“You just have to love yourself!” – They always say, as I’d roll my eyes after waking up from a good ole’ 3-hour depression nap.
Funny how loving yourself, even a small part of yourself, isn’t as easy as the movies make it out to be. Breaking news: Girl actually thinks she’s pretty and smart and doesn’t doubt it every second – CALL THE PRESS.
For a decent chunk of my life, I’ve disliked many pieces of myself. I grew up with anxiety and slowly sunk into depression in middle school when some not-so-great things happened in my family life – this depression, unfortunately, lasted for years. I also wasn’t very physically fit, ate poorly, and was kind of awkward (even more than now, who would have guessed?).
Slowly, I started to build my foundation to become who I am today by recognizing what I love. Yes, way back when, I may have not loved myself, but I knew what I cared about. When I was in my teens, I was deeply passionate about writing, art and video games. Every weekend, I’d play and create for hours – my heart would race excitedly whenever anyone would ask me about my stories, illustrations, or new games I was playing. Soon I started to categorize myself as an “Artist, Writer and Gamer” – all of these titles became my own unique brand of who I was. I knew if I did things that brought me joy, that I would become one step closer to understanding myself.
I’m in my 20’s now and I still don’t fully understand myself (shit, right?) – but as I’ve grown through pain, experience and curiosity, I’ve started to understand what it means to accept myself – my strengths and my weaknesses.
Need some extra help jumping on the self-love train? Keep readin’.
1. Begin to work on your self-awareness.
If you don’t understand why you feel like shit, or even kind of understand why you feel like shit, then you’re never going to be able to sort through the shit.
I consider myself to be a very self-aware person – that’s the perfectionist and brooder in me, but hey, it has its perks. Not sure how to be more self aware? Find yourself a quiet, comfortable place to sit and start talking internally to yourself (it’s okay if you think you look like a crazy person doing this). We are built on a multitude of different parts – one part of yourself may hold a lot of anger, while another part of yourself just wants someone to appreciate them. We do not function on a one-track mind in anyway shape or form – there are so many elements and fragments of yourself that are pieced together to mirror your reflection. If you don’t see all these pieces, or allow yourself to recognize them, your reflection will appear warped and broken.
In light of your authentic image – I encourage you to sit with yourself without any distractions. Start asking “How do I feel today?” – and truly mean it. Ask the question and stay silent for a bit and let your mind respond back to you. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your internal voice will chime in. Feel free to write these emotions down if you think it’ll help you interpret them later.
Another great way to break down your self-awareness is to determine what upsets you with an objective view. If someone says you look a little overweight (even when you’re not), and you find yourself filled with dread, stop for a moment and think “Is this related to the fact that I’m actually overweight? Or because of past experiences that have influenced this intense emotion?” – evaluating your feelings objectively is a great way to take power back in negative situations. Sometimes it can be hard to strip away emotion from your thoughts, especially if it’s related directly to you, but it’s an awesome strategy to start understanding why you react the way you do to certain things in life.
2. Be open minded with others.
Self-awareness is the key to understanding how you function, but humans are social beings. If you want to further understand yourself, you must be capable of understanding others.
Yes, we all have certain opinions – things we like and dislike – you may think Susan is a dumbass, but her dumbass opinions probably have some rhyme or reason to her, so if you can, allow yourself to be curious and to explore without judgement.
We will always hold a bit of judgement when we interact with people, but if you can bring in that objective piece once again, it can really help you understand why others function the way they do, in turn, allowing you to further understand yourself. Perspective is key. You may think someone is wrong, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard.
If you can start working on open-mindedness, I promise it’ll deepen your appreciation for all kinds of people.
3. Start Taking Care of your Body
No, two double-stacked cheeseburgers with a side of onion rings and a large fry is not going to help you love yourself.
If it did, we’d be living in a perfect universe, but alas, this universe is garbage. ANYWAY – You need to start taking care of your body – while self evaluation helps you mentally, you need to work on how you treat yourself physically as well.
I’m not saying to give up double-stacked cheeseburgers completely – I ain’t Satan. But, integrating fresh healthy habits can bring you a few steps closer to loving that good ole Dad bod you got going on (I’m looking at you Jim Hopper from Stranger Things).
Of course, you have to start small. If you typically drink two sodas a day, substitute one soda out for water to start with. If your typical amount of exercise you get a day is only 15 minutes, start taking some time to integrate more active activities into your lifestyle, like going for short walks, stretching, or lifting some light weights.
