Before I begin with my story about self-love, I must explain that self-love is not a journey nor a status that you can reach. Self-love is a practice in which you should try to engage every day. Like a sport, you improve as you continue. When I was younger, I never thought much about what other people thought of me. I was only trying to have fun as any little kid would. As I grew up, so did my body and my perception of it. Despite my love of fashion, I rarely liked the girl I saw looking back in the mirror. With help from friends, role models, and most importantly, myself, I began to learn my worth as a human being.
I tend to strive for perfection and hate to disappoint others. I want to be my best, intellectually and socially, which can be troubling. At this point in my life, what I wanted most in the world was to be enough, because I didn’t believe that I fulfilled anyone’s expectations of me. What I failed to realize was that the only person I wasn’t enough for was me.
It took me a while to truly understand that nobody is perfect. In that way, we are all the same. I wondered then, if we all have so many flaws, how can people love each other? It is recognizing those flaws and accepting them that creates love. It is truly caring about one another, having your heart hurt when theirs does and having it dance when theirs does; this I always knew. I just didn’t know how to provide that kind of love for myself.
Halloween used to be my favorite holiday because it meant that I could be somebody else―anybody else except me. I couldn’t stand the way my body looked, the way I acted around friends, and the overwhelming way I expressed myself. The hatred would turn to guilt, because aren’t there people who have it so much worse than me? Those who have good reason to be unhappy? I continued to invalidate myself and felt even worse.
Some people say that you can’t love anyone else, if you don’t even love yourself. I beg to differ. You have an infinite amount of love to give, and who you give it to is up to you. You can love others and not yourself, but you will be drained, overwhelmed, and deprived. It’s important to give yourself the love you deserve, because you are the only one who can fill that emptiness.
What many people don’t realize is that mental and physical health are of equal value. Mind and body depend on each other, and neither is more important. Mental illness is invisible, which makes it hard for some to see its burden. Loving yourself can lift that burden a little bit less each day.
I began to research these topics, when I was diagnosed with depression. I wanted to make self-love a mission, a goal to achieve on some fateful day. I beat myself up every time I fell short, because it felt so impossible to love every inch of myself constantly, but really, it's like a sport. I needed to practice often for a little bit each day to see real improvement. It needed to be taken one affirmation. When I discovered that I shouldn’t be trying to reach some impossible goal, I got confused. How am I supposed to love myself if I don’t know where to start? I had more research to do. My findings to that point were: the ability to love yourself makes you so much happier; it is admirable to be confident and self-assured in yourself; and you don’t have to change your body, you just have to change your way of thinking.
Media has always told us that being fat equals being ugly. However, I learned that embracing the human body for what it is, is really beautiful. Trying to live up to impossible beauty standards was not cutting it for me anymore. With the help of role models, and my loved ones, I was able to come to the decision to appreciate my body for what it is: a bit big, a bit hairy, a bit damaged, but overwhelmingly gorgeous all at the same time. Now, I make it a priority to practice an act of self-love every day, and that can sometimes mean helping others, because who doesn’t love to make people happy?
Make a list of five affirmations for yourself right now. Go ahead, grab a pen and paper. If you don’t have the energy, that’s fine; I understand more than anyone. Just come back to it when you’re feeling up to it. The more times you read them, the more you’ll believe they are true. I’ll start you off with some examples:
I am confident in my body.
My friends enjoy my company and would be missing something without me.
I am smart and I have great determination to be my best self.
I am enough.
I have faced challenges before and gotten through them. I can do it again.
The thing about beauty is that it is constructed of your own perception. No one can prove that anything is beautiful. It’s not akin to saying the sky is blue or the grass is green. Being beautiful is dependent on your definition of it, so if you want to be beautiful and you think you are, then congratulations. You are beautiful. You are handsome. You are stunning. You are enough. You have the potential to spread more love than you ever thought possible. If you want to start loving yourself more, you can begin by making daily affirmations, by treating yourself, or by engaging in self-care. The quest starts with loving yourself a little bit more each day.