There are many things that come to mind when I think of self-love. There is self-confidence, self-esteem, having standards, a healthy diet, and care for your body. That seems like a lot, but everything listed is important in your journey to self-love.
When children are born, they know love. They freely give and receive love. They cry when they have a need that isn’t met and laugh to express their happiness. They are not concerned with how they look or what other people think of them. The thoughts and opinions of others don’t matter. All that matters is that they find whatever it is in the world that makes them happy.
Somewhere along the way, that changes. It usually starts as early as pre-school. By the time children are three to four years old, they have already been taught to judge, criticize, and express their dislike for others.
I don’t remember those years, but I do remember an early age where I became aware of myself in a way that I never had before. I had looked at myself in the mirror for years, so, of course, I knew what I looked like, but someone said something that caused me to see myself in a different way. After hearing how some other insignificant person viewed me, my view of myself became warped. I looked in the mirror, and my skin was too dark, my nose was shaped funny, and I had a big forehead. These were not my thoughts about myself. They were other people’s thoughts about me. Yet, I rehearsed them. Over and over again, I rehearsed them, until they became my thoughts about myself as well.
Ironically, I never had a problem attracting the opposite sex. I always kept up my appearance as much as possible. Looking back, maybe I thought I needed to overcompensate for what I “lacked”. Unfortunately, attention from the opposite sex was not enough to fill the void within my own mind. I wanted to be “attractive”, and someone along the way had told me I was not.
Fast forward through high school and college, I still struggled with insecurity. Fortunately, I no longer asked to be “attractive.” I accepted my looks and decided to make the most of it. Self-love still eluded me as I focused on wearing nice clothes, having my hair perfect, and never leaving the house without being dressed nice. I also had a very nice body, and I knew that, so the combination gave me a false sense of confidence that continued to attract the attention of some, and made me the envy of others.
Notice, I have yet to mention anything about my personality. I was and still am a very intelligent, articulate and genuinely nice person. However, I never gave myself credit for those things. I wanted to be attractive, and someone along the way had told me I was not.
This battle with myself lasted well into my twenties. I was doing great in school and in my career. I had become a homeowner reasonably early, with no help. I had a job that I loved and was in graduate school. All of those things were great, yet I struggled with romantic relationships. I craved male attention as a way of validating that I was okay. If the “flavor of the month” thought I was beautiful, then I must have been. If the focus of my affections decided to pursue some other “flavor,” then it must have been about me, not them.
After years of this drama, I finally decided to take some time to evaluate the decisions I was making and the reasons I was making them. I read many self-help books, and most of them had the same theme. Learn to love yourself. It was strange to me at first, because I thought that everyone must naturally love themselves. Who wouldn’t? As I continued to study, there were trends in the characteristics of individuals who struggled with self-love. I possessed many of those characteristics. I made a decision that I would face my insecurities head on, and learn to love me.
I took time to step away from the relationship drama and began to focus on myself. Instead of hurrying to dress in the mirror, I began to really look at myself. I looked at my nose that someone long ago made fun of and decided it fit my face perfectly. I looked at my eyes that friends in my high school senior class had said were the prettiest eyes. I wondered why they would say that since my eyes were not hazel or green in color. This time, I really looked at them, and I smiled, because I never realized how beautifully shaped my eyes were, with just a hint of mocha brown color. They were big and beautiful as I looked into the mirror. I looked at my smile and saw that it was so beautiful with teeth that were straight and white. All these parts of myself that I had spent years looking away from because someone long ago said…..something.
I did this little routine daily, looking at myself and liking what I saw, noticing the fine details of my face and hair. I then began to incorporate all parts of myself into my “me time”. I thought about all the aspects of my personality that I loved. I reminded myself that I was smart, funny, witty, giving, caring, supportive, encouraging, and trustworthy. The more I did this, the more things I found to like about me. Soon, my view of myself completely changed. I woke up one day, and my nose, my hair, my skin were all perfect! The reality is they were always perfect, and exactly as they should be. All those years of wishing paid off, because I asked over and over to be more attractive. The answer was to make me realize I was attractive and that personality has just as much to do with being attractive as anything else.
So, my advice to you is: learn to love yourself. You are not what someone said long ago. You are not what your ex-boyfriend or current girlfriend thinks you are. You do not have to live up to society’s false standard of beauty. The things you see on TV are NOT real. The “beauty” you see is altered through surgeries, make up, hair extensions, and other things meant to modify reality. The celebrities you look up to struggle with insecurities just as you and I do.
So, make a vow today to love you, just as you are. Love your face and your hair and your body, just as you are. There is always room for you to continue to better yourself if you choose to. You can eat healthy and exercise for a healthier lifestyle. Or, you can work on improving your personality if you don’t treat people well. Those are positive things that enhance who you are as a person. The negative things that you should avoid are thinking negative thoughts about yourself, criticizing others because of your own insecurity, or other acts that are harmful to your self-esteem.
Make a promise today to look at yourself in the mirror, and find something to like about you. Do this every day until you are able to transform the thoughts you hold about yourself. Other people will believe what you believe about yourself. Know that you are great. You are beautiful. You are talented. You are smart. You can make better choices. Most of all, you are LOVED, from the inside out. Love is an inside job. Go find the love within.