Thought Catalog
February 1, 2016

How To Love Who You Actually Are

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Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon

Understand that “loving yourself” will never be a point at which you actually, finally arrive. It’s an ongoing process, which is the worst, but that’s just how this whole self-acceptance thing works. You will never reach the finish line of loving who you actually are. It is not a destination, an end goal, the peak of the mountain, the final task you must accomplish.

Loving yourself is never-ending, because your life is fluid, and shit changes every millisecond of every day. Sometimes you’re going to wake up, look in the mirror, and think Damn, I was a really fun person to hang out with at Darren’s birthday dinner last night. Other times, you will lay down in bed, try to fall asleep, and suddenly your brain will set itself on fire with thoughts like Does everyone at work hate me? Am I that person that everyone thinks is talentless and a deadweight? 

You will have moments, sometimes within seconds of each other, in which you feel proud of yourself and disgusted with yourself at the same time. Yeah, I have a ton of awesome friends. But I’m gonna be alone for the rest of my life so who the fuck cares. Or I work really hard at what I do. But I’m sure people find my ambition and work habits to be super annoying or pretentious. 

These moments will never stop. You will never get to a point in your life in which you are totally free from them. Because loving yourself is a constant, consistent fight that is never absent from your day-to-day existence. It is not a topic you have to be actively thinking about for it to affect you. On the contrary, it affects everything you do without you even realizing it. Every action comes with subconscious thoughts like What are people going to think of this? Who’s this gonna impress? Who’s gonna be offended by this? Who’s gonna judge this? Everything you say comes with thoughts like Was that stupid? Was that rude? Do I sound like an asshole? Do I sound funny? Do I sound like someone who would be awful to hang out with? 

People want you to think that loving yourself is a formula, with a specific solution, with a secret ingredient. That’s how they profit from you. You will continue to buy their makeup, their hair products, their expensive suits, their phones, memberships at their gym, sessions with their life coaches. And while none of those things are inherently bad, they do become dangerous when they’re attached to a message that says This is the key. This is the answer. This is what has been missing from your life. This is why you are not good enough. This will fix you. 

You cannot be fixed. Because you are not broken. Maybe you feel broken. Maybe you’ve been through things that almost broke you. Maybe you’ve been through some serious shit that was not fair and was not your fault. And that seriously sucks. But you’re still here, you’re still breathing. You are evolving, growing, fighting, hanging on (even if barely), daring yourself to keep going.

Understand that loving who you are is a process, a lifestyle, a way of looking at the world. It’s not something other people can beat you at. It’s not a race, or a place you’ll get to with your next promotion, your next accomplishment, your next significant other. Loving yourself is a state of being. It’s not about being immune to criticism, doubt, rejection, judgment, or insecurity. It’s about learning to keep going in spite of those things.

Understand that much of the time, loving yourself comes from doing the things that make you feel the most insecure, the most scared, the most uncertain about yourself and any (or all) of your capabilities. The times I’ve felt the most uncomfortable and uneasy with myself (writing, standup comedy, improv, attending a college 500-plus miles from home, accepting jobs that were completely out of my comfort zone, moving to new cities) were also the times in my life that I experienced that most growth, the most enjoyment, the greatest amount of contentedness in spite of my stress, anxiety, and crippling feelings of inadequacy.

I have not reached the finish line of accepting myself, of loving the person that I actually am. But I have reached the understanding that it is a process, a mindset, a terrifying and awful and wonderful experience. I can’t say I wouldn’t prefer it any other way, because everything would suck a lot less if “learning to love who you actually are” had an end point that you could run to. But it doesn’t. So you must learn to accept the process, the never-ending state of being. At the very least, life becomes a whole lot easier when you understand that you are not in competition with everyone around you, that they are no closer to reaching self-acceptance and self-love than you are – simply because that’s impossible, because self-love is not a place or location or milestone. Self-love is a point of view, a mindset; it is a (God I hate myself for using this word) journey.

You’ll never get there. But you can be there. Right now. TC mark

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