Unfortunately, I don’t have that answer. What one person may love about themselves another person may try to completely avoid. That’s why its called SELF love. Nobody else can teach you how to do it, there are no steps you can follow exactly, there is no magic trick. While someone like me can give you some tips and things that worked for them that you can apply yourself, I still can’t make you love yourself. That is a challenge that you have to take on yourself. What is beautiful about that is when you work hard to love yourself there is more value in it.
What I will tell you is self-love is two fold. SELF love (key word self) is based off of loving what is on the inside (obviously) and yes it does apply to what is on the outside. Before you call me conceited, selfish, shallow, etc let me explain. If you are just focusing on your external looks and basing your worth off of your looks solely, I believe that you truly will never be satisfied. That being said there is absolutely nothing wrong with being confident in the way we look. Loving what we see on the outside increases our ability for self-love. Self-love is loving everything about yourself from the outside in, and if we are excluding our outer looks from that then we truly are not practicing self-love.
It sounds so cliché when we hear “Its what is on the inside that matters” but I think that implies that what is on the outside doesn’t matter and I do not think that’s true. Clearly what is on the outside of ourselves matters to US. It isn’t superficial to want to better your body on the outside and it isn’t superficial to say “I don’t need to change a thing I am perfect JUST the way I am”. We live in a society where people are now getting deemed as “narcissists” for declaring what they love about themselves! I am going to paint two pictures of society and you think of which one you like better. In both scenarios lets use the case of a 14 year old little girl:
Scenario 1) The 14 year old girl is full of life, she loves herself, she believes she can make something of herself and she is willing to work for it. She outwardly says to herself I am beautiful and I am worthy and I deserve to be treated so.
Scenario 2) The 14 year old girl is crushed by societies image of what is beautiful. She believes that she never will look like the girls she sees on TV and in magazines. She resorts to an eating disorder and struggles with it for years. She never believes she is worthy of anything so she does not strive to make something of herself.
Personally, I would much rather live in a world that hosts an environment that supports the little girl’s actions in scenario one. She is not hurting anyone, she isn’t talking down to anyone, she values herself and knows she has to work to get what she wants but doesn’t doubt her abilities to do so. She loves herself and that is not selfish.
Now let me tell you the LAST thing I am going to sit here and do is JUST write SOLELY about the importance of liking what you see in the mirror because even if we truly love what we see in the mirror we can hate what who we are in the inside. That is why self-love, to me, is two fold. In order to fully love yourself you have to love what makes you you, or your qualities. You don’t always hear someone say “I hate my arms, my belly, my face etc”. You also hear “I hate I am such a pushover”, “I hate how I am so lazy”, or “I hate that I can’t stay motivated”. You cannot hate your internal qualities and love yourself . To be completely honest we are our own worst critic and the qualities “pushover,lazy, lack of motivation” are more than likely not how others would describe you . Think about things you like about yourself internally. One thing I love about myself is when I want something I set my eyes on it and I do everything it takes till I accomplish it. Now lets reword that as someone who doesn’t practice self love “I hate that I am so pushy when I want something, I hate that I may come across as to forward, people may perceive me as aggressive or bitchy”. It is all about how you currently see yourself. Let me tell you the person who sees those traits as positive is going to be more likely to accomplish the things that they want because they aren’t trying to modify there actions they see no issues in them.
Another thing society doesn’t like is when someone says “I don’t care what people think of me I am who I am”. We automatically think that this person is a horrible person with the worst qualities and they HAVE to change “how could they not want to change how horrible they are”. Okay, well one that isn’t true. Two, this person isn’t defining their worth off of what others think of them. They love themselves enough and think highly enough of themselves to not need the approval of others to thrive. Third, this doesn’t mean they think they are above everyone else they just love who they are. Do not tell people they are wrong if they do not feel they do not need your approval. However, if a person thinks they are God himself, they can do whatever they want, and treat other people like crap well then we are crossing over into narcissism. However, in my case I have found the people who practice self-love (not narcissism) have some of the most beautiful souls.
What is self love for me?
