My younger self was riddled with self-doubt and my self-esteem was incredibly fragile. I felt I was ugly, uncool and fat. I look back now and feel so saddened by how much of my self-esteem was impacted based purely on my perceptions of how I looked. I’d always been a smart, kind, funny and loyal person, yet I allowed my warped perception of my physicality to takeover my thoughts. How I wish I could go back and talk to my younger self about what actually mattered, teach her to value how beautiful her soul was and let her know that her looks weren’t as bad or important as she believed.
When I fell pregnant with my daughter, I started to reflect on my journey and my insecurities. How was I supposed to teach my children how to love themselves, when I had allowed my own insecurities to overpower me time and time again? I was always told that I was wonderful and to love myself by my parents… and yet I didn’t. So, I reflected on what could I do to help instil a strong sense of self and level of self-esteem in my child. I quickly realised that just saying the words wasn’t enough, I needed to show them how to love and value themselves, and this meant learning how to love myself.
So, what does self-love mean and what does it entail? I think these answers will vary for everyone, but for me self-love is about learning to value yourself, to acknowledge and appreciate your great qualities and to learn to be at peace with your “faults”. Perfection doesn’t exist, and striving for it only distracts us from fully embracing ourselves and from being the best version of ourselves. Self-love doesn’t mean an absence of self-doubt or self-criticism, it means acknowledging those negative thoughts, but also dismissing them. The sooner we accept that we are all “flawed”, the sooner we can stop giving our “flaws” the power to overwhelm our minds and destroy our self-esteem. Self-love is not about telling ourselves that we are perfect and that we don’t need to change a thing about ourselves, it is about understanding what we truly value and allowing ourselves to grow in ways that align to those values.
5 steps to self-love:
1. Make peace with your insecurities
Acknowledge your lingering insecurities and forgive yourself for having them. You are only human and it is okay to question to feel insecure about certain things. By removing the judgement you have towards yourself for not loving every single part of you, you actually allow yourself to merely acknowledge the insecurity and move on from it. An insecurity will only become an obsession if you continue to feed it.
2. Accept that perfection doesn’t exist and accept your “flaws”
We are living in an increasingly image obsessed culture and the concept of perfection can feel unavoidable. Perfection however is a totally abstract concept…it doesn’t truly exist. If you asked 100 people to define the perfect woman, you would probably get 100 different definitions of perfection. Additionally, even those “perfect” models you see in magazines don’t look like they do in magazines. They are heavily airbrushed, even after having a team of make artists, spray tanners, personal trainers and personal chefs working together to get them to look the way they do. So, if people who have all the help in the world and are paid to look perfect need to be airbrushed, why do we think that “perfection” is realistic or achievable? Once you accept that perfection doesn’t exist you actually give yourself permission to accept your “flaws” and perhaps you will even learn to love them, and to appreciate them for the ways they make you unique and beautiful.
3. Discover what is important to you
Once you learn to stop attaching your self-worth to the way that you look, you give your mind the opportunity to explore the things that are truly important to you. So, explore the world, whether in person or virtually, and discover the things that make your soul sing. These are the things your mind deserves the opportunity to focus on.
4. Grow in ways that support what’s important to you
Once you’ve discovered what is truly important to you, explore it and grow through it. Enroll in a course, connect with a community, or just schedule some “you time” to spend in your own mind exploring your thoughts. These activities will feed your soul, make you truly beautiful and will allow you to fall in love with the person you are. A person with soul, passion, and the desire to be your best self. A person who is perfectly imperfect, but who is growing more beautiful each day in the ways that truly matter to them.
5. Rinse and repeat
Self-love isn’t a destination, but rather an ongoing conscious choice. Continually check-in with yourself to make sure those old insecurities, or new ones, aren’t morphing into obsessions, remind yourself to accept your flaws, review what is important to you and find new ways to support those things.
It’s important to remember that self-love isn’t loving every single thing about yourself 100% of the time, that’s not realistic. Self-love is about not allowing those thoughts to consume us, and about acknowledging and then dismissing our unhealthy thoughts, and choosing to give that energy to the things that make us happier, stronger and more fulfilled instead.
*Orignally published on andsoshethought.com