The other day I asked a friend a question that I think we should all ask ourselves, “What would it look like if you loved yourself fully and unconditionally?”
She didn’t know, and I don’t have a definitive answer, but everyday I strive to better understand what that question truly entails and what the answer might be.
How this idea really came into light was when I saw a friend of mine repeatedly say negative things about themselves and intentionally harming themselves with poor life choices. I told this friend, “If someone else treated you the way you treat yourself, I’d kick their sorry butt. I’m tempted to kick your butt just on principle.” But how could I judge them for mistreating themselves when I myself was possibly a worse offender? Years of growing up in a negative environment had given me a terrible self-concept. I would constantly put myself down by calling myself fat, lazy, stupid, etc. If someone else called me those things, my friends would be mad at that person, so its not surprising that my friends would get mad at me. They care about me, and they wish I would care about me too. I came to understand that I should love myself, but that doesn’t mean that I did or even knew how.
What really made me see the error of my ways was a call with a mentor of mine. She told me to be good to myself. That it was time that I started to allow others to love me and to do that I needed to love myself, and until I love myself that I will never fully love another. I then saw how in all my relationships with lovers, friends, and family, that I had been cold to my loved ones in some ways, because I was unable to accept love. I thought about how frustrating it was for me to love someone who refused to accept my love, and understood the folly of my actions. Many of us know what it is like to love someone who cannot feel loved. It is horrible. I knew both sides of that coin, and I had enough of it.
But that still didn’t give me an answer of what it looked like if I truly loved myself fully and unconditionally. Then I thought, “If I were fully responsible for another adult, for every aspect and decision of their life, then what would I have that person do if I loved them fully and unconditionally?” Now just pretend that other person is yourself. I can’t tell you what loving yourself looks like to you, for that is a journey that only you can make, but I can tell you what I have come to believe for myself.
To truly love myself I have had to re-parent myself, for I needed to repair the damage of the past and teach myself new good habits. Good habits take time to develop, so the first thing I had to do was stop judging myself for having the unhealthy habits I had and still have. In fact, I made it a mission to stop judging myself in any capacity. I am not a final product, but a process, and so what you have today with me will not necessarily be what you will have tomorrow. I adjusted my diet, I started to exercise more, I started to really groom myself, I drank less and less alcohol, I stopped saying negative things about myself, I took more supplements daily, I forgave myself for my mistakes, I put boundaries on myself that my parents failed to do so years ago, I made using emotional healing tools a part of my regular routine, I gave myself a regular bedtime that I try to stick to, I started saving my money (so I had some when I needed it), I would look in the mirror and say positive affirmations (“I am handsome”, “I love myself”, “I am a good person”, etc.), I bought myself things that I needed rather than just things that I wanted, I set aside “me time” (usually a walk through my neighborhood), I started to make nice meals for myself, I set firm boundaries of how I would allow people to treat me (no longer would I allow people to mistreat me, for I would not allow them to treat my friends that way), I started to dream big and nurture those dreams, and so much more.
What I found was that I started to not just love myself, but I started to fall in love with myself. I realized that I am stuck with me for the rest of my life, so I better get real used to being around me. It’s like I’m married to myself and there is no divorce. I found myself enjoying alone time, because I could stand to be alone with myself again. I found myself being really happy to be me. I found passion in my life. I brought some justice to my life and thus the world around me.
It is such a simple idea to love yourself, and yet so few know what that means. People think that self-love is wrong, because they confuse it with narcissism. To love oneself does not mean that you think you are better than others or that you love yourself more than others. One should love themselves as much as they love anyone else; endlessly. To think yourself better than others is not to love them nor yourself, for it is a lie and lying to yourself is not love.
I feel so blessed to have had so many amazing teachers who have guided me to these understandings. I can only hope that others will find similar blessings. I ask that you love yourself, for as Jim Rohn used to say, “take care of you for me.” If you wish for your loved ones to be good to themselves, then why not lead by example and show them what loving yourself fully and unconditionally looks like?
In final note, we are not our past. We are not our beliefs. We are not our problems. You can be however you want to be. Bad habits can die hard, but they die a lot easier when you have amazing tools that work and a supportive community that loves you. Everyday I try to be a little better to myself, and I have good days and I have bad days, but the good days come more and more and in greater and greater intensity. I love myself, and because of that, I love you too.