The first time I thought about self-love was about six years ago after a particularly painful break up.
I was broken, crying to a friend about my sad state of affairs, and she advised that the solution to my heartbreak would be learning how to love myself, so that in moments like this, I could trust that it would be okay. That I deserved happiness. That I could survive on my own love alone.
I knew what she meant but at the same time I didn’t. I could understand self-love as a concept, but what did it look like? I knew that it wasn’t narcissism, I knew that it wasn’t looking to other people to help me figure out my definition of myself, which I spent my 20s doing. So while I knew what it wasn’t, I still didn’t know what it was.
Last week, like a light bulb going off in my brain, I realized self-love is everything I’ve done over the past 7 years to heal and feel more happiness and peace. It started when I got into meditation and personal development, and I am still working towards it every day. Though I don’t feel like I’m there yet, I know I’m on my way.
I’ve learned that self-love looks like trusting our own choices.
Self-love looks like eating healthy food, and not getting bent out of shape when we ‘cheat’ and eat sugar occasionally.
Self-love looks like unfollowing people on Instagram who make us feel worse, who only brag or don’t add value to our lives somehow.
Self-love looks like someone who looks in the mirror and doesn’t only see the extra fat, wrinkles, and not-white-enough teeth.
Self-love looks like my own approval.
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At first I was disappointed when I went back through my photos and saw this. It’s a beautiful sunset but all I could see was the ‘extra’ fat I didn’t want visible in the photo. It wasn’t there a year ago, but lately my health has been taking a back seat to everything else in life. I’m sure many out there can relate. I struggle with figuring out the right diet and exercise routine when I’m working like crazy, and I can love myself and feel beautiful when I’m five pounds thinner but can I love myself however I am today? That’s why I’m not editing out that roll, and not deleting this photo. I’m posting it because self love is what I’m working on the most right now, and this is facing a fear of mine, that I’m not lovable if I’m not skinnier. Or younger-looking, or any of the other things growing up with Barbie, fashion magazines, and Ariel made me aspire to – things we can’t naturally achieve. But I can achieve self-acceptance. That’s my effort today.
Through the years I’ve struggled with playing comparison games, being needy, feeling upset over loneliness, feeling antsy all the time and like I have to constantly be doing something productive, being afraid to meet new people, taking rude comments online personally, and feeling incomplete without a significant other. It was only very recently that I realized that these things all stem from the same fear – that my greatest fear is losing love.
Would I fear it less if I really loved myself, though?
Whose voice is the harshest anyway?
It’s my own.
The loss of love I’m really scared of, and also fully in control of, is the love that I give to myself. It’s taken me 33 years to realize that the times when everything seems to come easily to me, when I feel love in the world, when I trust that people are good, and it turns out to be true, that these are the times when I have my own self-approval. These are my pink cloud moments.
Yet there are times when I’m not very nice to me. That voice in my head goes crazy. She wonders why that person hasn’t replied to that message and OMG is it something I said? She only sees the ways in which she doesn’t measure up, doesn’t look beautiful, and isn’t desirable. If my mind were a person, with her constant repetitive worries and impatience, I’d throw her out the damn window. Wouldn’t you?
It’s the exact same mind that feels confident some days, so I know that it’s possible to always feel that way. But for a girl who grew up in a world of Barbie, Ariel’s perfect curves, airbrushed fashion magazines (all of which I loved), and the glass ceiling, a strong sense of self-worth for whom I am naturally doesn’t come easily. I wish it were different, but the waif look was in when I was a preteen.
This is what is finally crystal clear to me on my 33rd birthday – that all of the meditation retreats, the attempts at a solid routine for health and happiness, the decision to get sober, and all the growth work over the years, has been in an effort to be nicer to myself.
People who are nice to themselves are nicer to the world. How can you show up in the world with ease and joy if the voice in your head, which you can never get away from, is constantly cruel and angry?
And little by little, it is working. I get to be braver, calmer, more at peace in stressful situations, less likely to take things personally, and better off in general.
But for me, and I think for a lot of us, it doesn’t always come easily, and there are things I need to do every day to make it more possible. Those things are self-care (exercise, eating healthy, using natural products on my skin, doing things I enjoy) and most importantly, making time for myself each and every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes.
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I went into this year’s experience at burning man, my seventh time at the festival, with a deep desire to connect. The first day in, it became abundantly clear to me that the connection I really wanted was the one with myself. Do you feel that too? Sometimes I feel self love but other times I feel down on myself, comparing my life to others, even though what we see on social media is so rarely the truth. So what is self love really? This week it meant that I took care of my needs in every moment, nourished myself with healthy food, drank water all day long, attended workshops that helped me look into my soul, bathed myself in gentleness and kindness, talked to good and interesting people, and pursued art like this photo for nothing but the gift itself. I hope to hold onto this feeling, because the most supreme and effective way to show up as a successful human in this world is to love yourself first. I don’t mean selfishly putting your needs before others, but rather giving yourself permission to feel how you feel, being gentle with yourself, unfollowing people on this platform who just make you feel worse, ending the comparison games, and ending seduction games for that matter too. Love yourself so fiercely that every time you lose the momentum, you just repeat to yourself how wonderful you are, and how unique and gorgeous. Even when it doesn’t feel like there’s much to be grateful for, remember that you can see, you can feel, you can eat and taste, and you’re alive. In these moments, when I feel this connected and full of love, everything around me seems psychedelic it’s so vibrant and beautiful. Life gets more intense in the best of ways, and that’s how I know I’m doing it right. Because when you love yourself, you create the capacity for all of the other forms of love and abundance to come to you, and you deserve that.
It’s also about talking openly about things like this, and finding common ground with people who feel the same way, which I honestly think is everyone. We all suffer from the Human Condition, the constant focus on the future or the past, don’t we?
So on my birthday this year, I want to invite you to join me on a self-care routine that’s easy to do, and has amplified benefits when there’s group energy. It’s a 5-day meditation ritual with 10 or 15 minute guided meditations in the morning and evening that I picked out. There are no gimmicks or upsells, it’s just me wanting to connect with you guys more with a healthy practice.
We’ll just do 5 days, because anyone can do 10 minutes for just 5 days, because I need to get back into this healthy routine and maybe you do, too? Each day I’ll send out an email with the free meditation and we’ll do it together, starting on May 6, which is a Monday. You can join here.
I’m thankful for another year of life. Thankful that you’re here, and grateful to have been able to do this job for the past 7 years. The greatest gift today is being alive – truly alive.
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