Do you love yourself?
I should probably give you a moment to reflect on this question. No one’s watching, so take as long as you need. Do you love yourself? Do you love who you are emotionally, spiritually, physically? Do you love waking up in the morning being you, do you love the actions you take throughout the day, the way you handle the issues in your life, the way you experience your life?
This is a moment you may take to honestly ask yourself this. For a lot of people, I expect, this is a hard question to face. We may lie to ourselves, and say that we do love ourselves, except we would change this one tiny thing, and now that we think about it, also this other thing, and actually, maybe not “love,” but we’re all right with ourselves.
I think if someone asked me six months ago, in a really meaningful way, if I loved myself, I might have just started crying in response. I’m definitely a more sensitive person in general, but I think that question would have made me face something that I hadn’t even really thought about. People have asked me if I’m happy, people have even asked me what I want out of life, but people don’t seem to ask each other if they love themselves.
I didn’t think about self-love. I was who I was, and I was stuck with myself either way, so I didn’t know it mattered how I regarded myself. “I’m me whether I want to be or not! So I guess I’ll just have to deal with me. Ha!” Maybe I would have laughed off the question. Maybe I would have taken a cynical route, and replied, “Oh I hate myself,” brushing off the question. Or I would have taken on a facetious persona, declaring that I was the only person I knew who was worth loving! Regardless, the question would have made me uncomfortable no matter what mood I was in or no matter how I responded.
Things are different now.
We are not meant to hate ourselves. That is something we learn, we acquire. It happens very early in some people’s lives–achingly early, sometimes–and later, for others. But it seems very common that we do, in fact, learn very clearly that we are to hate ourselves. Deeply, inherently, and hopelessly.
As a little kid, you watch an ad on tv: “Unwanted belly fat? Zap that gross excess away with our conveniently expensive product! Buy now!” As a little girl, some random boy on the playground tells you that you have a witch’s nose. As a little boy, you’re ridiculed by your relatives for crying after you skinned your knee. We see “Who wore it better?” articles pitting a beautiful woman against another beautiful woman, one of them deemed slightly less attractive than the other, and thus an embarrassment. Our self-image is altered and distorted based on companies trying to convince us there is something wrong with how we look (a “problem” about us that we may not have even noticed before) and that we will be happy and well-liked if we purchase it. We get manipulated into hating ourselves because other people take their own unhappiness out on us. We learn to find our worth in how the world sees us. And this stuff sticks with us. This self-hatred we learn, those insults that schoolchildren tossed around about us, those feelings of inadequacy are resilient. They grow up with us, and eat at us for what could be the rest of our lives.
How we grew up is not our fault. It’s not our fault that companies need to make money. It’s not our fault that other people are unhappy, so they take out their negativity on us in cruel expressions. It’s not our fault that we learned to hate ourselves. It’s not your fault if you’re sensitive, and if it hurts all the same even when you “know” the truth about you.
But here we all are, now. We grew up. We made it through the bullshit, through the mean kids, through the awkward puberty phase, through all that junk that helped us form these critical ideas about ourselves.
Are you still hanging onto all that?
Here’s the thing about self-love: it’s entirely up to you. No one in this entire world can make you love yourself but you. Other people can help you, but ultimately, you are the person who has to decide to stop hating yourself. You have to decide to put in the emotional energy to work on it for yourself, for the sake of your own life.
No one can compliment you into loving yourself. No one can make you feel inherent love for yourself. Self-love is something you need to manifest in yourself. It is not always easy. It is not always quick. Keep trying anyway, because one thing you will learn is that you are strong enough to love yourself. You have it in you. It’s all right there.
It is truly something you have to do for yourself. When you love yourself, everything about your life will improve. You will love living your life because you will love you, the number one person you have to deal with in your life. You will love getting to know the person you are, and you will love watching yourself grow and improve every day. With each new challenge that you encounter, you will love and respect yourself. You will feel more patient with yourself. You won’t feel the need to punish yourself for the same small things over and over again. You won’t compare yourself to others, because you’re not them, you’re you–and you are excited to be you. You won’t need to worry about what other people are doing because you’re doing your own thing with your life. You won’t care so much about what other people think of you (good or bad) because you will know and love yourself, and you will derive your own validation from your own heart. You will know that you are a good person and that you love you. Nothing feels greater than that. You will be able to relax.
