My journey to loving myself- like most people's- hasn't been the easiest or the fastest. Self love was a very foreign idea to me at the time. Love? Myself? But that's not being humble.. that's being self centered and conceited! That's why society (and the native culture I grew up with) taught me. I just need to love others, they will love me, and so I don't need to love myself! Right?
By loving myself, I don't mean I want to marry myself and go to the top of the roof and shout "I love me!!!!" But one of those loves that is deep and solid. Like the unconditional love a mother has for her baby, or the love that you have for your childhood dog or cat. It's that feeling of entire acceptance, warm and eternal forgiveness, and unwavering loyalty that encompasses all of us.
In my very short life, I've gone through perfectionism pressures (mostly from myself), an eating disorder, relationships that didn't serve me, constant invalidation, and anxiety. I was forced to go from one end of completely forgetting myself to the other end of truly embracing, forgiving, and loving myself. I don't think the journey to self love will ever end because there are so many things about myself I have yet to learn and yet to love. So I'd like to see these as a short list of things practicing self love has done for me.
I like to attribute a lot of my behavioral patterns to my upbringing as the youngest child. I am the youngest of 4 siblings, and they were all 7-10 years older than me so I was always the one just following commands. Doing what I was told by pretty much 5 other elders who were much higher up the chain of command I could ever be during that time. As a survival mechanism, I wanted acceptance, safety, and very little conflict. Because conflict in my mind meant no acceptance or safety. It's equivalent to a baby bird doing life right otherwise his mom would pick him up off the nest and drop him. Obviously that wouldn't happen but that's how I saw life as a child.
Learning self-love meant unlearning the idea that if everyone else was happy, I could be happy. Because when everyone is gone and I am by myself, who would I rely on to be happy? I had to find the happiness within myself and be confident and courageous enough to fight for it.
Self love meant I, now an adult, had to fend for my preferences, stand up for my own safety, and be my own boss. Additionally, loving myself allowed me to step more bravely in life knowing that I am my own caretaker and that I am doing it well. At least, so far.
This goes along with confidence, but more specifically about the language I want to speak to the world. After strengthening my own wings and learning I could fly, I also realized that could not only fly any direction I wanted, but also any way I want.
I hid behind the definitions that other people put on me because I wanted to feel safe and accepted. But that can backfire because if no one defines me, who am I? If their definitions of me aren't true or aren't what I want, then who actually am I? Which led me to realized that I define me. And I define the way I walk my life. I define the colors I like, the interior design I prefer, and the career that makes me happy.
I imagine that when I have a child, I would be so excited about them defining their own style. I would want to encourage them to be who they want to be and I would love to see them go wherever and however far that they choose to. So why not give that same encouragement and support to myself? All answers, if I ever try to answer them, falter.
"I'm not good enough." Good enough for what? To who? And why?
"They won't like it." Who won't? Does it change the kind of person you are? Does it change your morals and values?
So, I really have little reason not to do what I want in the way I want it. If I didn't live the way I wanted to live, I really end up suppressing that inner child which doesn't feel like true love in the long term.
Loving myself has taught me where true motivation should stem from. I like to keep my future child as an image in my mind when I think about self love because I am really just nurturing and comforting that little one in the depths of my mind. I want my future child to grow and do great things to spread more love to others and because they truly enjoy that line of work. I want my future child to succeed because they enjoyed the process and really felt they had the skills and competence to do whatever they succeed in. I want my future child to truly feel they love whatever and whoever they come into contact with to make their dreams happen.
Replace "future" with "inner" and you get the next lesson self-love has taught me. It feels good to serve others from a place of love for yourself. It feels good to excel when it comes from a place of compassion and pure acceptance.
I used to be motivated by fear of losing acceptance, pressure from society, comparing myself to others, etc. But I realized that those motivations only have so much battery power whereas the motivation to love and serve others like I would serve myself and my future and inner child never runs out.
Better Decision Making
This is honestly a lesson I've solidified last year. I rented an apartment with my partner because it was cheap, convenient at the time, and in the city that is close to my friends and family. Little did I know how dissatisfied I would be with my quality of life. I tried to hold on and push through as much as possible but waking up everyday to new problems with the structure of the place was stressing me out and ultimately causing me to break out in rashes and eczema flare ups.
I'll save you the laundry list of reasons why I finally, after 10 months of hating my environment, decided to get up and take ultimate charge and move out. Sure, working from home and taking classes from home probably exacerbated my exhaustion with my quality of life, but I'm going to be doing this for the next few years anyway so I don't think it was a bad thing to happen.
I wanted to blame so many people for this. I immediately wanted to outsource my feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction to everyone and everything but myself. I think we're scared of finding the blame in our own actions and previous thoughts because it would suggest we're horrible people. But learning to forgive myself as I would a friend or my future child actually meant practicing. And I practiced, I looked for the root of the problem and found that I let this happen and I ignored the red flags.
Normally we think about red flags in other people i.e. relationships/dating but rarely think about red flags that come up in our day-to-day. With this place, I saw the red flags but hoped they were just a one-off occasion. I hoped I could push through it rather than listen to my intuition and just let go and go. I didn't listen to my intuition. I didn't listen to my intuition. Instead of beating myself up for it, I've learned to forgive and then make better decisions. "That's okay love! You're safe which is all that matters! Just don't cross the street without looking next time!" If only we could all talk to ourselves like that so willingly and so quickly.
Because of all this, I've decided that I will sacrifice more money and the pain of moving all my items again, just for a better quality of life. This feels like love to me.
With better decisions, confidence, style, and love-led motivation, self-love has taught me to start respecting my body as I would respect another person's body. And eventually to celebrate and fully embrace my body. This isn't an easy thing and I still feel I'm not 100% there for reasons that honestly don't make too much sense to me right now but I'm just letting them be for as long as I need to feel them.
I've learned that feeding my body, cleaning my body, moving my body, exposing my body to daytime sunlight, socializing my body (safely) are all acts of self love. They are all acts of taking care of my inner child so that it knows we are safe, we are worthy, we are accepted, and we are forgiven for anything in all shapes, sizes, colors, and states of health.
Overall health also means health in mind and spirit as well. Taking the time to be by myself is no longer as selfish as it used to sound in my childhood and teens. When I am recharging and resting, I am making myself a better vessel to serve others and I am also showing my body that it is safe to rest and find refuge. It is safe to ask for rest and clarity.
There are many many other lessons that self love has taught me but these are the most prominent ones that came to my mind. What lesson has self love taught you? I'd love to read about it.