So tell me, how do you practice self love? Is it a pedicure? A massage? Maybe a nice treat from your favourite bakery, or little something something from your favourite shop (I’m talking about shoes here, obviously).
I may be a little late to the party, but I have only very recently realized that self love isn’t a thing we do as a treat or reward for good behaviour. In fact, behaviour has nothing to do with it.
Honestly, it’s a little mortifying to admit it, but I genuinely *just* came to the somewhat stunning discovery that self love means one actually loves oneself. Not because I’ve earned it through good deeds and discipline and certainly not because I’ve struggled, suffered or berated myself to a nubbins, either.
Self love means you love yourself. It means I love me. Not in a perfunctory, box-checking way. Not because I’m broken, inadequate or flawed, like a bird with a broken wing or a three-legged dog, but because I’m here, dammit, and that alone is all the requirements checked. I mean it looks like allowing all my parts and delighting in myself, mind, body and soul.
I don’t deserve love because of anything I’ve done (no matter how awesome it is) or because of anything that’s happened to me (no matter how rough it was). I deserve love because I’m here, just like everyone else.
For the record, I’ve never felt like anyone else needed to do anything to deserve love. So that’s quite the double standard to hold, especially as long as I’ve held it. We all deserve love, most importantly from ourselves, because here we are, and that’s a frigging miracle.
I’m by no means a self-love connoisseur — I mean, obviously, given that this insight is about a minute old in the grand scheme of my timeline — but I feel like I’m onto something solid here.
Getting a pedicure, massage or treat isn’t self love if it’s done in lieu of loving myself. No wonder it never really felt like it was filling my love cup: I was bypassing a serious misunderstanding in who I am and how love works by detouring through a spa day or online cart checkout.
What I see now is that I have some work ahead of me to re-train my self regard to unconditionally positive, even when — and especially — when I’m struggling to see it. It means letting myself be cracked open with whatever there is to feel, including all the same forgiveness and lovingkindness I hold for every other living thing.
What if I met myself with joyful, enthusiastic and heartfelt love and appreciation? What if I loved myself, so that the burden of loving me didn’t fall entirely on the backs of everyone else, who, by the way, have found me lovable, even though I couldn’t let it in.
Remember, until very recently, I didn’t deserve my own love, so I sure didn’t deserve yours, either. I was too busy earning love to realize that trying to deserve love is what keeps it forever out of reach, even if it’s all around me, which it is.
What if we don’t need to be selfless to be generous? What if we don’t need to make our contribution a compensation, but rather a gift that only we can give, because we are the only one of us who will ever be?
It only took me about forty-two years to understand this, but what I know for sure is that I don’t need to waste any more time trying to berate or criticize myself into a version of me that I deem acceptable. Abusing myself is no path to enlightenment and there’s no trophy for rejecting myself.
I mean, I’ve tested that method thoroughly and empirically and I can officially attest to the fact that it doesn’t work. I’m going to go ahead and call a moratorium on that experiment.
Step one is sharing this here, where it feels embarrassing and a little bit gratuitous. But whatever, I’m going to spend the next however many years I’ve got in front of me learning to fall in love with myself a little bit more each day.
It’s time for me to stop looking for followers and start becoming my own biggest fan. I hope you’ll do the same for you, too.