First off, I want you to know I really get that shit sucks right now. You may have lost your longtime partner, be at odds with a family member, feel stepped on at the office, or even all of the above. Like an uncertain playwright on opening night — filtering through a cascade of jeers midway through the first act — you’re praying for an intermission. I want you to know you’re not alone.
What you’re feeling is a wildly common experience and you deserve credit for finally ceasing the “everything’s fine” charade when that’s clearly not the case. For this, I applaud you. However, I want to invite you to consider that the lack of love you’re feeling from everyone else has to begin somewhere, for you cannot plant a flower where there lies no soil.
I know what you’re probably thinking, “Dude, not another self-love article. It’s too much fluff and I need something concrete. Enough already!” Go ahead — I’m not denying the eye roll is apropos.
Contrary to what you might think, I agree the self-love rhetoric is playing out — much like when you say a word to yourself enough times in a row that it loses all its meaning. But here’s the straight dope: self-love — more importantly, love from any direction — doesn’t work if you’re insecure.
Before you scold me, try to take the empowering route here. It takes a big person to admit they’re insecure. A lot of people walk through life unconscious to the reality that their happiness was reassigned onto other people and life conditions long ago —now invisible to their grasp. You may have resisted for a while now, but you’re finally here — ready to deal with what you need to deal with in order to finally show yourself the love it feels like you’ve never received from anyone else.
I want you to know I’ve been in this exact same spot. I floundered in an emotional tailspin for over a decade before collapsing at the doormat of the elusive mirage known as self-acceptance. I resisted, I fought back, I pretended — all to my chagrin of how it not only failed to move the needle forward, it continued to knock me back.
When you’re secure in who you are, you don’t need to be happy every second of the day to feel okay — like your life is worth living. Your neutrality is your power. You level up to elation when you choose to and relish in the peace and quiet of simple, run-of-the-mill contentment for the remainder.
Even in the tough times, you dodge careening off a cliff of your own existential angst because your center is as solid as it is strong. You know who you are, you know who you aren’t, and you get that nothing is forever — even your personality.
Every day is an opportunity to become more secure, more aware, more grounded — but you’ve got to be willing to do the work and more importantly, you’ve got to be willing to let go.
What the hell am I talking about?
Here are six key insights — useless if simply scanned over and unapplied — that gave me a second life.
1. Confront Your Past
A touchy subject for most people, your past is the textbook to understanding your self-imposed traps. If you think back to your earliest memory as a child where something went awry, in that moment you told yourself both something about a) the world and b) who you are, which then became a permanent conversation in your head.
A child tends to blame themselves for much of what happens in life due to a lack of objective understanding. Unfortunately for us, this disempowering summary of how life is often gets embedded within our psyche and is left untouched for several decades until we finally get desperate enough to examine the source of our patterns. The narratives of “I’m not good enough”, “the world is unfair”, and “nobody loves me” clearly aren’t ideas we formed yesterday — we’ve been hoarding them around since we were old enough to talk in complete sentences.
2. Practice Radical Acceptance
Radical acceptance is a psychological principle in which you accept life on life’s terms and do not resist what you cannot or choose not to change.
Imagine you have your third and final interview for your dream job tomorrow morning—9am sharp. You’re so excited you can barely close an eyelid, so you make sure to set three alarms for the following morning. What you failed to realize was the volume on your phone wasn’t turned up loud enough and you awaken on your own volition fifteen minutes before the interview— you live twenty minutes away.
Despite your best efforts, you arrive three minutes late and the hiring manager opts to not conduct the interview — he’s going with another candidate.
You can justify, you can defend, you can try to force an outcome, it’s not changing his decision. The hurt is real — the feeling of loss is one of the more pronounced challenges that life can throw our way. What comes with it however, is a choice.
Facts don’t care about feelings. Things happen because they happened. Period. How you feel about them isn’t causing a shift of any sort. The downside is by wallowing in the petty nuances of bitterness, resentment and regret, we shorten our lifespan. Our blood pressure skyrockets, our stress hormones work overtime, and the adrenal fatigue wears us down. By opting out of giving attention to what’s already done and over with, we can spare ourselves the energy for more meaningful exchanges.
3. See Your Mind As The Cinema
Movies can be spectacular showcases. They can add emotion, suspense, fear and thrill to what otherwise would be ordinary engagements.
