Tip #118: Love yourself.
The why: I would like to begin with a quote:
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a revolutionary act.” – Caroline Caldwell
These words have a particular meaning in our modern world, as with the various pressures society puts upon us, loving ourselves is an increasingly difficult venture.
Whether it’s how much we earn, how we look, how many friends we have, how funny we are, how successful we are, how talented we are, over 70% of people report being unsatisfied with themselves in some way.
We are constantly told we need to be more, do more, buy more.
Honestly, I think these constant pressures are a huge factor behind the exponential increase in mental health problems like depression and anxiety over the last decade.
This is because, whether we like it or not, the longest relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves. We are with us 24/7. We are constantly in our minds, in our bodies, and so if we don’t love or even like ourselves, we’re going to find it very hard to be happy.
It’s like being locked in a room with someone every minute of every hour of every day who is constantly cruel to you. Who criticizes everything you do. Who constantly puts you down.
This would have a negative impact on even the most confident of people.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced occasional bouts of self-hatred. It’s part and parcel with mental health problems. You can feel anxious at the fact that you’re not enough. You can feel depressed because you don’t see yourself as someone worthy of love or happiness.
I know this because I’ve been there.
The number of times people have told me just to “think positive” or “love yourself” or ” be more confident” in response to my self-doubt is worryingly high. They say it, with their hearts in the right place, as though it’s the easiest thing in the world.
When in truth, what’s rarely spoken about is just how much easier it is to be negative.
To point out all your flaws, your weak points, your failures, is so much easier to do than to point out all the good things.
It’s giving in to what society is telling you, rather than fighting against a system that actively profits from your feeling like you’re never enough.
It’s much easier to say “yes, you know what, I don’t look like an Instagram model, and I feel terrible about it” than “yes, you know what, I don’t look like an Instagram model, and I’m totally okay with that.”
Self-love is also awkward, painful, against the grain.
If you stand up and say “hey world, guess what, I’m beautiful, smart and I’m happy with who I am” people will line up to call you big-headed, conceited, arrogant.
Expressing self-love is like putting your head above water, only for the chains of what is socially acceptable to pull you back down to the depths.
Self-hatred is comfortable, usual, expected.
If you think negatively of yourself, you can never disappoint. You can chalk down your mistakes and misfires to being because you aren’t good enough – you never expect too much of yourself, and neither can anyone else.
When things go wrong, which they will at some point, it doesn’t sting as much because it is what you always thought would happen.
I’ve learned these lessons the hard way.
I always thought that happiness came from the external; happiness was if I achieved all the things I wanted, if I got a certain amount of likes on a photo or blog post, if I got good grades, if I made someone laugh with a terrible pun (which is a silly measure of happiness at is never happens).
But I realized that when I measured myself by all these external things, they were transient, fleeting.
I’d feel good for a short time. For a bright, beautiful moment, I’d think I wasn’t so bad.
But then happy endings always have the minute after don’t they?
After the initial rush faded, I was still stuck with myself. I couldn’t like myself again until the next thing, and then the thing after that.
Life was an eternal struggle to find validation and meaning, searching for a happiness that was ephemeral in nature.
True happiness I realized, has to come from within. As cliche as it sounds.
You have to be okay with who you are. You have to love yourself. Only then can you experience lasting and sustained happiness.
Because if you love yourself, then one negative comment can’t shatter the house of cards around you. One failure or mistake can’t ruin your entire self-image.
If you love yourself, then you need nothing else to give you happiness or meaning, you carry it around with you. It’s something that nothing or no one can take away from you. It’s with you 24/7.
So, what can we do to love ourselves better? Is it even possible to be truly happy?
In my heart of hearts, I truly believe, though it may be a long, difficult process, that it is possible. It’s definitely worth a shot.
Number One – Be Realistic
I think part of the problem with attempting to attain self-love and happiness, is the lie we are told.
We are told that to be truly happy, we have to love absolutely everything about ourselves. If we don’t, we haven’t reached the promised land. We’ve fallen short.
Instead, a key to happiness is to take a more realistic approach.
For instance, I’ve accepted that fact that I will probably never love the size of my nose, or the fact my arms jiggle in ways I wish they wouldn’t when I clap, or that I have the occasional nipple hair I have to pluck (sexy, I know).
But, the way to be happy is to say that, despite these perceived flaws, they don’t have an impact on the overall love I have for myself.
It’s impossible to like absolutely everything about yourself, and to try I would say is a road to disappointment. However, if you can love yourself as a whole, even if there are parts you aren’t so happy with, that is an achievement in itself.
Number Two – Accept The Parts Of Yourself That You Don’t Like
Sometimes a large part of loving is accepting.
We extend this courtesy of acceptance to our friends, family and the people we love, so why do we not do the same for ourselves?
