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“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~ Brené Brown
When the suggestion of self-love is thrown out, I get that it can be incredibly unappealing.
Coming from a place of fluent self-hate, or even low self-esteem, quickly diminishes the belief that loving ourselves is possible, let alone in any way tangible.
I know I’ve definitely balked at this concept in the past, talking myself out of it with my stock phrases of self-criticism.
Coupled with a connotation of cockiness, this topic is one that can be easily pushed down on the list of priorities—left down at the bottom, loaded with potential yet gathering dust.
I can’t stress enough the importance and value in brushing that dust off and giving self-love a shot.
Being who you really are is the privilege of a lifetime.
But when we’re not feeling great about ourselves, low self-esteem and self-doubt team up to deny us of that privilege. We become accustomed to seeking to be anybody but ourselves. We don’t feel good enough or worthy, and risk losing our authenticity by trying to transform into whatever version of perceived perfection we have in mind. We can diet, drink, and escape reality as much as we like but without a basic foundation of self-love, that will all come crashing down.
Makeup, muscle, and people pleasing are no substitutes for realness. It doesn’t last, it doesn’t feel good, and it never feels like enough. In reality, we’re actually all enough exactly as we are right now.
So how do we connect to that fact and finally feel worthy? How do we begin to love who we are?
Here’s how I got started:
Bring awareness to the truth of how you feel about yourself. If you’re anything like how I was, it’s probably a recurrent thought—a depressing diligence toward disliking yourself. Think about how that thought makes you feel, though. It doesn’t exactly perk you up, does it? It doesn’t make you want to do the best for yourself or chase your dreams. It doesn’t make you feel strong or content.
Become aware that feeling like this is neither necessary nor permanent. It’s just a matter of changing how we think about ourselves. Play with the idea of what it could be like to truly like yourself. Think about how you’d like to feel about yourself and start choosing thoughts that create that feeling.
Dive headfirst into the incredible journey of finding out about yourself. Get to know who you are.
It’s fairly challenging to love someone we don’t even know. So get curious—what makes you, you? Working on this creates a solid understanding of all that you actually have to offer—to yourself and others. When it comes down to it, your struggles are not your identity, your fears don’t define you, and your “flaws” are unlikely to be as bad as you think they are.
Spend time exploring the person you are beneath the surface—what you really like and don’t like, what you think about life, your own opinions, your quirks, your strong traits, and your unique idiosyncrasies. This takes time, but it’s worth every single minute as these beautiful details unfold to reveal the real story of you.
3. Tuning In
Realise that others quite probably do not see you the way you see yourself. I think we can become convinced in our negative narcissism that we are awful, unworthy people, yet, we somehow have people around us that can love and care for us. So there’s a significant chance that we’re wrong.
It’s time to stop brushing off compliments and start appreciating them. Everyone who’s nice to you isn’t a liar—take what they say on board. It’s almost an insult to them if you don’t. Collect their compliments like gifts and realise that people don’t hang around you or care for you for no reason.
During my recovery, I literally kept a “compliment notebook” for a while so I could actively take them in and see the evidence stack up that I mightn’t be so bad. That’s of course optional, but do open your ears to the possibility that others see the good in you.
Start looking at yourself through the eyes of loved ones (even your pets if you’re struggling to think of people), and explore what they could be seeing in you.
How grateful are you for what you’ve got? The way you think, your perspective, your qualities, and personality traits are all worth appreciating. Each and every one of us has something unique to offer—we process the world in different ways, we dream about different dreams, different things matter to each of our hearts.
These are the gems that make the world so interesting—that make people attractive and intriguing. These are yours. But you’ve got to notice them and appreciate what you have or else they’re a wasted gift. Take stock of all that you can be thankful for about yourself. Mix it up between body and mind and really consider the vast variety within that you have to be grateful for.
5. Treat Yo’self.
If your inner monologue was played out loud in front of others, how would it sound? Is it harsh, critical, loud, stressful? Would you speak to anyone else the way you speak to yourself? This is an interesting point to really focus on because thoughts create feelings and feelings create behaviours. If we’re being cruel to ourselves in our self-talk, how are we ever going to create feelings or actions of love?
Stop yourself every time you notice a self-deprecating thought coming in and replace it with a more balanced thought or a positive affirmation. When we speak to ourselves, we’ve got to remember that we are always listening. When we act in destructive ways toward ourselves, we are chipping away at our foundations of self-love. Treat yourself with genuine self-care, nourish your needs, and take yourself out into life with a kind hand to hold.
Becoming your own best friend is a profoundly powerful process, and it can be a fun one too. When you tune into what you actually want, you get to provide that for yourself. You can go where you want, try what you like, and meet new people without having to second guess who you are or whether they’ll like you.
People may or may not like everything about you, but it matters a lot less when you’re completely secure within who you are. You create an unfaltering foundation of self-acceptance that makes the need to “fit in” redundant.
I remember hearing the recovery process being compared to a love story and I thought that was brilliant. I would have been a bit allergic to such romantic ideals before, but now I see how true it is.
Treat yourself as though you’re looking to build a relationship. Converse, ask questions, get curious about yourself. Go out on dates, treat yourself nicely. It might sound strange, but if you can’t even stand to be around yourself, how can you expect others to?
It’s an investment in yourself, in your future relationships, dreams, and endeavours.
Plus, we’re neurologically hardwired for connection, so we might as well start with connecting to ourselves.