Learning to love yourself is probably one of the hardest things we will have to do in life. Some never get to enjoy the feeling of self-love. Others are lucky to have built it slowly for themselves. And third have experienced the bliss of growing up in a loving environment and cultivating self-love along the way.
In any case, living your life without loving yourself could hardly be called living. And, more or less, we’re all here to learn to love in one way or another.
I’ve always struggled with self-esteem, self-worth and self-love. I didn’t realise how crucial these qualities are until recently, and how they affect all spheres of my life.
I didn’t define myself as a low self-esteem person but I knew I was lacking the confidence that most of the people around me displayed.
I felt something profound was missing. Now I know what to call it.
I was missing a solid grounding, a built-in foundation, an innate substance.
I was floating, lacking the essential connection with my sense of self. Of course that was influencing all the areas of my life and it was outlining the relationships I had with others.
But what is self-love? How can we define it?
I describe it as being a best friend with your self. It’s like having an open, direct relationship with your soul. It’s also enjoying the time you spend with yourself. Knowing how to treat yourself right. Knowing how to be kind with yourself. Being a parent to yourself.
It’s being your best friend ever (and forever).
This is how I see this fundamental connection with your self. You are the one who is always there for you – in good and bad. You’re the cheerleader when scoring a victory and you’re the comforter when undergoing a defeat. You’re there to pat yourself on the shoulder and wipe your tears off your face.
At the same time, you get to have fun with your self, by yourself. You get to enjoy your own company, your own presence.
Here’s an example:
I have a very close friend, I’ll call her Patricia, who lives in my home country Bulgaria. We met in college and stayed close friends since then. After graduation I moved to Ireland and Patricia moved back to her home town. It so happened that many of her best friends went abroad, others lived in other towns. When I talk to Patricia she always mentions how all her closest people have left and she feels lonely. She keeps in touch with most of them but misses them anyway.
I’m one of these people that left the homeland. After living in Ireland for 8 years, I am fully aware of the importance of family and close people. I miss every one of them so much after so long, that it literally hurts.
Patricia and I are in the same situation – only on different sides of these imaginary lens. Even though she’s at home – she feels alone. Even though I have my own little family here – I still feel lonely. Something essential is missing for both of us.
I thought about it. I thought about this need to have friends and family around you to make you feel whole. And when they’re not around – you feel empty. You feel lack. And in my case, even being with my newly formed family I still miss everyone else. I miss my people.
I’ve always been an independent spirit, always looking for autonomy, but I’ve always pursued that within a union of some sort – with a best friend, a partner, etc. I’ve always been a “we” person. Perhaps this is my personal way of expression but I’ve never considered spending time on my own. I’ve never even travelled on my own.
I understand that missing family and friends is normal and it will almost be considered unnatural if you don’t. But beyond that there’s something deeper.
I think both Patricia and I suffer from a lack of self-love. Not being able to enjoy our own presence and company, we look for that love in external “sources”. We feel that with no close people near us, there’s no love around us and for us.
And it’s in these moments when you can decide to take responsibility and give yourself the love you want and need. You to yourself. You learn to cultivate this feeling of love about your self. And it’s like a chain reaction – you attract more love from outside as well.
So how do you cultivate this feeling of self-love?
The first step is to start feeling comfortable with your own presence. You start to feel fine when you’re alone and sink in the feeling of solitude. Have a dialogue with yourself, something like, What would you like to do now my dear? You have some time for yourself so would you like to read a nice book or go out for a walk? This is your time, treat yourself!
When you start feeling more comfortable with your own presence you can experiment doing different things. You can go out by yourself to the local coffee shop and perhaps do some writing or people watching.
Allow yourself to discover the things you love doing and do it for yourself only! Allow yourself to discover your self!
Allow yourself to feel all the feelings coming through – discomfort, awkwardness, embarrassment, shyness, at first. Eventually more positive feelings will come up once the channels are cleared – peacefulness, comfort, joy, fulfillment, wholeness…
You will gradually start enjoying your own presence. You will start getting good buddies with yourself. You will feel rewarded for giving your self so much attention. And the feeling of love will flow.
You will have discovered the sacredness of having a love affair with yourself.
You will become love.
Note: self-love isn’t equal to self-indulgence. Learning to love yourself is not to be confused with selfishness and self-centredness.
Learning self-love is for everyone who for some reason hasn’t cultivated it or hasn’t been taught how to treat themselves right and enjoy their own presence. Often these are people who have lacked the physical and/or emotional presence of their parents. Who have missed on important lessons about life and themselves, and haven’t had a guiding principle in their early lives.
There are many reasons for lack of self-love. But the important here is to identify this lack in yourself and to develop the determination to build it for yourself. Because self-love is a life skill that we can learn. If we didn’t have the luxury to be taught this essential skill from our parents, then we need to become our own parents.
Remember, you only have this life once! Don’t waste it on self-loathing!
Do you find loving yourself easy? Or do you find building this relationship quite challenging? Do you have any experience or advice to share?
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