Knowing the value of loving yourself and navigating how to do it are vastly different things. The first echoes from our loved ones, support networks, and even pop culture, but none of their affirmations convey the complexity of the often winding journey of learning to love yourself. There is no quick slip to bypass the work of giving yourself the same softness you give to others, but there are a few skills we’d like to support you in as you learn.
Doing, not being
Have you ever heard the popular quote that tells us we are each “a Human Being, not a Human Doing”? Well, learning to love yourself is nothing like that. While spending your time as a human being will support your journey toward self-compassion and enhance your mindfulness practice, it’s not going to help you love yourself. At least, not actively.
Loving yourself is a hands-on process. It involves the unlearning of martyrdom and self-blame to embrace the active choice to nourish yourself. It can be messy, but most art is. Actively identifying and working toward the things that make you feel alive, fulfilled, and excited to move through each day is important. Some of those things may look like fun, but others can be punishingly hard work, especially amid early recovery.
Maybe it sounds more punishing than like an act of care, but spending time with what you truly need to thrive and enforcing those boundaries is a vital part of loving yourself. Knowing yourself well enough to identify what you need and using your energy to declare that you are entitled to the space it takes up to ask for them will reinforce your value in the world and within yourself. Boundaries can be difficult to identify and set, but they’re one of those forms of self-love that can shape the landscape of all your relationships in powerful ways.
As you move toward self-love, feeling accepted and accepting others is key in fostering that same energy inwardly. While external validation doesn’t beget self-love, being loved out loud is a fantastic way to see what makes you so very lovable. Love from someone else is a mirror that helps you fully see yourself to fully embrace yourself.
You can choose to be selective with the love you receive from others. Use those boundaries to accept only what serves you as well.
In your relationships that influence your life, look for connections that make you feel seen and supported. At work or in your commitments, be honest about what you need and accept your presence in the spaces that feel good as you move toward a life that loves you back. When they don’t, work to let go of those things in all the ways you can. Accept others as they present themselves and not as you hope they’ll be. Of course, the counter to this is the pain of letting go of things that no longer fit. Just like boundaries, pain can help us see how to love ourselves better long term.
Showing yourself love and gentleness is an intensely personal process, but no matter how you choose to go about that, there is one constant; you must embrace the intention you set. Commit to the concepts and ideas you try to lovingly support yourself. Promise your energy to those spaces of learning and lead with the desire to do your best. This does not require you to follow through on everything you try or to always show up as your best. Always expecting perfection or success is the opposite of loving yourself. Letting go of that expectation for yourself can be a powerful way to enact boundaries and accept yourself as you are in the here and now instead of in the loftiness of impossibility. Intend to show up with a passionate and committed heart and to show yourself grace and tenderness when that commitment requires some adaptations along the way.
Loving yourself isn’t a smooth and beautiful process. You can’t romance yourself to genuine love any more than you can hate yourself there. It’s a highly individual experience based on just a few universal principles. But despite the simplicity of the concepts, applying them can be a learning curve that feels steep and trying. You are capable and worthy of the love you have to give, so keep trying. Through setbacks, struggle, and recovery, keep trying. Keep showing up with love and honesty and move through the spaces that make your own love feel out of reach. We will move with you.