Why Self-Love Is So Much More Than Just a Cliche
I hear it all the time and I’m sure you do too..
“Love yourself first.” “Without self-love, you can never love another!” “The most important person is you.” Etc.
It’s almost disheartening that self-love has become a cliche because it is the single most important thing I have done for myself and I truly believe it is the first key to leading a happy, balanced, and fulfilled life. Regardless of how cheesy the quotes may sound, they are dang true!
I know, I know. If you’d mentioned this ish to me five years ago I would have laughed in your face and said something along the lines of, “Ha ha, okay bud, but I frickin hate myself,” with a smile when really, I was telling the truth. Externally, I appeared confident and secure but nobody could see the distress and self-hatred occurring behind the scenes.
I used to pick apart my body and chide myself every time I looked or felt a bit “heavier than normal”. If my abs disappeared, I’d instantly start controlling my food and calorie intake again and ramping up my cardio. I had no idea who I was or who I wanted to be, and my only defense mechanism was to control and manipulate what was easy for me: food and exercise.
My childhood was by no means a walk in the park. I know what you’re thinking: “Great, she’s gonna hearken back to the childhood BS now,” but hear me out! Because of my past, I have a people-pleasing nature. I always felt the need to impress others and live up to expectations in hopes of receiving some kind of positive feedback. I also cultivated a need to control, capitalized by the fact that so much of what I experienced was completely out of my control (and, yes, I hated that).
I spent a good amount of my life blaming myself for other peoples’ actions, telling myself it was my fault that others around me were unhappy, and basically just pushing down my true, authentic self to be the version I thought others would receive well. This led to me disliking myself pretty strongly and always feeling a sense of remorse for “not being good enough.” These ideas were perpetuated by situations I found myself in; somehow, I was always able to frame the situation into a “woe is me, this is all my fault” kinda deal. And to some extent, maybe I was right. Maybe I was experiencing all of these negative things BECAUSE I was constantly resisting myself and the universe rather than accepting myself and everything else for exactly what it was.
Regardless, these thoughts and behaviors led me to fight myself and my body for the majority of my life. It was no wonder I hated myself, because I was never taught otherwise and my abilities to reinforce this idea by blaming every single negative thing in my life on myself only fed the beast. I was weak in relationships as I forgave every time I shouldn’t have, took the blame for others’ actions, and never believed that I was deserving of anything better than I already had.
I decided I was tired of being at war with myself. I was tired of feeling like everything was an uphill battle that I wouldn’t win. I decided to change my narrative, effectively changing my outlook on my life. By no means was it easy and I’m still working on how I relate to myself, but all I’m saying is that it’s possible and the work necessary to get there is so worth it if your goal is to experience happiness and peace.
Now, I notice glimpses of this self-love that’s nearly second nature to me; I haven’t felt self-conscious about my body or appearance in months, maybe even years, and I have cut all of the negative, self-pitying BS out of my life in exchange for positive, nurturing thoughts and actions. I experience every situation, positive or negative, from a place of grace and honor and always try to lead with the best intentions for myself. I no longer choose to be taken advantage of or settle for anything that doesn’t bring me happiness. I’ve decided that I mean too much to put myself second, and life has responded to this by opening up so many opportunities for me to thrive.
It’s taken me years of unlearning everything I had been taught by society and culture regarding my weight and what it means to be comfortable with myself, but it’s been worth it. I’ve had to cultivate a real, honest relationship with myself and my thoughts in order to be aware of when they shift to the old paradigm so that I can redirect them before it’s too late. I’m not saying it’s easy because there’s no way it is, but it is so important in discovering who we really are beneath the layers of self-doubt that have been placed on us from such a young age.
Self-love looks different on everyone, but I can tell you what it doesn’t look like: self-doubt, negative self-talk, and the desire to be any different than you are. We are born into our bodies and we’re stuck with them for life, so we might as well make life easier and just partner with ourselves rather than constantly fighting. I hope that no matter where you are on your journey, you are able to be gentle with yourself today and find at least ONE thing you love about yourself; focus on that and you’re already on your way.