However, watching your favorite movie from the behind-the-scenes view of the set probably wouldn’t have as big of an impact on you without all the theatrics and cinematography added in. Ironically, our minds work the same way.
We take ordinary, basic situations and add in a bunch of color, brightness, suspense and thrill to create far more dramatic and fearful imagery in our heads — stopping us from moving towards what we want the most and completely misinterpreting what’s actually going on in front of us.
It may not be as enticing or captivating, but you deserve to sit in the director’s chair of your life — not some seat in the audience.
4. Equality Isn’t Just About Gender, Race or Sexuality
Everyone has their own view of how they feel life is supposed to work. Individual morals, values, standards and ethics are all imposed on one another as if a single person possessed the secret rulebook to life. We bicker, we judge, we alienate and ultimately, collapse into our own stubbornness.
This doesn’t work. You came up with your view of life the same way everyone else did — you either adopted what your parents or influencers told you, made up your own, or forged some combination of the two. With this in mind, why would your view of life be any superior to anyone else’s? Moreover, why would your view of life be the way it’s supposed to go — especially when everyone else can only see their own view?
With equality still very much on the far-most horizon — my opinion, not fact — the best way to keep the compass pointing north is to adopt the thinking that your view is no better than anyone else’s. This allows other people to be themselves wholeheartedly when interacting with you and to your surprise, they’ll probably grant you the same opportunity — a great recipe for getting secure with who you really are.
5. Bask In Your Humility
I’m sure you’ve heard you have greatness in you. I’m sure you’re not so quick to believe that, also. Well, the reality is you do — but not for the reasons you think.
We give ourselves way too much credit. With me for example, I’m lucky enough to be alive right now — part of the six percent alive amongst history. On top of that, I got lucky enough to be born in a free, democratic and progressive country, in a well-developed neighborhood, within a loving and supportive family, entered into schools with teachers I did not choose, surrounded by friends I was incidentally enrolled in the same courses as, and moreover, blessed with a level of health, intelligence, and willpower that I had absolutely nothing to do with.
Anything, anything at all I wish to take credit for accomplishing throughout my life, something else beyond my control had more to do with it.
This isn’t to create resignation, but rather, freedom. You’re a lucky son of a gun. You have a plethora of imperceptible gifts at the ready and if you can simply resist the vicious circle of comparison and envy, you’ll be just fine.
Put those gifts into action and get that there’s actually a lot more right with you than there is wrong.
6. Own What Owns You
This is the part you’ve probably been avoiding, and I don’t blame you. I did the same thing with my insecurity, my sexuality, my finances — the parts of me I viewed as imperfect that I refused to select — and therefore was always something I had to compensate for, creating a psychological underpinning that I would never be enough just as I was. You cannot be whole and complete if you reject certain parts of who you are or what you’re dealing with. Until you own it — deliberately select it — you’re at the effect of it all. And therefore, cannot improve it.
When you take ownership, however, it’s yours. You’re back at the cause. You can impact it again and work to grow that part of who you are into an asset, rather than the liability you always viewed it as.
Review many of the happiest and successful people throughout history and you’ll find they didn’t thrive despite their flaws or circumstances, but often because of them. Everything that bothers you about yourself or others is a gateway to a better understanding who you are and where you could use some more compassion.
Opt to work with what you’ve got instead of creating a false reality that what you don’t like about yourself doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean you like it — it just means you choose it. Stop fighting and take hold of what’s yours.
This is one of those cases where a perceived weakness can actually become your greatest source of strength.
If you’ve made it this far without cursing at your screen, I commend you. Getting secure within yourself — or even acknowledging that you’re not — is never an easy conversation. It brings to the forefront our greatest fears of insignificance, inadequacy, and ultimately, loneliness.
However, if you take on the challenge and stay committed to the task, you’ll notice empowerment creep in from a variety of angles — most notably, with yourself. You’ll have stepped up to the plate and interrupted who you knew yourself to be, creating a broader landscape of hope, faith and — dare I say it — love.
By mastering these six principles, other people will start to appreciate your courage, your stability, your awareness, your empathy, your humility, and finally, your boldness.
Towing those six traits in hand, you’ll not only feel plenty of people loving you (including the ones who already do but too much is in the way for you to realize), you won’t need their love — you’ll simply want and appreciate it, as it compliments your newfound self-love (gag me) quite nicely.