If you were to ask me in my early twenties whether or not I loved myself, I would have probably looked at you like you had three heads and would have vehemently exclaimed, “YES, Most definitely without a shadow of a doubt!”
I would have provided you with a million and one stock answers detailing all the ways in which I loved myself. And I would have been right because truthfully, I did love myself. I just didn’t love myself ENOUGH to do the necessary work it takes to honor and protect the love I claimed to have for myself. Truth is in my early twenties, I loved myself more in theory than in actual practice.
Now in my early thirties, I realize that my version of self-love was shoddy at best. It was more of an idealistic concept as opposed to a realistic behavior. I did not fully understand what it really meant to love myself enough. I did not know exactly what that looked like in actual practice. Funny thing about your thirties is that they really have a way of bringing you face to face with all the ways in which you screwed yourself over and broke your own heart. Coming vis-à-vis with your “worthy thirties” really holds a mirror up to all the ways in which you have let yourself down for the sake of so many different people and so many different things. It also brings to your awareness the true definition of self-love and what it actually means to love yourself enough. So with that being said, what does it really mean to love yourself enough? Well, loving yourself enough means:
1. Taking Care of your Body and Honoring Your Health
Your body is a temple. It is a living sacrifice that requires various things in order to function properly. In your twenties, you let go of so many of those things in the late night, early morning haze that characterizes your post adolescent journey. You don’t drink enough water, get adequate rest, eat healthy foods or exercise. Instead you binge eat, binge drink, stay up late, exercise your pseudo intellect, have indiscriminate sex with many different partners and smoke anything that will burn. Part of loving yourself enough is maintaining a clean body and a clean spirit knowing that the aforementioned practices only work to hinder you from becoming whole.
2. No Longer Excusing Poor behavior with Toxic Overstanding
In my early twenties, I used to be what I like to call “Passively Permissive.” I used to let everything slide because I did not want to be “that guy,” the hard ass, the asshole, the sanctimonious blow hard who found fault with everything. I wanted to be the cool guy, the fun guy, the one who was likeable, easygoing and carefree. When people used to wrong me, I used to always say things like “Well he had a bad childhood so it’s ok that he treats me like shit.” “Oh he had a hard day at work so I understand.” My toxic overstanding and failure to erect firm boundaries for fear of losing friends and hurting others only hurt myself in the end because it sent the message that I was not worthy of respect. I gave people an easy way out when hurting me and ended up swallowing my feelings and beating myself up later for not speaking up about what I was really feeling.
When you truly love yourself enough, you realize that your opinion matters more than the opinions and feelings of others. You are the one that has to come home to yourself, look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the image that is reflected before you. You will be proud of yourself when you do not allow your over empathetic, over-understanding nature to come between you loving yourself.
3. Safeguarding Your Inner Child
Picture the child inside of you crying, screaming for food, love, attention. Picture that child ribs touching, bones showing, hungering to be seen and taken care of by you. Next, picture yourself neglecting the child inside of your for the sake of trying to please other people, make other people happy, chasing after the procurement of an image and what you want to appear to be to others. What is wrong with this picture?
When you imagine yourself talking to that child inside of you, what would that conversation actually look like? Will your inner child resent you and by extension rebelliously sabotage you by tearing at your emotions in an effort to get your attention? Will your inner child have the strength to say anything or opt to suffer in silence due to repeated instances of neglect on your part? Loving yourself is about taking care of the child that is within you. And although you cannot claim that child on your taxes for that delicious earned income credit, that child is the most precious, wonderful creation inside of you. Protect them at all costs.
4. No Longer Trying to Manage Impressions and Begin to Value the Authentic Expression of Your Found Identity
When you are in your early twenties, you want to be liked so you find yourself tailoring your identity to fit into the image you want to project to the world. You find yourself saying things you don’t believe, doing things you don’t want to do all for the sake of gaining company. You have this ideal picture in your head of who you want to be, what you want to be seen as, who you want to be around.
Often times though reality does not conform to these ideals and so you alter yourself to fit into tightly held perceptions only to discover the image eaters of disenchantment and disillusionment. Part of loving yourself enough is negotiating and coming to terms with who you are flaws and all. It involves loving every part of you both the light and the dark. It is saying to yourself “yes I am scarred, broken, sad, wounded but within these afflictions lie my humanity and I am gifted with the ability to be more to myself and to those experiencing similar ailments.”
5. Being Yourself
Let’s face it, in our early twenties we are still working towards gaining insight into who we are at our most basic core level. In the process of this self-discovery, at times we blunder across everything that we are not. We misplace our integrity trying to be more or less of what we are not. Loving yourself enough involves rediscovering and refining who you are. It involves bringing yourself with you where ever you go and never leaving yourself home. It also involves making your bed in the morning, finishing what your start, honoring your commitments, keeping your word, putting yourself in harmony with life by living with consistency, truth and integrity even in the face of resistance and adversity.
6. Putting your Needs as a Top Priority
This is where it gets tricky, as we all have multiple identities we have to juggle and multiple roles that we have to play in order to function as well rounded adults. In our twenties, we are so busy trying to gain and negotiate so many things: degrees, money, love, partnerships that we often lose sight of ourselves and run the failed course of crooked priorities. Part of loving yourself enough means having a clear understanding of you as your top priority. This means doing things throughout each day that restore and revitalize your soul as a way of offsetting the numerous soul depletions that happen throughout the day. This also means learning how to use a carefully timed middle finger when others try and impose upon your wellbeing.
7. Not Being Afraid of Being Alone
Often times in our twenties as we negotiate the psychosocial stage of intimacy vs. isolation, we compromise ourselves. In our fear of being alone and lonely, we consent to things we do not necessarily agree with, we smile at things we don’t really condone. Afraid to go back to the four walls of our home, we throw ourselves away hoping that someone will save us from our lonely hearts and self-destructive thoughts. Part of loving yourself enough though is realizing that sometimes, it’s ok to be alone than in bad company with familiar strangers. It is understanding that even when you are with someone, you can still feel painfully alone.
Being alone with “company” is worse than being alone by yourself and I have always been a firm believer in the maxim: “if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself” meaning: I’d rather be alone by myself than alone with someone else who only distances me from who I am and what I want to become. Of course being alone is easier said than done especially when those awful feelings transfer over into physical pains. There is really no pain like the pangs of loneliness as it can be an unreachable ache, unresponsive to any attempts to take it away. However part of loving yourself enough is recognizing your need for social sustainability and going for what you need by introducing yourself to new people and actively taking initiative, making the most out of every encounter.
8. Owning Both Your Power and Your Vulnerability
As previously mentioned, in an effort to be liked and accepted by a jury of your peers, you unwittingly find yourself compromising the integrity of your identity. You trade the expression of your personal power for the love and acceptance of others and by extension begin to dawn a mask of helplessness and powerlessness. You play small, pretend weak, downplay your abilities, appear lesser just to fit in and be liked by others. Part of loving yourself enough is shedding the mask of lesser, claiming your power as a unique individual endowed with strengths, gifts and talents, expressing those talents viciously and tempering those expressions with humility and grace understanding the mightiness and frailty that exists within the human machine that is you.
In our twenties, we are good at espousing theories of self-love but the practice has yet to catch up to the beliefs. And while we may be good at selling others on the many ways in which we love ourselves, truth is we do not always love ourselves enough, as loving yourself enough involves more than just a collection of words on a stone-faced page. It involves dutiful, deliberate action. It involves the gradual taking of steps in order to become the person you were destined to be.