Self-love is not a commodity.
You can take luxurious lavender bubble baths and still hate yourself.
You can clean up your diet, eat organic food, and still hate yourself.
You can go to yoga and still hate yourself.
You can buy plush home decor, repeat complicated mantras, and still hate yourself.
Yes, all that stuff can be important and nourishing…but it’s not everything.
I should know—as someone who frantically turns to self-care to save myself and sometimes spends a pretty penny on luxury wellness items—I see that it doesn’t fix everything. Not even close.
It can’t—not when there are empty, wounded parts of us that we are desperately trying to avoid.
Self-love is, as I have always suspected, a thing of depth and raw, glittering, gritty beauty.
It is about learning how to show up for the most broken parts of ourselves.
The wounded, weary, controlling, critical, mad, jealous, and sad parts.
All of those parts of us that we don’t want anyone to see. Ever.
You know, the sh*t that comes up in our most intimate relationships and dang, we are doing everything we can to push it back down.
Self-love is not a four-second quick fix you can get in an online class through repeating positive affirmations while some distant part of you thinks it is utter bullsh*t—and at the end of the day, you don’t really believe a word of it.
The real secret, the real juiciness is this: connect with that part.
The one who doesn’t believe, the one who fears, who worries, who hurts so much.
The one who is armored up, sassy, lonely, and oh-so-suspicious.
In therapy, we say “meet the client where they are.”
And in our self-love practices too—meet the aching, hurting, pissed off parts right where they are.
Don’t ask them to change or “be positive” immediately. Don’t try to fix them or think you can evaporate their fears or anger with pure reason or logic.
Instead—connect. Or rather, reconnect, with these distant parts of yourself that seem stuck in time, from childhood and beyond.
Imagine that you are able to sit with them. Color with them. Ask them to go for a walk if they don’t want to talk. Hug them if they are ready. Listen. Be quiet and gentle as they cry frozen tears from 20 years ago.
And maybe, you will come to see these parts with softer eyes. Maybe you will lean in so sweetly and come to understand how those not-so-pretty feelings make so much sense. Maybe you will see the absolute beauty and resilience shining through—even if those parts are still aching. Still angry. Still stung with jealousy, or wanting of revenge. Still feeling ugly or anxious.
It takes real courage, doesn’t it?
Self-love is not this pretty thing sold on social media like candy. It is not a trend.
It is a lifelong journey. It is powerful. And yes, it is surprisingly sweet.
But it will also take us through the muck, through hell and back, through the absolute depths of our beings.
And honestly, I wouldn’t want the quick four-second fix that only skims the whipped-cream surface.
I want the cracks and crumbles, the disappointment and uncertainty, the secret joy, the vulnerable shakes, the sighs of relief after letting sobs rumble and rattle through of my rib cage.
I want it all.
I want the change that happens naturally because I’ve learned to care for myself in a deep and real way.
In this process, I become more whole—more human. I become softer. I don’t numb out or avoid my feelings with fancy products that promise me the world, wine, or empty sex. I don’t overthink everything or get lost in the tangled highways of my mind.
I embrace feeling. I face my feelings—the ones from today and the ones from a long time ago.
My sharp judgements of other people (rooted in the webs of my own fears, self-criticism, and wounds) seem to subtly dissipate, like smoke gently curling out the window into a warm, evening wind.
It is not perfect, and I’m not perfect. It’s hard sometimes. There are days where I wake up raw as hell on the wrong side of the bed, berate myself, and am snippy or critical to those I love.
That’s okay. But what I know now, what I am learning every day is this: the crappy times and crappy emotions are the perfect opportunity to show up for ourselves and lean in.
Author’s note: This article was inspired by the work of Dr. Emily Colwell