This past month or two were when I really started toying around with the idea of self-love, and what it means for me. I learned that it’s difficult to love yourself, but I also learned that nothing feels more rewarding than being genuinely happy; the outcome of unconditional self-love.
It can be hard to start something new, especially something as broad as the idea of self-love because it’s different for everybody. Today I’m going to share a few things that I’ve learned about the topic that I think are good starting points for someone looking to be loving and accepting towards their inner self.
Nowadays I feel like people think it’s selfish when girls talk about loving themselves. Society says it’s selfish and snobby for a girl to be so into herself. The thesaurus even thinks so! I thought I was using the term too much, so I typed it into a thesaurus and the synonyms that popped up were: vanity, narcissism, and conceit. All words with negative connotations. It’s become so ingrained into our very culture that self-love is some ugly, evil thing to partake in, but let me tell you right now that it’s not.
Self-love is the foundation for happiness in life.
If you don’t love yourself, you can never be truly happy because you’ll always end up trying to get the love you’re missing from somewhere else: friends, partners, food, work, school or anything else really. I realized that myself this month, and so I told myself that no longer would I wait around for someone else to give me the love I was craving. I am going to be my own powerhouse. Since then I’ve seen gradual changes in how I think and in my outlook on life. The biggest change I’ve noticed is how much genuinely happier I have become.
She understood that the hardest times in life to go through were when you were transitioning from one version of yourself to another. -Sarah Addison Allen
First of all, you have to understand that you’re not going to be able to just wake up one day and be happy. It doesn’t work like that.
You have to be willing to put in the effort as if you were building a relationship with someone else, and just like any other relationship, it’s not going to be easy. There are going to be days that you don’t want to put up with your partner self and all your pestering thoughts and annoying feelings, but you’re going to have to anyways. You have to understand that the growth you want to experience won’t happen in one night, or one day, or one week or one month. These things take time, and it’s going to be painful, but it’s also going to be beautiful.
This past week I set small goals to help me further my love towards my inner self, and one of them was to exercise in a way that I enjoy. The whole first year of college I laid out a strict four to five day lifting schedule for me to follow because it’s something that I enjoy and I didn’t want to gain that dreaded freshman fifteen. But by adding the strict schedule, and not just allowing myself to decide day by day if I wanted to go to the gym, I no longer saw lifting as fun; instead, it had become a chore.
Related: How to get Motivated to Hit the Gym
I wanted to change that, so Sunday afternoon I set out for my first run outside since last fall. Now it may have turned into a walk, but I didn’t beat myself up for that like strict schedule me would once have done. I was able to just go outside, get away from all the screens, and actually enjoy myself. Yes, enjoy myself. Halfway through my walk/run, I stopped at a small pond to stretch a little bit and to hide from the blistering sun, and as I was standing there I found myself crying. Not from pain or sadness, but because I was happy.
That’s been happening a lot lately since I started this journey. Either I’ll find myself in a situation: a) I used to be in a lot but now I handle it completely differently, or b) I’ve never been in before because I had always been too scared to try, and both will cause me to well up with tears.
Like last weekend I went to a museum with a bunch of people I didn’t know because it was an event the housing department was putting on. Originally, a friend was supposed to go with me, but she canceled the night before so I was left to decide whether I should still go or not. Normally, I would have just not gone and stayed shut up in my dorm all day. But then I realized that if I did that all that I would have done is wondered what the museum was like and beat myself up over not having the courage to go alone. So I just went, and I really enjoyed myself and found myself all teary eyed while walking to the exhibits.
Now instead of thinking: “I wonder what it would have been like if I had actually gone,” I can think: “I’m so proud of myself for going and getting to experience such a beautiful place.”
Related: Overcoming Fear in Everyday Life
I like to think that tears are pent up feelings and thoughts that never found their way out of my mind through words or actions, but have finally found their way out. These tears are signals that I am forgiving myself for the wrongs I have done towards me and that I’m ready to move past what I once was. They’re me releasing my negative thoughts from my mind and leaving space for more positive thoughts and more self-growth. The old, unhappy me is vanishing with those small drops.
So if you find yourself crying, acknowledge it and think about why you are crying. It’s not enough to just let yourself cry because that doesn’t solve anything. You have to actually work through and understand why you cried too.
“In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it.” -Mitch Albom, Five People You Meet in Heaven
Discovering why you feel the way you do, or why you felt the way you did, and understanding why makes it easier to move on so that emotions that weren’t given the proper attention don’t keep popping up at inconvenient times. This is something I always struggled with because I like to put up this front of being a very unemotional, heartless person when in reality my mind is always spinning and I can almost never understand what’s going on in my brain. So instead of actually addressing the negative thoughts, and giving them the attention they deserved, I just bottled them up and pretended they didn’t exist.
If you take anything out of this post, I want it to be this: never ever ever ignore your emotions.
If you bottle everything up inside, you’ll just become a walking volcano that could erupt the next time your pencil breaks, or you fail a test, or something just doesn’t go your way. You have to learn to talk to someone about how your feeling or you will never understand the deep-rooted cause of it.
Who you talk to could be your best friend, your mom, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your grandma, your pet or yourself. I’ve found that it’s not what the other person has to say that really helps, just the fact of having to articulate your thoughts is what makes this so beneficial.
When you’re feeling extreme anger or sadness or desperation or anxiety or joy, all your thoughts get jumbled in your head and it can be hard to express them in tangible words. So hard that even you can have trouble understanding them. So getting yourself to make an attempt to articulate your thoughts and emotions can help you to better understand what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way.
I’ve always had problems with talking about very emotional things to other people (it’s something I’m working on though!), so I like to journal. I have two ways I like to journal: talking to myself and talking to people. I know that sounds weird: talking to other people as a way of journaling? What I mean is that I write letters to people that they will never see. So if I know I’m having a problem with someone and don’t want to confront them, or I’m not understanding my thoughts or emotions towards a person and I want to work them out, then I’ll sit down and write a letter to them to help me figure out what my true feelings are.
I always like to say, “I never know my opinion on something until I write about it.” Then for the journaling where I’m talking to myself, I just like to find a random question or prompt (I have a board for it on Pinterest) that I feel will help me get something off my chest or help clear my mind. This is something that I just started last week and it’s helped me realize that there is a lot of stuff buried in my brain looking for a way out.
So whether you’re literally talking to someone, or you’re journaling, try to take something away from it. Let the experience teach you something. That way if you’re feeling something negative now, then maybe you’ll be able to prevent the same feeling from coming back, or if you’re feeling something positive then you’ll have a guide on how to feel that way again.
These are just some of the things I have started doing that I can tell have made a difference in my life and in my happiness level. When you’re starting out trying to love yourself, especially when you’re coming from a bad place, the most important thing to know is that loving yourself is not selfish. Don’t let anyone give you hate because you are trying to be happy. Learning to ignore bad comments about yourself in the beginning is crucial, as that will help your self-confidence in the long run.
I guess overall, just remember that growth isn’t easy. You’re going to feel uncomfortable at times, but that’s okay. It’s normal because you are doing something new, and trying to change the way you are thinking, so of course, it’s going to feel distressing every once in a while. But don’t let those feelings stop you; keep working towards the positive thoughts and you’ll feel the growth you want to experience.
So, as the picture quote above says, good luck with everything ‘you’ involved these next few months and remember that you are not alone because I’m going through the same journey you are.
I hope you were able to take something away from what you read here today, even if that was only the picture quotes. (It’s okay, sometimes I only read those when I open an article too. No hard feelings.) If you did learn something, share this article with friends who you think could benefit from it as well.
Let’s start a self-love revolution!