of a bottle, it often seemed it was at the end of the next juice cleanse.

For a long time, I believed self-love was waiting for me after I had read that self-help book, mastered that new yoga pose, or attended a 10-day meditation retreat. Basically, a moving target that could never quite be reached. I always thought I could work hard to become anything I wanted, never stopping to realize that I am already everything I wanted.

When self-love falls into self-improvement, we’ve moved away from the very essence of what self-love is: accepting ourselves just as we are. When we constantly want to fix, improve, or change—when everything we think we want is on the other side of that yoga challenge or detox—then we’re not really living, and we’re certainly not loving.

Self-love is about loving ourselves exactly the way we are in this present moment. Not tomorrow, not the day after, but today. Right here, right now. Self-love doesn’t wait for you to become what it already knows you are. Perfect, whole, beautiful, complete.

For someone whose default is to favor possibility over reality, letting go of a near-constant desire to “improve” or “fix” myself was (and still is) absolutely terrifying. But here’s the thing—once you accept yourself, the world doesn’t end. You don’t end. You keep going, and you keep trying.

You get curious, and you follow your adventure and continue to learn and grow. The only difference is this: Your actions come from a place of love and compassion. You transform with ease, instead of living under a constant pressure to change or morph yourself.

Self-love knows that there is nothing you need to do, nowhere you need to go, and nobody you need to become, because you’re already the person of your dreams. Self-love is about not waiting. You don’t need to wait for anything or anyone to know your self-worth and to realize you are everything.

I am not the first person to say this, but it’s a good reminder nevertheless. In a world that’s built billion-dollar industries on selling us the idea that we’re not good enough exactly as we are (and yes, the yoga and wellness industry is complicit in this too), self-love—rooted in acceptance of who you are right here, right now—is one the most radical acts of our time.

 

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Author: Isa Nakielny
Image: Flickr/Tif Pic
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Isa Nakielny