The Truth Behind Loving Yourself First

woman in black spaghetti strap dress walking on rock formation surrounded by body of water during daytime
Jenna Anderson / Unsplash

The day I turned 18 I got a tattoo that said “love yourself first” in Polish. Ever since then, that has been the mantra I’ve tried to live by. For nine years, I’ve felt like I was failing to reach this mecca. It always felt just out of reach or just out sight, even though I thought I was taking all of the right steps.

Until today.

On Friday, I had an epiphany in my cycling class (you know because that’s where most epiphanies tend to happen). I had skipped working out for the last three days and was throwing myself into the class. About two songs in, our instructor asked us “what did you come here for?”

As my heels pushed down — right, left, right, left — I thought to myself that the reason I came was to keep working towards learning how to find self-love. It was just as self-deprecating as it sounds, and now it’s just as hard to write as you’d imagine.

But then something interesting happened. Another voice in my head spoke up to the beat of the music and said no, that that was just not true. It was in this moment — struggling to breathe — that I realized the truth I’ve been too blind to see since I was 18.

The only reason I’ve tried so hard to be more, to be better, and to be fearless is that I’ve loved myself all along. I love myself so fiercely that I will go to hell and back to reach my potential.

I don’t wake up at 6am on weekdays to workout because I hate my body or hate the shift in how my clothes fit. I don’t go to yoga searching for self-love hidden somewhere under my mat. I go because I love myself enough to take care of my body, give my soul energy, and gift myself with a routine that makes me feel good when I leave.

I don’t travel because I don’t like New York City and can’t find adventure in the miles of glittering streets surrounding my home. I love myself enough to invest in unimaginable memories, new views that photos will never do justice to, and experiences that push my comfort zone from every edge.

I don’t stress out at work, guilt myself for thinking I’m not successful enough or seek out learning opportunities because I think I’m incompetent or unqualified for more. I love myself enough to push my mental limits, overachieve, and hold myself to a higher standard because that’s the standard I deserve.

I don’t go on handfuls of dates because I’m sad, lonely, and hoping to find someone who will show me how to love myself. I go on handfuls of dates because I do love myself, and I know that I won’t settle for anything even a breath under extraordinary. I love myself enough to keep trying whether it takes ten more, 50 more, or one. I’m not torturing myself by taking my time with dating; I’m protecting the heart that’s really to spill love for the right person.

On Friday, I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the cycling class. I was brutally getting my butt kicked, tapping it back, and I was also nearly laughing and then sometimes almost crying.

I’ve always thought I wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t growing fast enough, wasn’t worthy of love from someone else much less myself. It’s sickening, the things I’ve told myself over the years and the things I’ve genuinely believed, but I worked on it — every single day.

I’ve always, as far as I can remember, been looking for something and I’ve been trying really, really damn hard to find it. I realize now that all of that effort has distracted me from what I already had. All it took was reframing the self-talk I had been telling myself for 28 years.

This entire time I’ve been searching for ways in which I could “love myself first.” Today, I finally know that I’m an embodiment of the love I’ve always carried because of the tough love that kept me going.

And now? I finally feel invincible. If this is what I could do on my quest for love, then imagine what I can do now that I know how to use it. I dare you to look inside yourself and find the same flame because I’m really to burn my mark on this world. I want you to come with me.

Are you ready for what’s next? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Writer, Founder & Poet

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