In a culture where we’re always looking for love in the sense of companionship or sex, we don’t often stop to think about finding love within ourselves. And while self-love is great and all, that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here. Rather, the quest for true, unconditional love for yourself can be hard to accomplish, largely because most of us don’t know how to go about it. What, pray tell, does loving yourself mean?
A Positive Self-Image
If you want to love yourself, you have to be cool with what you see in the mirror. Acknowledging and accepting your physical appearance as it stands is a tough, yet rewarding accomplishment. But it goes further than physicality; your actions and choices in life, even the bad ones, have to be recognized for what they are. Mind you, these aren’t reasons to excuse bad behavior or mean that you’re not flawed. You’ll always be flawed. That’s just the way it is. But the ability to see that and move on with happiness is what gives you the ability to love yourself.
Okay, so you’ve made some dumb decisions. Okay, so you kind of wish you could get a Brazilian butt lift. It doesn’t matter what your issue is with yourself. Whether it’s the job that you work or the neighbor you yelled at on Veterans Day, you need to come to terms with all that you are and all that you’ve done. That being said, don’t confuse self-acceptance with the message that you should never improve. People can always improve. It’s the recognition—and pursuit—of this fact that is the key to your self-acceptance.
Imagine you’re an artist. Now imagine that you have this super cool art exhibit for all of your latest paintings, happy as can be, until some guy approaches you. “Your stuff’s awful,” he says. “Stop painting immediately, you hack.” Now, artistry is a pretty subjective element. You know this. But when that guy talks nonsense about your work—his mere opinion—do you believe him and hang up your brushes? Or do you chalk him up with those that just have different tastes than you? Self-respect means that you recognize the flaws that you have, but also recognize the things that make you awesome. Just because somebody has an opinion that doesn’t put you in the greatest light doesn’t mean you should let them destroy what you love.
So many of us run around taking care of other people: volunteering at the LGBTQ youth centre, making sure your partner has taken his meds today, being a shoulder for your friends to cry on. But what about ourselves? Loving yourself includes taking time out of every day to breathe and/or do something nice just for you. It can be watching an episode of your favorite show, giving yourself 20 minutes to read or relax, or—perhaps most importantly—saying no to the requests of others when you’re feeling overloaded.
Remember that neighbor you yelled at on Veterans Day? It’s time to make amends. Part of truly loving yourself is admitting when you’re wrong—both to yourself and the ones you did the wronging to. It doesn’t matter that your neighbor started the fight by saying same-sex marriage should be illegal. The fact of the matter is you allowed yourself to get so angry that it escalated to an immature degree. While he played a part in it, so did you. And it’s up to you to be secure enough with yourself and your views to take responsibility and apologize for the mean things you said on your end. Will he forgive you? Maybe. Will he change his views about same-sex marriage? Probably not. But that was something outside of your control to begin with. All you did was make it worse with the yelling, and at least now you can walk away with that weight off of your shoulders.