“You deserve the love you keep trying to give everyone else.” ~ Bianca Sparacino
As a little girl, my father would have me recite the answers to three fundamental questions:
Dad: Who’s smart?
Me: I am.
Dad: Who’s beautiful?
Me: I am.
Dad: Who do you love?
I would then get a hug or a kiss that reassured me I had answered correctly. My father knew how essential it was for a young girl to see herself as smart and beautiful. He knew that self-love would be crucial in determining how I’d interact with others, and so he made it a priority to remind me to love myself regularly.
Although this was a great start in fostering self-love, it is not always as easy as simply responding to a question, although we try to make it so. If we were to ask others if they love themselves, they may answer in a matter of fact kind of way; that “of course I do” response suggests the very idea of asking that question is somewhat offensive.
But what does it mean if we do not love ourselves? The alternative conjures up images too shameful to be acknowledged.
From a very young age, we are taught to be kind to others, to share, and to practice forgiveness. While this is all good and well, too often we learn how to be kind to ourselves only after a good verbal beatdown—by none other than ourselves.
We all have moments when we allow negative self-talk to diminish our level of self-love. Choosing to believe that we are not worthy of a promotion, a relationship, or even of help from others are all examples of moments when self-love becomes tainted. Rather than address the barriers that block our self-love, oftentimes we begin to look to others for the things we do not see in ourselves.
I remember a time when I was in a relationship with someone I thought was the man of my dreams. He was everything I wanted in a partner: tall, dark, handsome, ambitious, and successful. In my eyes, he could do no wrong.
I gave so much of my love to this person, that one day I asked myself, “Do you love yourself the way you love him?”
This was a profound and honest question that made me think more extensively about how I loved myself. It goes even deeper than an intimate relationship with another, because our relationships are a reflection of how we know ourselves or how we wish to be known.
Although you may have heard that loving yourself is necessary in order to love others or walk through life with high self-esteem, the true test of these words often comes after years of trial and error.
Self-love, like any other relationship, requires effort and daily maintenance—and I’m not talking about wearing the hottest outfit or having your hair and makeup slayed. Loving yourself requires repeated forgiveness and compassion. It requires the understanding that growth is often awkward and unruly, but you learn to love yourself in spite of the imperfections.
Most people know how to love themselves after a major accomplishment or when they are in a loving relationship, but the art of self-love is best realized when we’re not at our best.
Love yourself after you’ve gained 10 pounds during the summer.
Love yourself when you don’t land that dream job.
Love yourself when you say that silly remark and no one laughs.
Recognize that loving yourself is embracing your flaws as imperfectly perfect.
Do not be afraid of becoming selfish, because loving yourself never takes away from a relationship—it only adds to it. When you truly love yourself, you realize that there is nothing external—no bag, shoe, person, or achievement—that can add to the love you find within.
What can we do to show that we are intrinsically invested in ourselves? How can we nurture our relationship with self?
The way you can achieve self-love is to challenge every negative thought that you may have about yourself with a positive one. Become conscious of the messages you tell yourself in your silent thoughts. Even saying a simple mantra, such as “I love myself” or “In this moment, I am enough,” each time you are tempted to think otherwise can drastically change the way you see yourself.
Another way to show yourself love is to write down encouraging quotes that inspire you and remind you of how valued you are. Leave these notes in places where you may become stressed, for example at work or in your car.
Remember to take time to care for yourself. This means honoring yourself enough to do the things that bring you joy. It could be a hobby, hanging out with a close friend, or taking a warm, candle-lit bubble bath. Treat yourself to something special as a reminder that you are loved and cared for. Do not wait on others to do this for you.
The truth is, we all have moments when loving ourselves is hard to do. It could be because of painful past experiences or a series of setbacks that now have us doubting who we are.
The key is not to allow these moments to become the lens through which we see ourselves. We have to be relentless lovers, willing to provide ourselves with the encouragement and compassion we are always trying to give to someone else.
Like any art form, it may take time and dedication before we get it right, but we are well worth the effort.
Author: Kamaria G. Powell
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Taia Butler
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman