Isn’t it funny that as human beings we are born wanting love, and for the most part, trained to give love, and yet we have the hardest time loving the person we spend the most time with – ourselves?
For some, this isn’t a hard thing to accomplish at all. Some people are born full of self-love and self-confidence. For the rest of us, the task may be a little more difficult. I’ve struggled (still do) with feeling comfortable in my own skin. I have gone through phases in my life when I am too emotionally dependent on another person to know how to love myself alone. I have gone through dark times when I was convinced I was a bad person and a terrible human being who didn’t deserve love, let alone any good thing that came my way. I felt that I had made so many mistakes and hurt so many other people that I was not destined to find happiness. And I think the one thing that makes me the saddest, even now, is this plain and simple statement: I did not like myself.
It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I can finally say that not only do I like myself, I love me and I think I’m pretty fucking great despite some not so great things I’ve done in my life. I think the process began about three years ago, and I am just barely dismantling some of the shitty voices I’ve let myself believe.
I don’t believe there is a quick list you can follow or simple steps you can mindlessly complete that will make you love yourself tomorrow. But I do believe it starts with a small decision of wanting to change how you think about yourself. And with that in mind, I will share the three things that have made the biggest difference on my journey to loving myself in hopes that they may give you a kick-start on your journey.
1. Look at yourself as you would a child.
This is basic self-love psychology 101, I know. I heard it and read it several times throughout the years, but it didn’t actually hit me until a few months ago when I found a picture of myself in the first grade. I’m six years old and I have a big bow in my hair and I’m smiling at the camera and I think my face looks kind of silly. It makes me laugh, but it also warms my heart. When I see this picture, I see myself but in a different light. This silly little girl with her paint splattered outfit had no idea what it meant not to like herself. She liked Cabbage Patch dolls and watching movies with her brother all night long and writing stories and going to school because it was fun. She liked glitter and roller skates and Mary-Kate and Ashley were her absolute favorite people in the world. She could never decide between Oreo’s or Chips Ahoy, so she always ate both. And somehow, throughout the years, for several different reasons, she got a little lost and started to believe she was not worth being loved.
I found a big, colorful frame for that picture and put it on my dresser so I can see her big brown eyes and her big round cheeks every morning when I’m getting ready and remind myself that I’m still that little girl. I would advise you to do the same. Find a picture of yourself as a child that you love and frame it in a frame that makes you happy. Then, put it somewhere you can see it every day.
As we grow up, we begin to be so hard on ourselves. We become trained to believe we are not good enough and that we aren’t good persons. But that is not true. Once you really start seeing yourself as a child, you can re-train your brain to be easier on yourself. All children make mistakes. That does not mean they are bad children. All children do bad things. That does not mean they should be punished forever as a consequence. Children are learning, and so are we as adults. We are always children. We are always learning. We shouldn’t continue to yell and berate and put ourselves down because we made a few (Several? Tons? Doesn’t matter.) mistakes in our lives. You would not yell at your little brother or tiny niece or baby cousin and tell them they’re not worth a damn thing because they did something dumb, would you? (I REALLY hope not!).
If you have trouble with this analogy, a variation is to picture your best friend instead. You would NEVER tell your best friend that they sucked or that they were ugly or that they did not deserve love. So why would you say it to yourself? Just maybe don’t frame a picture of your best friend alone and put it on your dresser. That’s creepy.
2. Affirmations – Write them everywhere.
I am a total yoga-loving, manifesting, intention-setting freak and I will not apologize for it. I don’t care if you think affirmations are dumb because they work. How else do you expect to train your brain to believe something if not by constant repetition?
I read a book called, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteemby Nathaniel Branden. One of the affirmations Branden writes in the book is, “I choose to value myself, to treat myself with respect, to stand up for my right to exist.” Isn’t that powerful? You have a right to just exist without doing anything at all or proving anything to anyone. Now imagine how much more powerful it would be if we actually believed it. And after we believed it, practiced it.
Write affirmations everywhere and repeat them to yourself when you see them. Put them on post-its or write them on your mirror or set them as the wallpaper on your phone. Currently, I have a dry-erase board in my bathroom with the affirmations that speak the most to me right now. Every morning as I’m doing my make-up and every night as I take it off, I read those affirmations and repeat them in my head. Even if you think they are not making a difference, keep doing it. You’ll be surprised on what your subconscious picks up.
3. Spend time with yourself.
Like, actually do it. Learn to love spending time with yourself. You can’t fall in love with someone if you don’t actually know them. But how the hell do I actually do this, you ask. I had the same problem. Even when I was spending a night in or just having some “me” time, I would distract myself with a book or a movie or scrolling endlessly through social media. This isn’t loving yourself just because you’re chillin’ alone.
It sounds a little odd, but don’t you think you need to ask yourself questions to get to know yourself? Ask yourself what you like, what you don’t, what you hope to accomplish in your life, how you feel this exact moment. Ask yourself things you would ask someone you care about or want to know or find interesting. Ask yourself what you believe and why.
I like to do this by journaling. When I don’t know what to write, I just go on Pinterest and search something like, “Knowing yourself.” Yes, I am still aware that this sounds dumb, but be assured that links like “50 Questions To Get To Know Yourself Better” will pop up and you’ll have a ton to talk about with yourself so there are no awkward silences. You’re welcome!
If that’s too weird for you, then go ahead and buy yourself this journal by Meera Lee Patel. It’s a beautiful little work of art and helps you figure out just who you are.
Finally, take yourself out on dates. Do something you’ve always wanted to do alone, like going to the movies or taking a trip or reading a book at a cool coffee shop. It sounds scary, but it’s also pretty fun not to worry about anybody else and just do your own damn thing for once. Also, if anyone has a problem with you being there alone, they probably just don’t like themselves. At least you’re working on you.