10 Things I Discovered When I Learned To Love Myself

Jake Melara
Jake Melara

Loving yourself – for some people, it can come so effortlessly. For people out there that struggle with accepting every flaw, characteristic, and genetics that make us, well, us, we admire the people who can love themselves; we aspire to be like that. The raw truth of loving oneself is this: it’s hard.

As a young woman, I tend to overlook that everyone is growing daily, whether it is for better or for worse. You, are growing too. The more you grow and learn, the more it is necessary to learn to love the new positive things your mind knows, to embrace how your physical makeup is amazing and ever changing to shield your bones, organs, and more importantly – your heart and soul.

I am 23. 23 years of living, breathing, burning, falling, crumbling, dying, rising, and soaring.

Self-love is about patience with yourself, grace, understanding that you can’t always be a formidable wall and always happy. But it is accepting the changes that you’ll go through, and adoring all the mistakes and successes too.

1. You don’t need another human being in your life to make you complete.

When I was 5, some of my earliest memories flood my mind. Naïve, and always wanting to follow in my brother’s footsteps, bruises decorated my knees, and freckles spotted my cheeks, I experienced more than I realized. I remember sunny days, swimming, exploring. I remember following my brother, Garrett. That poor boy couldn’t get rid of me. See, he’s my only older sibling, almost 2 years apart. I thought (and still think) he was the coolest.

I also remember unexplainable darkness. I remember yelling, crying, confusion, and fear. My parents fought a lot. There was emotional and physical abuse and turmoil. At my age, I let it go, but it left its dents and marks in my past. I lived to see my mother sacrifice her own health and sanity so my brother and I could have a father in our life. While I don’t accuse or think she made the wrong choice in general, because she thinks what she did was best for us kids, I think it was the wrong choice for her. I learned, you don’t need another human being in your life to make you complete, at a young age. When my father wasn’t around, I could see my mother for what she was. She was complete with her children. But let’s be honest, she loved a man that was bad for her.

Having your wounds kissed by someone that doesn’t see them as disasters in your soul, but just cracks to infuse their love into is one of the most calming things in this world.

I speak from experience. But when you’re in a relationship, make sure they aren’t the ones creating the cracks. You aren’t being kind to yourself. It’s harder to put that to practice, than to read or listen to it. But if loving the wrong person feels right, imagine what loving the right person would be like? Magical. But if you don’t have someone in your life right now, that’s perfect. You don’t need anyone to be with you to complete you as a person. You were already made by a perfect God. We weren’t put here to find “the one,” and set out our whole lives trying to find him or her.

What makes you complete, is finding something that’s full of joy, and sharing it or embracing it.

If that so happens to include another human to keep you on a healthy, positive, and if a believer of Christ, on a journey to bring you closer to God, then so be it. But if not, that’s ok too! It’s always the latter that we have to preach. You are already so capable and full of potential. No one else can unleash that besides you. You don’t need to love anyone else to be able to love yourself. You have you for the rest of your life. You are closest to you, your heart and mind are closest to you. Cherish them. Take care of them.

2. Let things go. Tie no heavy weights to your ankles.

I’ve been very depressed in my life, and have overcome suicide. The issue with depression, any mental health problems, or suicide is people tend to think it is “situational.” It’s been a war years upon years. I am still battling depression. It is a disease. Suicide and other extreme measures are results and consequences of depression. I hated myself so much. There are days where I don’t even want to move, and just lay there in silence because I feel like I can’t face myself again. But I do. I have living proof of a savior running around my home right now with golden curls and a lilting laughter.

But it so much more difficult than to just say “let things go.” I was told that so many times when I was facing extreme depression and suicidality. “Just get over it. Cheer up. You have nothing to be sad about.” The thing is, when I was thinking about suicide, this was prior to having my daughter. This was when I considered myself still as a kid. The problem with suicide is that it’s not just there when you’re sad. It’s there when you are hanging with friends, reading a book, anything really. I thought to myself during times like that, “This is fun. But you know what would be better? Suicide.” It’s called mild suicide ideation, something I’ll discuss another time. I had nothing left at one point. I had nothing to save me, not even God. I was a struggling and far away from Him. I ignored him, and gave into darkness.

