You’re never going to be finished with learning how to love yourself. Because there is no finish line. It’s a never-ending pursuit for every person on this earth. Even the most seemingly confident, comfortable people have not succeeded in fully loving themselves, because loving ourselves is a lifelong challenge that we will each be fighting every day of our lives, until we breathe our last breath.
That’s not a bad thing. That does’t mean that every person on this earth is always miserable and insecure, unable to free themselves from a pit of self-despair. It just means that as long as we’re alive, as long as we’re fighting to be human and to feel things and to understand our own lives, we will always be working, to some extent, on accepting ourselves for who we genuinely are.
It’s often tempting to put all of your energy into finding love through someone else, to convince yourself that you will be able to love yourself as soon as someone else loves you. But the goal of love should never be to find someone who’s going to make you whole, because no one else can ever make you a complete person. That’s up to you and you alone. The goal of love should be to find someone who you can share your completeness with, someone you know will not make you rethink or question the very self that you’re teaching yourself to love and accept every day.
It’s annoying, and cheesy. Hearing it may cause a desire to bash your head into a wall. It’s such a tired, painful cliché: love yourself and everything will be better! <3
As if you were too dense to have thought of that yourself, and then someone swept in and said Happiness and fulfillment are easy! Just love and accept yourself! And then, boom, you magically loved yourself and everything was perfect.
It’s much more complicated and difficult and frustrating than that. It’s easy to talk about and overwhelmingly difficult to do. There’s no single person or online article or self-help book or seminar that’s going to teach you how to love yourself. It’s not a one-time lesson you learn, like riding a bike, where once you get it, you get it for life.
Instead, it’s a continual, ever-changing process, because you are a continual, ever-changing process. You grow every day. Your mind expands every day. You discover new ways of thinking every day. Your love for yourself is going to change too. Sometimes it will be solid; you’ll be happy and comfortable and content and secure. Other times, your self-love will be terrifyingly absent. You will prefer to stay under the covers and you will have no desire to try, to put yourself out there, to do anything besides attempt to be a functional person until the sun goes down and you can disappear into sleep for a few hours again.
There’s no cure. There’s no secret sauce. There’s no magical way to avoid all this, to live a charmed, easy life where self-doubt and insecurity and unhappiness are absent. But there are ways to help yourself fight through the hard times. To train your mind, in the same way you train your muscles, to be strong and consistent in the moments where the rest of you feels weak. Here are a few things that can help you along the way:
*Consistently remind yourself that perfectionism is not possible. You will never achieve it. No one will ever achieve it.
*Accept the compliments that people give you. Respond with “thank you” instead of an obligatory negative comment about yourself that you feel you need to provide in order to balance out the positivity.
*Spend less time on social media. Not no time. Just less.
*Accept your failures for what they are. Do not try to excuse them or explain them. Learn from them. Acknowledge that they are a part of your past, but they do not define you.
*Develop some rituals you can turn to when you’re having an I-Don’t-Like-Myself Day. Read old cards from loved ones. Look at pictures of you and your friends that make you smile. Watch familiar t.v. shows that make you laugh. Do something you know you’re good at; it can be as big as going on a really long run or as simple as putting on mascara. Look at things you’ve done that you’re proud of – old English papers, presentations for work, the speech you made at your friend’s wedding, the desk you put together from Ikea. Remind yourself that you are a very interesting person.
*Give yourself the opportunity for quiet time. Peace. Self-reflection. Go to church or take a walk or sit on your kitchen floor and do nothing. Sometimes, our frustration with ourselves simply comes from the fact that we haven’t had time to process things that have recently occurred in our lives.
*Treat yo’self, sometimes. For a generation with a stereotype of being self-involved, we sure do forget to take care of ourselves sometimes. Make time in your schedule for you to get reacquainted with yourself, for you to relax, for you to be free from social obligations or expectations. Get a massage or go to a really delicious dinner with your friend or buy a bottle of wine that you drink alone. Read a book that makes you feel something deeply. Spend time in the sun.
*Repeat positive affirmations every day, even when don’t believe them. Tell yourself that you have dignity. That you are worthy of love. That you deserve happiness. Sometimes you will smile as you say them. Other times, you won’t believe anything you’re saying. But either way, you are ingraining these facts into your brain. You are doing everything you can to make sure these truths always have a space in your mind.
*Eat really good food. Sometimes that means pizza and ice cream. But most times, that means fruit and vegetables and salmon and walnuts and foods that make you feel healthy and light and strong.
*Remember that the more love you give, the more you will feel inside of you. This can range from volunteering at a suicide hotline to telling that stranger on the street that you love her pink hair to texting your brother and telling him that you’re proud of him. It doesn’t take much. But it triggers so much goodness.
*Don’t project onto others the things that are really just issues you have with yourself.
*Remember that when you feel a strong desire for validation from other people, it means something is off within yourself. Your need for validation is not coming from your actual desire for someone to like you, it’s coming from your hope that them liking you will make you like yourself. Remind yourself that the more you fight to love yourself, the less time you’ll waste on trying to impress other people.
*Understand the things that you are using to numb your emotions – food, alcohol, clothes, sex, exercise, money, socializing. These can all be very good things, but you know, deep down, when you’re using them to numb yourself instead of simply enjoying them, in moderation, for what they are. When you see yourself reaching for the extra piece of cake or going home with the person you feel nothing for, look into your subconscious and figure out what you’re trying to compensate for.
*Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes you will screw up. Sometimes you will not love yourself. Sometimes you will feel weak and sad and like you’re not good enough. Be patient. Be understanding. Keep fighting. Keep going. As long as you keep going, you will be okay.