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June 13, 2020

I am Still Learning How to Love Myself.

A yoga teacher recently asked me what I liked about myself, and I didn’t know the answer.

We always read about self-love—how it can improve our relationships and help us navigate life more easily. We’ve all heard about why we should embrace our inner child and how we should only speak to ourselves with kindness and love.

Psychotherapists talk about it. Meditation and spiritual teachers talk about it. The world talks about it.

I should have this concept memorized in every cell of my body after hearing about it so much. But it wasn’t until this morning that I realized my self-love was either missing or hidden somewhere I couldn’t find.

I had an amazing yoga practice with a great YouTube instructor (Fightmaster Yoga) after a meditation practice on my own. Toward the end of the yoga class, while I was resting after Bridge pose, the instructor asked us to think of three things we were grateful for today. Extremely easy. I can easily be thankful for a lot of things in my life!

Then, after another Bridge pose, while I was resting again, she asked us to find three things we really like about ourselves. “Anything,” she reinforced.

My eyes were wide open, and my heart beat faster. I was suddenly stuck. I struggled with the end of the practice. How hard could it be for me to find three little things I like about myself? Anything?

I then had the sad realization that, apparently, it is a lot harder for me to love myself than to love others.

I had my proof right there. My mind relaxed, and my body was vibrant and strong after a beautiful practice, yet I struggled to find an answer.

To be honest, I am still struggling as of right now while I type this article. I know what makes my heart dance with joy. I know how to encounter beauty in the silliest and smallest things in life. Living in gratitude has always seemed natural to me, as I tend to find the positive and beautiful side of all things (except when it comes to me). 

Why is it so hard to find a few things to like about myself? Am I that bad of a person?

I know I’m not. I’m just like all of you, imperfectly perfect. A world of qualities and flaws scooped into one human being. However, I am grateful I was asked this “difficult” question because it made me realize how hard we can be on ourselves.

If you get a piece of paper and create two lists, one with what you like about yourself, and one with what you dislike, many of you might see the “negative” list growing a lot faster than the other. They can eventually catch up, but one thing is certain: it’s quicker and easier to judge than it is to love ourselves.

You could ask, “So what can I do to learn to love myself?” And I’m probably the last person you should pick for advice since I am still learning to love myself too. But I think the simple realization that you tend to criticize yourself more than loving yourself is the first step on the right path.

In my case, I had to hear a question about self-love from a yoga teacher. What about you? What is it going to take to make you realize that sometimes you are too harsh on yourself?

It is a lot easier to indulge in self-blame and guilt and relive past scenarios than to acknowledge all the times you have made someone smile. What will it take for you to recognize the times when someone who was about to cry and was having a bad day had their lives uplifted because of you? To know that because of you someone’s life is better now?

What is it going to take for you to realize that you are so much more than what you think of yourself? What is it going to take for you to realize that you matter?

I remember reading a quote by Matt Kahn that brought joy to my heart:

“If it’s not the way you would talk to a child in need, it shouldn’t be the way you talk to yourself.”

I find that quote relevant to our discussion. I remember having to read it over and over again. That quote helped me realize the self-sabotage and self-shaming patterns I still had in my life, no matter how “awakened” I thought I was. It taught me that despite my imperfections I was doing the best I could, and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. It taught me that I simply shouldn’t be repeating the same mistakes or engaging in painful experiences to “punish” myself. That I should move on and be kinder to my inner child.

After meditating on that quote, I realized I was probably doing well with self-forgiving. I was aware of my own judgemental self, and I was willing to let it all go. But what about loving myself?

Hey, that’s a whole different level!

I can forgive myself, but can I love myself? Fully? To the point where I can look at the person in the mirror, not judge her, and simply love her with all my heart?

Can I see past this person’s physical and emotional imperfections and still love her unconditionally?

I think I can, and I will. But for now, I am simply aware of how hard it is to love myself. And that is okay. It is okay for you, too, if you struggle. Being conscious is the first step (after self-forgiveness).

I was asked by a yoga teacher to find three things I love about myself, and I still stutter to answer. 

And my struggle is making me laugh. At least I love that about myself—my twisted sense of humor that can turn any bad situation into a joke. See? Baby steps.

Because of my own struggles to find that unconditional self-love that makes my blood and heart pump with joy, I am obviously not telling you how to do it. But I can definitely ask you to be aware.

Watch how you think and talk about yourself.

I can ask you to be aware of the negative self-talk. The negative words you say about yourself. The negative and judgemental thoughts about every time you’ve made bad decisions. Every time you didn’t say nice things to or about the people you love. Every time you felt you were being selfish and could have done more to help. Every time you look at yourself in the mirror and curse your beautiful and healthy body for being too much of this or too much of that.

I can tell you that no matter what has happened in your past, those actions shouldn’t stop you from letting go of what no longer serves you. And they definitely shouldn’t stop you from moving on to a more brilliant and loving you.

Self-forgiveness is where it all starts. Actually, if we don’t forgive ourselves, how can we forgive others? It makes no sense. The same logic applies to self-love. I think that we can’t fully love another if we don’t learn to love ourselves. Yes, you can still love, but I’ve heard that loving others after you truly love yourself is a blissful experience.

You have probably heard that cliché over and over again—you’ve probably cursed it. “Stop telling me about self-love! This is so overrated!” But to be honest, self-love is the true, raw nature of being.

Self-love starts with small acts of kindness to ourselves. In my case, it’s my morning yoga practice and dance classes. It’s my meditation. It’s me saying “no” when I need to and taking some time off. It’s listening to my own sadness and realizing that I may not love myself as much as I should. It’s being okay with that as well.

And the same goes for you. Self-love is choosing yourself first, choosing to love your broken and beautiful pieces.

It’s understanding that despite not seeing yourself for who you really are, you know that others are seeing the real “you.” Someone perfectly imperfect, beautifully flawed, ready, and deserving to be loved.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~ Louise Hay

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