Again, you have to start somewhere – and small things can make a huge difference if you stick with it. If you physically feel like a bucket of sand each day you wake up, your mental health will suffer too. Pick one or two things to start with – whether it’s integrating walking, or getting rid of a soda or unhealthy snack and replacing it with a better option throughout your week. Do this for at least three to four weeks to make it a habit and see if you feel any difference.
Ever since I began going to the gym and honing my body, I’ve started to realize how much it has impacted my life. I think the craziest experience I felt when I became stronger was how much easier it was to do things like walk. You can actually tell how much easier it is to walk and move when you’re fit – which is crazy, because you walk and move everyday. I promise you, if you dedicate some effort into this, your mood and your body will thank you.
Wanna start to really understand yourself more? Fall on your fucking face and see how you go about picking yourself back up.
It’d be nice if we built the most of our character by petting bunnies and painting rainbows, but unfortunately, we build the most of our character by pain, humiliation and by clawing our way out of a well labelled “rock bottom”.
I have grown to understand myself the most through failure and pain – and quite honestly, I’ve grown even more when I’ve fully embraced said failure and pain. Or, even danced with it dangerously as a way to build my courage and my confidence.
Some of the greatest authors, inventors, scientists, and philosophers failed hundreds of times to get to where they are today. You cannot dare to be anything great in life without failure, nor can you truly love and know yourself if you think failure is your ending – it is your beginning, my friend.
The more you fail, the more you begin to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, and what you can do next time to be better.
So fail – all the cool kids are doing it.
4. Courage. Confidence. Trust.
In our last step of the train to self love, I mentioned having the courage to dance with fear and failure. Courage to face fear, thus facing failure and exploring ones strengths and weaknesses, leads to confidence.
Confidence is huge. The more you know yourself, the more confident you become in your perspectives of the world and your perspectives of others. If you are confident in yourself, you automatically radiate positive energy, impacting yourself and others around you. Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance, as you should still remain humble.
But how the heck do you build confidence? – Trust. You need to trust yourself. You need to trust that you are capable of what you set your mind to. You are not a worthless piece of shit. You are not a waste of breath. Get those thoughts out of your head and remind yourself why you keep walking forward everyday. Remember your strengths. Remember what you care about and envision what you want in your life and where you want to be. Then trust that you can get yourself there. No one can trust you for you. While having others to support you in your life is great, you will never reach true self-love or self-actualization if you don’t work individually to get there. Don’t be codependent. Don’t rely on someone to validate you. Don’t give up parts of yourself just to get someone else to love you. You need to work on that yourself, because you’re going to be with yourself for the rest of your life, no matter what.
5. Support others with kindness and understanding – be accountable!
A great way to bring yourself joy and self-worth is to be kind to others and to give back to your community. Giving love to others is not a substitute for giving yourself love (as I said previously, you need to work on self-love and self-acceptance individually), but dishing out some positive energy to others is an awesome way to continue building your open-mindedness and your self-awareness.
Having close friends is awesome – especially ones that encourage you to keep working on you. Find a friend that smacks a donut out of your hand on your “healthy” week day. Find a friend that cheers your name when you walk across the stage at your college graduation. Find a friend that stays up late with you and openly talks about what they love about you, but also what you can improve on.
And of course, do the same for that friend too. We aren’t alone in life – we can build ourselves through the support of others and carry that growth forward, even when people constantly enter and leave our lives.
The faces we interact with will always change, but the lessons we learn from them will stick with us, just as ours will for them. It’s all a big part of the human experience – so try to make every interaction you have with others a positive one if you can. You don’t know how much making someone else smile or laugh can put them back on their self-love track. Life doesn’t have to be a big competition – we’re all in this together.
It has taken me a significant amount of pain and experience to understand myself and how to love who I am.
Failure and curiosity strengthened my body and mind, while courage and self-trust carried me farther than I could have ever imagined.
So please – work on it. Love yourself. You’re with “you” until you die, so between you and me, I think it’s about time to make some positive changes and to start working toward the best version of yourself. Self-hatred isn’t forever. Anxiety and depression do not define you, nor do other people, nor do your failures, nor does your self-doubt, or your sense of hopelessness.
We’ve all got a fire flickering inside us – nurture it, feed it, and let grow – because you deserve it, for you and only you.