When you feel better about yourself, you feel better about everything. You won’t care if your friends “like” your Facebook post because you feel secure about yourself. You won’t get upset when your customer is being a jackass because you respect yourself enough to not ruin your precious day over something so trivial and short-lasting. You won’t beat yourself up for making a simple mistake because you know you tried your best, and you can move forward from it. And most of all, you will start to feel love for everything around you, and enjoy the small things, the quiet moments, because you’re able to show the world the best love your heart can share. You will respect the “now,” focus your energy on the present, and feel more rewarded for each breath.
I don’t want to be sixty years old and still insecure about the same things I was when I was thirteen. At what point do we let go of all the hatred we have learned to feel about ourselves? It could be right now, if you will it. Because the things about our appearance we hate, we don’t need to hate. And the things we hate about our personality, we don’t need to hate. The loud person and the quiet person both serve different functions in a social setting! If everybody were loud, who would listen? If everybody were stoic and calm, who would cry, who would write beautiful poetry? If everybody looked like one body type, beauty would be so boring. It’s our quirks, our differences, that make us different, that make us who we are. I know you’ve heard it before, but think about that. Your “big feet” (or what-have-you, whatever real or imagined “imperfection” you pay attention to about yourself) are a part of you. And you love yourself. In and out. Doesn’t it feel good to be you? To fully realize yourself, and appreciate yourself? You don’t have to look like anybody else! You only have to live your own truth. Anybody that tells you to change something that is inherently “you” isn’t somebody who really loves you. Including yourself.
I have spent so much of my life hating myself. Wishing I was different, feeling inadequate, taking things personally, projecting my own self-hatred onto my interpretations of how others felt about me, seeking and seeking external validation, feeling hopeless about my life, trying to change so many different things about me, punishing myself for my “shortcomings,” holding myself up against others and critiquing every different facet of who I was as though I failed to meet a prescription of who I should be and how I should look.
I’m not hating myself anymore. I’m not telling myself I should “be more like” anyone else. I’m not despairing over all the different beautiful women that I don’t look like. I live my own life. I do my own thing. I live my own truth. I don’t worry about how other people feel about me because I love myself and I share as much love with others as I can and if that’s not enough or not the “right” kind of love in other people’s opinions, I’m okay because I know myself and I know I do my best. I know what I’ve been through, I know who I am, and I know the love I give to this world and I love myself for all that in a way that no one else ever could. In a beautiful, rewarding, unconditional way. And then I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to fear. I only enjoy my life, and grow every day in who I am. Tomorrow is another day. If I disappoint myself, I try again. I believe in me.
I have dealt with depression for a long time, and not until recently did I realize that so much of my unhappiness stemmed from self-hatred, which manifested itself in so many different monsters. And it was really addressing this, really taking a look at how I felt about myself and deciding that I wasn’t going to be my own victim anymore, that I have the power to love myself, that has changed a lot about my life already.
Everybody loves themselves in their own way, because we’re all different. For me, it’s important that I reserve time slots where I can have solitude, and write in my journal and read. During these times, I like to reflect on the positive things about myself and how I live my life, and I feel rejuvenated afterwards. Right now, it’s important that I frequently remind myself to love myself, because I’m still working on it. I’m building myself up.
We are not inherently meant to hate ourselves. That is something we acquire. Love comes naturally, though. We never need to learn love. That is something we have in our hearts essentially. Don’t block yourself from loving you. Deconstruct your self-hatred, and let the love that your heart so greatly wants to feel, yet is so scared to feel, flow.
Self-love is so gratifying, so essential, so beautiful. It won’t automatically solve all your problems, but if you want your soul to thrive more, it’s a necessary step that will bring you closer to happiness and peace. When you love yourself, you love life more. And so I will ask you again, so that, after hearing my piece about it, you can really reflect on this question and feel motivated to seek your own truths, your own love for the quintessential You:
Do you love yourself?