Self love for me is learning to love myself to the point where things I hated become things I can accept about myself. It is also learning to love the journey that it took for me to get there. I don’t feel I would truly love myself if I hadn’t been on a journey. Metaphorically speaking if “self-love” was just handed to me I don’t know if it would truly be self-love. This is because I didn’t learn to appreciate those things they are just what is. If that doesn’t make sense let me phrase it this way. I wouldn’t passionately love something if I didn’t have to work for it to become something I loved (things like my boyfriend excluded obviously I fell in love with him for who HE is, same with my friends, my family etc). For example, lets do something simple like my stomach. Like I mentioned in my first blog “How did I get here?: An overview of my eating disorder” I grew up extremely skinny, while getting to eat everything I wanted, and my stomach just was flat and never affected by anything. I never cared about my stomach, I never focused on it, or was “proud of it”. It was my stomach I didn’t know any different! Then I gained weight and it became my problem area, everything I wanted to hide, and what I couldn’t stand people looking at. It was a huge cause of a lot of my problems. Then I started taking care of my body, eating right, working out, taking care of my gut health, etc and my stomach became something I liked about myself again. I love it now more than I ever did because I knew what it was like to not have it like that. I knew mentally all the work I put into it and to not love it seemed crazy. If you were just born with a sense of self-worth and loving everything you were given then that is absolutely amazing I am just telling you what makes it important for me.
What is self-love for others?
As a little experiment on my Instagram page (alisonschulthesz_x) I decided to ask others what they thought self-love was and how they practice it. It is funny because I really loved everything they said and some of the things they said I do myself but I never even though about categorizing under self-love. So here are some of the things that were said
- “Loving my body at its worst and best” Her practice? “Writing down things and saying them to myself – Kelsey W.
- “I practice self-love by not letting my insecurities become my enemies. I stare them in the face and make them my accomplishments” -Ashley C.
- “Me time! Give yourself time to just breathe be in the moment. Enjoy your own company”-Sophie D.
- “To me self love is appreciating yourself and not letting opinions of others bring you down. Doing whats best for you when its best for you” Her practice? “Taking care of myself and making sure my needs are met” -Chelsea
- “Self-love is believing in myself when I feel no one else does. Loving yourself so you can truly love others.” Another beautiful sentence mentioned “I feel that someone created me for a purpose. That gives me self-worth”. -Catrice M.
I didn’t plan on sharing this here when I asked but I was blown away by their answers and felt as if it needed to be shared. (to see their whole response and more possible responses added since the publication of this blog go over to my instagram)
How do I practice self love?
One time my therapist told me to use self-mantras and I truly did not believe in their powers and thought it was the dumbest thing ever. I said there is no way in hell that repeating something to myself over and over is going to change anything in my brain. However, do not doubt its’ power. We become our thoughts, we believe what we tell ourselves, and we create our reality. There are literally TONS of books out there on this and I won’t overwhelm you with all of that right now (maybe a blog for another time?). Self-mantras such as “I am beautiful” or “I am worthy” may seem small and dumb, just like I thought they did, but they hold so much power when told to ourselves overtime. When the words begin to hold power they begin to take action in our life. When we start believing in our beauty and our worth then amazing things happen to us. You can apply this in the form of writing it down, saying it aloud, but what really is going to set it in stone is acting like those things are what you believe. Do an action that makes you feel beautiful or do an action that makes you feel worthy.
I practice self love by finding the positive things about myself and spending my energy on looking for those things. The more time I spend on looking for the positive the less time and energy I have to focus on the negative. Overtime, focusing on the positive becomes more natural than focusing on the negative and it is life changing. I also take care of myself. When I take care of my body I feel good about myself and when I feel good about myself I love myself.
Finally, I practice self-love by simply giving myself time to just exist. There is something beautiful on choosing what you want to focus your mind on whether it be envisioning your goals in the future or focusing on the present (I have done readings on both and believe they can both be equally powerful). Not focusing it on things that others want you to focus on or something that triggers anxiety. It brings me inner peace to just exist and focus on things of my choice, things that make me happy, and things that calm me.
I hope all of this makes you feel empowered as it did so for me writing it. Loving yourself is essential. So please take even the smallest step and start practicing self-love. You won’t achieve it all at once, it will take time, and you may get discouraged. However, you are unlocking the door to so much more.