Darkness is familiar and cold, but like I said…familiar.

And easier. It was easier to feel pain and then to succumb to numbness, rather than to feel raw emotions. I was ready, but then, I found out I was carrying a child. I crumbled onto the floor. And let it all go. I truly believe everyone has their moment whether, it is through strengthening a relationship with God, another person, loss of something or someone, etc. But do know…if you let life go, people in your life are going to suffer and they NEED you here. Just like how a child would need a mother, a sister or brother needing their siblings when they get married or have children. They would want their children to have a loving aunt or uncle that could be you. Your parents, stepparents, grandparents, someone. Someone would lose a huge part of them if you opted out on life. I let go of suicide. I let go of suicide and let it get expunged from my soul. And I know now, that helped me learn to appreciate and love myself. First I was ashamed, but it grew into understanding that I can’t be strong all the time.

3. You can learn to love yourself, even if you start late.

I figured I had already ruined my chances because of the terror I put myself through. I was either too hard on myself, or was ripping myself to shreds. When I first turned 20, the idea of “loving yourself,” was just a fad and something everyone was jumping on the bandwagon to embrace and encourage. And if you didn’t really appreciate the shiny words like “Just stay positive, you’re beautiful!”, you would be deemed ungrateful, most likely. If not ungrateful, then more of a project who needs fixed. I am here to tell you the rawness of loving yourself. It isn’t pretty. It’s messy. You’ll become a monster at least once through the process. You’ll face your inner demons and have to battle them. There’s nothing romantic or poetic about the challenges you’ll have to face to LOVE yourself. I truly mean LOVE. Do I completely love myself? No. But the fact is, I’m trying. I’ve failed. I got back up again. The beauty of it is, you can start anytime, and you can restart with it. When you start to appreciate your inner beauty, your intelligence, your potential, your humor, anything, that’s when it’ll get interesting. That’s when it starts positively affecting your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, neighbors, your community, parents, siblings, people close to you. Seeing someone you hold close to your heart be happy because of your inner happiness, is amazing.

4. Learn to stop loving.

When we were kids, our abundance to give and love and create were outstandingly exceptional. You learn the ways of the world, the coldhearted, the malice, and the tragedies when you grow. You learn that you will be used for someone else’s gain. You’ll be taken advantage of. You heart will break for the guy or the girl who doesn’t appreciate you, but appreciates the things you have to offer. There’s a difference. You will snap in half when you find out someone has been lying to you for a short time or a long time. There comes a time in life, where you have to learn to stop loving. No one teaches you that. You were taught how to love, but not how to stop. I’ve watched people love until they lose themselves. And if you have nothing of yourself left, that doesn’t mean you can’t heal or love yourself and discover yourself again. I’ve watch abusive marriages, turn into abusive and messy divorces. It’s a beautiful lesson to learn. You are worth more than you be getting. Do not destroy yourself for someone else. I have plenty of times, and getting back up gets harder but it isn’t impossible. It can be dangerous for you to keep giving your heart to someone that doesn’t want it, but will take it for their own advantage. I’m STILL trying to learn this lesson, but the discovery of holding this small power, can be a savior to me, and to you.

5. Toxicity breeds.

And I was one of the children of toxicity. Toxic people don’t realize that they’re toxic most of the time. I was unforgiving, passive aggressively trudging through life. I thought I had it all figured out and thought that just because I wanted to live, doesn’t mean I have to be a ball of sunshine. Wrong. No one has to be a ball of sunshine, but you don’t need to be horrible either. I would judge people, but nothing too extreme. I would judge by the way people dressed, mannerisms, lifestyle choices.

