No one talks about how to love yourself. It’s just a phrase we all hear, even more so now that self-care is the motto. It’s the root, according to everyone who gives advice on relationships, healing, or being an authentic you. But what does it mean? How do you do it? Is it as simple as saying “Tonja I love you” the same way we do with a significant other?
The answers all start with looking within ourselves. We are all too enthralled in our daily grind. I recognize that it is hard enough just trying to survive, let alone make time for ourselves. Therein lies the problem… we are so consumed with consumerism that a lot of us have forgotten the value of ourselves. Self-esteem(confidence) and self-respect(boundaries) are the main components to knowing our worth. I’m absolutely guilty of forgetting this too! In fact, I’ve spent the last 3 years debunking all my personal myths and getting back to the basics. But I’ll share more about this below… For now, just remember, we weren’t created to live in spaces of constant turmoil.
These last two months, specifically, have been the culmination of my personal quest to find out the answers to those questions above. I was lucky enough to take a two-month sabbatical from flying, in order to ground myself. I know, not everyone gets this opportunity but before you stop reading because you think you can’t relate… hear me out. My personal journey to self-love didn’t just begin, in fact, I used the picture of my big chop because THAT is when I realized I’d lost myself or rather never knew how to love myself.
That was three years ago. I was 22, freshly graduated college, and had heard the phrase, “the world is your oyster” more times than I could l count. Yet I was single, seeing all of my friends starting to get engaged, married, and have babies. I was living Nebraska, with no cultural or social stimulation. To top it off, I was working in a career that had nothing to do with my political science degree. I had bombed the entrance exam to law school and lost all motivation towards “my dream career.” What came next? I gave up on myself and melted down. So, in true Brittany spears fashion, I took a pair of scissors to my heat damaged curls and started massacring the front of my hair. Then I kept on with my daily routine of “getting by”, and yes I could only wear my hair in buns cause I looked like
But seriously, did you notice everything I just shared wasn’t directly about me, it was about me feeling like I had to prove something to those around me. I wanted a relationship to be happy in but also, so I could show the world that I was capable of being loved like all my peers. I wanted to be a lawyer to show my family I could be “successful” and I even convinced myself that would make me feel successful too. I justified staying in Nebraska because I was “established” with a great salary, my own space to live, etc. I told myself the stability was a good trade-off even though I wasn’t content with my career or environment. There go those justifications again… I had lost all confidence in myself and my boundaries were wavering. For 22 years, I had gone through the motions… I did everything I was “supposed to” and yet I still felt lost when I technically had it all. I thought a new career and moving would change everything, but it didn’t. It amplified that the problem was internal.
How can we learn to love ourselves when we are constantly focused on being something else for others? Or when we don’t make time to listen to ourselves? The simple answer: We can’t!
I’ve laid out the phases I went through to get myself to a space of loving myself.
Phase 1- Be Alone with Yourself There is so much value in learning to enjoy your own company. That means: unplug from social media, stop asking your friends advice, and instead ask yourself the tough questions. Also learning to listen to your instincts… you know that strong feeling that someone isn’t good for you or perhaps that feeling telling you to quit the job that’s pushing you towards a mental break down… those gut feelings are messages to remember your worth; remember the boundaries you once set for yourself.
Phase 2- Identify Your Triggers If you can piece together the patterns in your life, you can get to the root of what makes you devalue yourself. This may not be an easy process (this took me more than a year to put together) but patience with yourself is an important trait required to love yourself.
Phase 3- Talk to Yourself Self-affirmations and yes, simply saying I love you are important. Look in the mirror and remind yourself you are strong, capable, and whatever else you may need to overcome. Don’t limit it to just your mirror, either. Sometimes I talk to myself in my public too. When you need those words of affirmation, use them. Words affect how you see yourself. The same way someone can hurt you with their words is the same way you can water and grow yourself to be the confident bad ass person you always knew you could be.
Phase 4- There is a book for everything Immerse yourself in knowledge. You are not the first or only person in this circumstance. There are self help books a dime a dozen. Audio books come filled with mantras and self help guides if you don’t love to read too. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero is my #1 suggestion to start!
I believe the reason we feel so comfortable when we are in love, is because that is a state we should constantly be in. To give and receive love fully and whole heartedly. However, we cannot give to others what we don’t have in ourselves. If you’ve noticed, when we attempt to do so, that is when we end up feeling so empty. We have to remember to always fill our own cup first and more importantly remember to put value on ourselves. This is why learning to love ourselves is so important. We are capable of finding that same comfort in ourselves, it can be constant and endless once we get there.