In 2012 I discovered the power of gratitude. A year after that I discovered the importance of self-love. That was almost four years ago, and it’s something that I’m still working on. In fact, it’s something that I will always work on.
For a long time I thought that people either loved themselves, or they didn’t. And I definitely didn’t. But once I started practicing self-love and discovering new ways to treat myself better, I eventually realized that self-love isn’t a destination but rather an endless journey.
That wasn’t the only thing I’ve learned. In fact, there are many aspects to practicing self-love and here are a few I’ve discovered.
It doesn’t happen overnight.
You can’t go from hating yourself to loving yourself just because you want to. Or maybe you can, but that hasn’t been my experience. My experience has been more like navigating through a labyrinth with a multitude of riddles and impossible games popping up every two feet. It’s been more like taking two-steps-forward, then falling on my ass. It’s been this crazy process of flip-flopping back and forth on every part of me from my personality to my appearance, my social status and wardrobe to my family and parenting abilities.
I’ve taken the time to look at myself and study myself and get to know myself, and through that process I’ve tried to accept who I am in all parts of my life, fully knowing I’ll never quite get there.
It’s not always easy.
Loving yourself is not as simple as saying it. There’s a process to it, and what that process looks like is completely different from one person to the next. And because of that there is no one right way to do it.
When I first started looking into different self-love practices I was so desperate to feel even okay with myself, that I would try anything. And honestly, some of those things felt kind of silly to me, while other seemed pretty obvious. And some things worked and some didn’t, but I never knew which would before I tried. For example, taking pictures of myself has actually helped. Even though I HATED having my picture taken. Whodathunkit?
Keeping an open-mind throughout this endless self-love journey is definitely helpful.
There are good and bad days.
On any journey there are bound to be good days and bad days. Some days you can feel amazing and on top of the world, and other days you can feel like absolute crap. Sometimes something as simple as reading a comment can trigger something inside of you, something that maybe isn’t fully healed, and send you on a down-spiral. It’s okay to have feelings, you know. It’s okay to have those bad days and to need to take some time to just feel sad, or mad, or whatever. I feel like part of self-love is knowing how to read your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them without further beating yourself up about it.
Some days I’m good to go, knocking items off my to-do list and feeling really good about everything, and other days I’m bummed out and all I want to do is curl up with Chinese take-out and binge watch Netflix. And that’s totally fine. Just remember to eventually dust yourself off and get back to it.
You can love one part of yourself, and still need to work on others.
Self-love is not all-or-nothing. You can love some parts of yourself and still need to work on loving others. And that shouldn’t take away from feeling good about those wonderful parts of yourself you do love.
When I finally started to feel good about my job and my grades, I recognized that I still wasn’t over-the-moon about my wardrobe. I was self-conscious about my clothes because I couldn’t afford “nicer” things. Knowing that though, I’ve been slowly experimenting with my personal style and enjoying the thrill of the hunt at my local thrift stores.
You can still love the parts of yourself that you’re working on.
In the past I’ve lost weight mostly by belittling and bullying myself to eat less and workout more. The truth is, a lot of my motivation tactics were hateful because I didn’t know any better.
When I started practicing self-love I thought that trying to lose weight was hypocritical. I couldn’t wrap my head around loving something about myself but also wanting to change it. I simply had never done it before. I mean, if you love your couch, do you go out and buy a new one? But that doesn’t apply to self-love. It really doesn’t. Of course you can love your body but still want to make improvements. Mind boggling, I know. As long as you do it in a loving way, because you want what is best for you, and not for negative purposes, or by negative means.
There will always be new things to work on.
As my life has evolved and changed in the last few years – from becoming a teen mom, being unemployed, to being a student, to working as a freelance writer, to becoming a student again – new challenges arise that make me question myself in new ways. I catch myself wondering things like: Am I smart enough? Talented enough? Do I have what it takes?
These changes aren’t just about my career either, but also my looks. For example, I finally started to come to an alright place with being overweight. I can now go out in public wearing a tank top and not wanting to cover up my arms. I’ve accepted that I can still be healthy and plus size, and that doesn’t make me less worthy than thinner people. But now I’m getting older and I can, for the first time, see my skin aging. I hate to admit it, but I’m self-conscious of the wrinkles on my face and neck. In time, maybe I’ll be okay with it, but for now it’s something I have to work on.
And because we are constantly changing, there will always be something new that comes up that challenges us on our endless self-love journey.
It gets easier.
Self-love isn’t easy, as I’m sure you know, but it does get easier with practice.
Four years ago when I first stumbled across this crazy thing called self-love, I told myself it was impossible, that there was no way I could actually love myself. I was completely negative and pessimistic and hateful, and for good reason! So I thought. And let me tell you, changing your way of thinking is no easy task! I would constantly catch myself saying mean things, degrading myself and thinking I was worthless. When that happened I would try to stop myself and say, “Well hey now, that’s not cool. Be nice to yourself!” Sometimes that would work, but most of the time it wouldn’t. At first, anyway. I kept doing that, interrupting my negative thoughts with positive ones, and eventually it started to come more naturally. Some days positive thoughts would diminish negative ones before I even had time to fully process them. And just like that, in the span of a few years and many breakdowns later, I became an optimistic person who (almost) fully loves herself.
It’s worth it.
With all of that said, pursuing an endless self-love journey is so worth it! Since I’ve committed to practicing self-love I have been able to accomplish so much in my life, purely because I honestly feel like I deserve it. It’s nice to be able to go through life feeling good most of the time, and that makes it worth it.
Do you practice self-love? What have you learned about it?
P.S. I purposely took these photos without any make-up on and without doing my hair. I wanted to feel good about myself and show how I look on an average day.