Slowly, I began to realize, who am I to judge? Who am I to say a person is wrong because they are different than me? Everyone judges everyone. We judge for first impression. But after that, I learned to stop. After a first glance, it all becomes your words and then actions. Don’t let the toxicity and the popular thing to do would be to showcase someone that’s different than you, your peers, social group, or coworkers. That person bleeds just like you. When you remove the shield of ignorance you were taught to raise or rose yourself because of differences, you have to embrace yourself more. Once you let the shield down, a clearer picture will remain towards other people receiving a first impression about you.

6. Darkness is still a threat.

This doesn’t mean you’re not recovering from anything, if you any mental health issues. This is an awareness PSA that when you’re learning to not put up with negativity, abuse, or scrutiny anymore, darkness in the world still remains.

Loving yourself, will be one of the hardest wars anyone has fought for themselves.

It requires patience, removing negative people in your life – despite how much love you have for them, and rebuilding yourself. If you never rebuild, naivety settles in. I admire the kindness of others, but I fear for people that are too kind and continue to lose themselves by always turning the other cheek. It’s a vicious cycle. Loving yourself…it will require you to be willing to fall apart. Rome was never perfected and didn’t have reconstruction be finished in a day. And neither will you.

7. It’s ok to do what is best for you.

Anxiety and depression are blockages. For me personally, anxiety prevents me from participating in activities and being around a lot of people. Depression comes in and harps on me for not being more outgoing and social. But do know it’s ok to not participate all the time. It’s ok to stay in and take care of yourself. I am not saying staying in your house 24/7 is something I would suggest, because I think anyone would go insane. But it’s ok to say no to parties. It’s ok to say no to family gatherings. It really is OK to say no to certain events that you know will drain you when you already feel drained enough. One of the best things you can do for yourself, is listen. Listen to what you’re thinking. Stay in bed a little longer on the weekends or when you’re not working, slow your pace, ease your mind when you can. It can feel like you’re not be responsible, but in the long run you are.

8. The future is unknown and will be great, for you and I.

What comes with anxiety, is followed closely by worrying. I found myself worrying about the next day and the next. What does worrying do? Nothing of importance. It doesn’t change the situation or tomorrow. What you can do, is take worrying and make something constructive of it. Preparing is the best solution I have to eliminate worrying. But tomorrow will be better. If NOT tomorrow, then the next. We are living and intrepid. I’ve learned that loving myself, also requires by bringing my face up and appreciating daily things, and then appreciate them again tomorrow. Appreciate your loved ones and appreciate your children. Appreciate your job and the warmth of the sun on your skin. Appreciate rain. Appreciate loud and messy. Appreciate clean and quiet. Appreciate mistakes. Appreciate crying and letting it out. Appreciate that you may have angels above looking after you. Tomorrow will be great, only if you let it be.

9. Take responsibility for your actions and feelings: The good, the bad, and the ugly!

No one stands in your own way but you sometimes. It’s about moving towards our feelings, not abandoning them and finding something else to sate it.

You have to be honest with yourself, so you can be truly sincere with others too.

The more honest you are with yourself, it’ll teach you how to cope with situations better. An honest mind may be harder to face and slay your demons, but it’s better to make it be real and no sugarcoating. By not being honest with yourself, you can surrender yourself to self-hatred, addiction to not deal with emotions, or making it out to be someone else’s responsibility.

10. We all fail, but it’s where you go from there.

We all fail. We all make mistakes. We are all beautiful. But it doesn’t just stay at that. You have something to offer the world. Everyday isn’t going to be perfect or great, but what I can tell you is that there are going to be days where you look back and wonder, how in the hell did you make it through whatever you were going through. You may even laugh at it. Because the simple answer is that you’re stronger than you think. Not in the moment do you consider that you are possess mental fortitude and strength, but when you reflect on something hard, and realized you beat it, there’s many reasons why, but one of them is your strength and grace. You have to pick yourself up, brush off the dust and accept: “I fell, and I probably fell harder than I’m willing to admit. But wait until you see me soar.”

We all have that option. We just have to take it. Make mistakes. Make a ton, but then correct or move on and do better things. Learn and grow so children can be better than we once were. There’s always somewhere to go when you’re at the bottom. And that’s up. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog