I’ve tripped the alarm on my personality more times than I can count. One of the benefits of being stricken with self-denigration is you never really get too attached to a particular way of being. You’re willing to give up however you define yourself in lieu of a vogue disposition appearing to generate positive results.
I was broken inside — torn up and stitched together enough to make it to the finish line, but never actually cross it. Each day was a war, both within my mind and with the opinions of others. This was a time when technology was beginning to burgeon but it hadn’t yet shaped much of how people view themselves.
Fast-forward to now and the bedrock of comparison known as social media has fixated itself on quite the paradoxical hot-button value: self-love .
Something that for much of my life was conspicuously absent.
While self-love is absolutely a critical component to leading a fulfilling life, it’s frankly a bit misunderstood.
Allow me to explain.
Self-love is not isolating yourself from everyone you encounter until you stumble upon perfection. It’s not withdrawing whenever something doesn’t go your way. It’s not consistently skipping work to go to the beach. It’s not expending your annual PTO by the end of February. It’s not justifying yourself. It’s not validating yourself. It’s not “knowing your worth” and projecting it upon everyone you meet. Self-love is supposed to be recipe for success, not failure.
Here’s the golden nugget:
Self-love is never contingent upon what’s happening on the outside. It’s about what’s happening on the inside.
It can’t be based on what other people are or aren’t doing. It can’t be about places you visit. It can’t be about indulgences, pampering, or blowing off steam. It can’t be about resigning from relationships, and it damn sure can’t be about assuming that you’re perfect. The incessant finger-pointing has gotten out of hand.
Real self-love comes from responsibility. It comes from taking ownership. It’s about keeping your humility at the ready and making internal adjustments until you reach a state of empowerment. It’s about holding yourself to account and realizing where you are contributing to the breakdown—effectively rising up to a new and improved version of who you are.
Judgment, resentment, blame, and cynicism are all illusions of empowerment. You’ll feel a false sense of power for a brief, fleeting moment and then it’s steep luge back to square one — left with the same inner disturbance that’s always followed you, clinging on for dear life until you rise above your defensive reactions.
No one’s faulting anyone for honing this perception as guidance. It’s hard-wired into our DNA to protect ourselves and we are not designed for harmonious human interaction.
But resigning back into “who you know yourself to be” and putting the focus on an external factor won’t change anything. And if there’s anything that represents the antitheses of self-love, it’s robbing yourself of the enlivening feeling of growth.
You may feel compelled to bring up anomalies or draw from experiences where what I’m expressing doesn’t apply. My answer to that is if you’re already thinking of ways that let you off the hook, it’s once again the inverse of self-love.
You only get one you. And yeah—fuck yeah—love yourself to smithereens. Enjoy your life to the farthest extent. Just be cognizant of the fact that you’ve got to figure out a way to not only get along with your colleagues of existence, but also make life better for them, too. Running and hiding, or boxing out anything that doesn’t fit perfectly into your map of the world, will only lead to you ending up alone and pretty damn difficult to be around.
Love yourself. You truly are awesome — ringing true of both the greatness you produce currently and the greatness of your potentiality.
However, you’re not perfect. And that doesn’t have to be viewed as a bad thing. It’s quite the opposite: not being perfect is a blessing, in that there’s always hope for something brighter. Life will never be fully lit up, which means we always have something more in us to combat the darkness. It is the way it is, but it never stays the way it is.
With everything passing and going, hope is ubiquitous. It’s effervescent — but not if you bastardize it by abdicating responsibility. At that point, the view certainly does become “just the way it is”.
So cheer up you self-loving dynamo of imperfection. While you can no longer project your fear of not being enough onto other people, have some compassion for yourself. All the answers lie within you if you can simply summon the courage to take the hard, uncomfortable look in the mirror. Once you think you have the source firmly in your grasp, keep looking underneath it. There’s a new story to be written every time you take responsibility.
You’re allowed to be confident. You’re allowed to be secure. You’re even allowed to act like a public nuisance on the dance floor on Friday nights. But please, love yourself enough to stop assuming the way you feel has nothing to do with you.
Take back the castle. Encourage yourself to search and identify where you are the common denominator. You should be sprinting towards it, for what’s available is potential for a better and brighter future.
Keep looking inward. Don’t rob others of their self-discovery by assigning labels or judgments onto them. Let them figure that out for themselves or wait until they ask for the bad news. One of the greatest gifts of life is to discover how big of an asshole you are and that you have the ability to do something about it (Author’s Note: this process is not a quick one).
Apropos of sounding condescending, I’ve probably been a bigger asshole than any of you. Given my ranging personality traits of the past careening from arrogance to cowardice, my views were a toxic cocktail of self-defeating posturing and self-deprecating comparison. I’m not out of the woods yet, either — true self-love is a ongoing campaign with no end in sight and dues must be paid every day.
I know that whatever problem I have in life is mine — no one else’s. I can always do something within myself to see where I screwed up, where I pretended, where I overstepped. I accept my humanity. I renounce being a finished product and I’m done with the defensive responses. I choose to be better.
It is at this point—and not a second before—I can truly understand self-love.