There are always going to be things about someone else that annoy the hell out of us, but we love them anyway. We accept the parts of them that we aren’t always on board with because we love them, and when you love someone you recognize that their flaws are a part of them and make them who they are, just as much as the good parts do. So, in a way you do love their flaws.
It’s time we expand this logic and apply it to ourselves. Our flaws make us who we are as much as our triumphs, and we need to accept the parts of ourselves that we cannot change as being part of a wider, brilliant being.
Number Three – Love Others
Part of the road to self-love isn’t just changing the way we see ourselves, but also changing the way we see others.
We need a society-wide shake up, and to do that, we must love others.
Next time you see someone express their self-love, or accept the way they look, or be happy with themselves, cheer that person on.
Of course, there are genuinely arrogant people out there, people who act like they are entitled to the whole world because of who they are, but this is different from internal confidence. We need to learn that difference.
If we start cheering for each other rather than putting each other down, if we start complimenting rather than critiquing, we can unleash a tidal-wave of self-love large enough to wash away the self-doubt that plagues us.
Think of what can be achieved when we root for one another, when people believe they can do anything, when we love ourselves.
Number Four – Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race
This may seem like a strange tip, but bear with me.
RuPaul’s Drag Race saved my life – and no, that isn’t an exaggeration.
I began watching when I was in a pretty severe depression. I hated myself, the way I looked, who I was. I thought I could achieve nothing, be nothing. I felt nothing, and like nothing.
Seeing these amazingly fierce and beautiful people express themselves, accept themselves and love themselves even though society made them outcasts was a true inspiration.
But more than that, seeing these amazingly fierce and beautiful people struggle with the same doubts, the same fears and the same worries that I did made me realize that I wasn’t alone.
Watching their journey to self-love inspired me to do the same.
At the end of every episode, Mother Ru calls out the refrain “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else. Can I get an amen?!”
This quote shows the importance of loving and accepting who you are. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we expect others to do the same? To be treated as we deserve, we must think we deserve it.
This show is one I can’t recommend highly enough if you need a boost of confidence, entertainment, and self-love.
Number Five – Sit Naked In Front Of A Mirror
This tip was probably the most uncomfortable at first, but also over time became the most useful.
Find a mirror, and sit naked in front of it. Really, truly take a good look at yourself.
At first you may feel odd, critical, negative. We are rarely used to seeing ourselves so literally naked and vulnerable.
Take a moment to scan every inch of yourself. Make a mental note of your initial thoughts.
Now, find five things about your body that you like. Say them out loud to yourself. This may be difficult and weird in the beginning, but I guarantee you can do it. Even if its a small thing, point it out.
After analyzing the physical, tell yourself six things you love about your personality. Even if it requires some deep thinking at first.
Try this every day, and over time the compliments flow easier and faster. Pointing out the good will become a reflex, rather than focusing on the bad.
Over time, this technique made my instinctual reaction to thinking about myself a largely positive experience. Now when someone compliments me I don’t immediately debate it, instead, I smile a genuine smile and say thank you.
Number Six -Fake It Until You Make It
This one is rather easy to do. Act confident. Pretend you’re going for an Oscar nomination.
This is because starting self-love from scratch can be a difficult and arduous task, because the base on which you are starting may be so negative. I know mine was.
Instead, if you fake confidence before it manifests itself in reality, this gives your brain a good jump-off point to work with. You’ll already have the confident thought process, which allows the belief to follow through an open doorway.
It makes the transition from fake confident thoughts to real confident thoughts so much easier. Eventually, if you think something enough, you’ll begin to believe it.
Number Seven – Start A Compliment Jar
Make a jar of all the compliments you receive, and save them for a time when you feel particularly low. Listen to the cacophony of praise, no matter how small or large, that follows you around your life.
Find a guide on how to do that here.
Number Eight – Improve From A Positive Perspective
Now, none of this is to say that you shouldn’t always work to improve yourself, or change parts of yourself that you’re not happy with. But, the key is to do this in a positive way.
Rather than changing because you hate yourself, change because you love yourself enough to want to do better in some areas.
If there’s a personality trait that you’re not happy with, then by all means work to improve it, but make sure that you also recognize the parts of yourself that you want to keep around.
See that bad part for what it is – one part – rather than letting that one thing ruin your entire self-image.
For instance, if you wish to have better discipline, don’t think:
“I have no discipline, I’m a failure, I’m doomed to be lazy and watch Netflix instead of working, everything is wrong.”
Instead, think to yourself:
“One area I should work on is my discipline, I still complete my assignments on time and stick to deadlines, but there is a more efficient way I could be doing this.”
Do what we are taught in school to do to others: always use constructive criticism.
Self-love is hard. It’s difficult. It’s a process. It’s a journey.
Self-love isn’t one fixed destination, it looks different to everyone.
Self-love is a large key to happiness.
Self-love is something worth working for.
Self-love is a revolutionary act, so get out there and change your world.