“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.” ~Lucille Ball
If you were to ask me ten years ago what self-love meant, I would’ve probably said something general like “being happy.” But self-love goes way deeper than that; it involves accepting the past versions of yourself and your present challenges, while giving yourself credit for how far you’ve come.
While we may have an idea of the “perfect person” we want to be, sometimes we are so hard on ourselves that we forget to appreciate who we are right now. The notion that we won’t be the ideal version of ourselves until we are the ‘right’ weight, have a certain job, or overcome all our personal issues is not serving us.
For years I struggled with my weight and what my “perfect body” would look like. Years of being called fat and being bullied in elementary school had instilled in me that I wasn’t enough.
Even though I was too young to know I wasn’t going to be this way forever, I started a cycle of self-hate.
At around ten years old I was already obsessed with my weight, taking weight loss supplements behind my mother’s back and dreaming of the day I could finally be skinny. The cycle eventually led to binge eating and even more weight gain.
Every time I was able to go a day without eating, I felt powerful, invincible, but this was quickly followed by shame and guilt when I gave in—and I would punish myself by repeating the same cycle. Over and over.
Looking back at my life now, I wish I could’ve just told the younger version of myself to let go of my own expectations and enjoy the innocence of youth.
Self-love is forgiving ourselves for our past mistakes, giving ourselves credit for what we have done, and finding comfort within ourselves during dark times.
I suspect we’ve all been so hard on ourselves for not living up to our own expectations (or others’) that we’ve forgotten to enjoy who we are in the moment. But only the present moment is promised. We don’t know where we will be tomorrow, or if we will even be here.
So, instead of getting too caught up on your past versions, realize that you are the best version of yourself you can be right now. And then commit to loving yourself as you are. Why?
The world deserves all of you—just as you are now.
This is the only guaranteed moment we have. It doesn’t matter if you made a mistake in the past because dwelling does not serve you in the now. Your family, friends, and spouse deserve the authentic you that isn’t tainted by doubt, insecurities, or past mistakes. Allow self-worthiness to flow through you and let go of the idea that you aren’t enough. You are. Flaws, weaknesses, and all.
If you don’t love yourself, you’ll settle for less.
When we don’t love ourselves, we tend to settle for less from others and life because we don’t think we are worthy. We figure that since we can’t even live up to our own expectations, we shouldn’t have expectations for others.
So, we give in, saying yes more often than we should. We accept relationships that add no value to our lives and do things that aren’t in our best interest. Self-love teaches us that we don’t have to make huge sacrifices just to please other people or accept anything that doesn’t serve us.
You are valuable.
I’ve had many situations in my life that made me feel less than. I’ve compared myself to others and felt I would never be as important as them. However, feelings aren’t facts. Just because someone may have more, or may have done more, that doesn’t mean their lives are worthier than yours.
We can learn to accept that others might be more fortunate and accomplished than us, but we still have something to offer to the world. We all have strengths, skills, knowledge, and ideas. And for many of us, our strengths come from our struggles, which means we have something to offer because we’re imperfect. So forget about what everyone else is doing and recognize you are capable of more than you realize.
You need self-love to break the cycle.
It may be hard to break deeply engrained habits, especially when they stem from trauma, but with self-love, change is possible.
For me, the cycle of binge eating resulted from wanting to be a perfect version of myself. I lied and told myself that next time would be different, but next time was the same as the last because I was always so hard on myself. It wasn’t until I started being kinder to myself that I finally broke the cycle because I was able to forgive myself for a setback and get back on track instead of acting on my guilt and shame.
What is the cycle that is holding you back in life? Can you be kind to yourself when you struggle so it’s easier to break it?
Self-love isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s ugly, it’s crying yourself to sleep some nights, it’s accepting some of the trauma from your past, but it’s worth it. You are the only version of yourself that you have. You don’t need to sacrifice who you are in the present moment to fulfill an idea of who you should be. Everything you need to be, you already are.
About Katia Aguirre-Vega
A former foster-youth, Katia Aguirre-Vega enjoys writing as a means of personal development. She strives to one day have an impact on many people also going through their personal development journey. She believes everyone has a purpose in life, despite what they have gone through. Her articles have been featured in Foster Focus and NextStepUMagazine. You can connect with her on Facebook here.