Imagine you fell in love with someone who told you, a hundred times a day, that they loved you.
Let’s say they woke up every morning and reeled off a list things they adored about you. They loved your body. They loved your determination. They loved your insecurities and your struggles and the strength that it took you to overcome each challenge.
Let’s say they affirmed the living hell out of you. Let’s say they wrote you blog posts and heartfelt poems and that they left post-it notes stuck on your mirror to remind you how much they loved you.
But let’s say that person also failed to show up for you when showing up mattered most.
Let’s say they never took concrete action on their affections. Let’s say they skipped out when their presence mattered most. Let’s say they showed up to tell you that they loved you on the good days, but never on the bad days. Never when you needed them to be there.
Let’s say this person was your biggest enabler. That they encouraged your bad habits – that they regularly stuck that tenth drink in your hand, encouraged you to gorge on junk food, convinced you not to go to the gym, placed the credit card in your hand when you felt like impulsively spending, and talked you into staying in when you know that you’d be happier going out.
Let’s say this person was hell-bent on keeping you small. That they urged you not to try for that promotion at work, talk to the object of your affection, or make strides towards bettering yourself.
Let’s say this person claimed to love you but never actually did a single thing to demonstrate that they had a vested interest in doing what’s best for you.
Would you believe that such a person actually cared about you? Or would you assume that their affections were in vain?
How many times would they have to fail to show up for you, before you believed that you weren’t their priority?
How many empty promises would have to fall through before you started to question their motives?
How many times would they have to affirm you, in order to make up for not actually being there for you?
How long would it take you to realize that claiming to love someone and actually doing the hard work of loving someone are not the same thing?
And now, consider this:
How long has it taken you to realize that claiming to love yourself and actually doing the hard work of loving yourself are not the same thing?
Because here’s the harsh truth about self-love: You can repeat a thousand affirmations an hour, write a limitless number of blog posts about how you’re worthy of love and stick millions of post-it notes reminding yourself how awesome you are on every mirror in your house, but that still only gets you 10% of the way to self-love.
The other 90% of loving yourself happens through action. And a lot of that action isn’t going to make you happy in the short-term.
Because real self-love is less about babying yourself and more about parenting yourself. Are affirmations and positive self-talk important? Absolutely. But they are not a replacement for taking care of yourself in concrete ways.
They aren’t a replacement for putting down your credit card when you want something you know you can’t afford.
They aren’t a replacement for putting yourself to bed at ten, even though you’re binge-watching your favorite TV series, because you know you have to wake up early in the morning.
They aren’t a replacement for treating your body with respect, even though you’d rather eat an entire bag of chips.
Because the harsh truth is, if you are regularly sabotaging your long-term happiness, you do not love yourself. No matter how often you tell yourself otherwise.
Failing to look after your health is self-hatred.
Failing to set and keep goals is self-hatred.
Failing to tell yourself ‘no’ when you want something that you know will ultimately be bad for you is self-hatred.
It is not self-love because you convince yourself that you deserve this in the process. That’s just a shitty excuse that you’re making for yourself, because you don’t want to put the hard work into actually developing self-respect.
Real self-love isn’t about treating yourself like a two-year-old. It’s about treating yourself like that two-year-old’s parent – the one who knows better than their impulsive and temperamental child.
Self-love isn’t just about what you tell yourself to make yourself feel better – it’s about what you do to make yourself feel better.
The challenges you take on.
The commitments you hold yourself to.
The hard work you put into your life, even on the days when you’d much rather not.
Some days, self-love means canceling your plans and staying home in your sweatpants watching Netflix. But much more often than not, self-love means pulling yourself out of bed when you’d rather stay in it. Putting on pants when you’d rather mope around in your underwear. And putting hard, honest work into bettering yourself, even though it would be easier and more comfortable to stay right where you are.
Because self-love means self-parenting. It means self-monitoring. And it means self-development, no matter how laborious a process that development turns out to be.
And here’s the ultimate catch-22 when it comes to self-love: the more hard work you put into bettering your life, the less often you’ll feel the need to treat yourself. To affirm yourself. To remind yourself that you’re worthy – because you’re already proving those things to yourself through your actions, every single day.
The simplest way to discern whether someone else loves you is to consider: Do they show the hell up for you when it matters?
So ask yourself: Have you been showing the hell up for yourself?
And if the answer is no, you may have some work to do in the self-love department.
No matter how many times a day you repeat to yourself that you’re a queen.