Learning how to love yourself is a bit misconstrued. Self-love is not herbs, spells, and long bubble baths with candles. Sure, to some extent it could be if that’s your jam. But self-love is so much deeper than what’s seen above the surface. Learning how to love yourself is the root of how to change your life for the better.
Every morning when I take my sweet four-legged child, Luna, out for her morning walk, I find a podcast or TedTalk to listen to so I can start my day off with the right mindset. Nine times out of ten, I search for something on the topic of self-love.
That’s when I came across Caira Lee, a national award-winning slam poet who speaks about ways in which to achieve absolute self-love.
With influence from Caira, I’m going to share with you the four ways in which I discovered how to love myself, in hopes that it can help you to do the same.
In order for us to unlock the true power and potential of self-love, we first need to understand what self-love actually means.
What is Self-Love?
According to Websters Dictionary, the definition of self-love means:
“regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).”
But I believe self-love doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all definition.
That’s the beauty of it. The love we have for ourselves is about the worth and appreciation we hold for ourselves. It grows from our actions, including physical, mental, and spiritual. It’s about what specifically fits our own personal definition.
The misconception with self-love starts with the root of why so many people are finding ways to include positive affirmations posted to their bathroom mirrors or start going to the gym to improve their physical and mental health. While those certainly are some ways that can help you along your journey, it’s not the end-all solution.
So why are so many people searching to improve their self-love journey?
Because they want to be HAPPY.
Yes. We are all seeking to live a “happy and healthy life” in some form or fashion. But let’s debunk an important myth.
- Myth: The opposite of depression/sadness is happiness.
- Truth: The opposite of depression/sadness is vitality.
Ah-ha, there it is. The meaning of vitality.
“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality and my life, as I write this, is vital even when sad.”Andrew Solomon
“The power giving continuance of life, present in all living things” or “Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated.”
So if what we are really seeking through the power of self-love is to be happy with ourselves, then how do we do it?
Here are 4 steps to learn how to love yourself again.
1. Discover that one thing that makes you thrive.
If there were no obstacles standing in your way, what is one thing you would do for the rest of your life?
What is one thing that you want to do from the moment you wake up in the morning with undeniable enthusiasm and joy?
There is a power that exists when you discover something you truly love. Something you’re intensely passionate about that changes your entire outlook on life.
Howard Thurman said:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
For me, that thing is writing. I write to explore my feelings, discover who I am as a person, and be a part of a community larger than myself. I write books, music, poetry, short stories, journal entries. If there was one thing I could do every day, which is exactly what I do now, it would be to write.
Ask yourself that important question. What makes you come alive? Sit with it. Because the main component, as we remember, is in order to be happy, in order to live with immense self-love, is to live with vitality. To do the thing that makes us feel alive and activated every single day.
2. Be vulnerable to allow your authentic self to shine.
How do you define the authentic you?
What is that part of you that is being held back and why are you refraining that beautiful part of yourself from the world?
In 2018, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, major depression, and in 2021 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I spent years of my life wandering aimlessly in this world in a fog, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I had to “be better” and put on my brave face to act as if I was completely and totally “normal.”
But was I actually being brave?
By acting like I was like every other person walking the streets with a smile on my face and not having the baggage of my disorders lingering in my mind 24/7, I was masking my authentic self. And by masking my authentic self, I was doing a complete disservice to myself. As a result, I hindered my journey of learning how to love myself and discovering self-acceptance.
Instead, I turned to Brené Brown and used her tools for allowing myself to be vulnerable with the world. I turned to the number one thing that makes me get up every morning (writing) and shared my story of recovery and mental health on my blog.
I took a step back and despite the instant regret that began to settle in, I quickly was reminded by the hundreds of comments and messages flooding my inbox about how grateful others were that I was BRAVE for sharing my story that resonated with each person who reached out.
Recognize the piece of you that has been hidden. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and lift the weight that has been clinging to your back, setting yourself free.
3. Find validation within yourself, not to be mistaken with your purpose.
Where in the world are you seeking validation? Is it through social media? Or maybe it’s through your partner or through someone you may or may not be romantically drawn to.
I’ll be real with you (because my newfound love of my authentic self has no desire to do otherwise), once I started building my community, I was thriving on not only the connection I was having with these new people around the world, but I was also finding validation in myself. I felt a sense of purpose.
But there is a significant difference between validation and purpose. I sought out validation from others to ensure that I had a purpose. I started sharing content that yes, resonated with me, but because it’s what I thought I needed to do in order for other people to follow me, to connect with me, to validate me.
That’s when I had to take a hard look at myself in the mirror and speak my truth.
I wasn’t following what I believed my purpose to be. Instead, I followed the validation train.
I had to stop seeking validation from others and had to start seeking validation from myself. I had to rediscover what that actually meant. What did it look like, in vivid detail, to feel validation from none other than me?
For me, it was about these 3 key things:
- Was I physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taking care of myself?
- Were my days spent focused around my core values?
- Was I leading with love?
Because I was putting my needs and wants first before anything else, I could check off these three boxes. As a result, I validated myself.
The domino effect from this was mind-blowing. I took care of myself, centered my values, and led with love which ultimately provided the momentum towards achieving my goals, fulfilling my purpose, and yes, providing VITALITY in my life.
In the end, I learned how to love myself more.
4. Take action with just one small step.
What is one small step you can take today towards unlocking the power of self-love within yourself?
We are creatures of habit. We thrive on routine and having some sort of direction and purpose in our lives. But that doesn’t mean it comes naturally or should be looked at like a laundry list of to-dos. Self-love can seem daunting when it’s not framed correctly.
I had a terrifying moment when I relapsed in my eating disorder recovery. All I kept telling myself was, “Ugh, now I’m back here AGAIN. I can’t believe I let this happen. Now I have to start all over once again. Do I even know how to do this?”
The answer, at the moment, felt like a no. But the truth was absolutely a yes.
It was time to take action.
Here I was, sitting at my kitchen table writing a list of all the things I needed to do to get back on track.
Meditate, be kind to me, reword the negative self-talk, schedule my therapy appointment, eat all three meals with grace and compassion. I mean, the list went on for days and overwhelmed the entire process.
Instead, I had to take a step back, breathe deeply, and refocus. It’s not about taking all the steps at once. We’ll fall apart along this journey far too soon if we allow for that to happen. What we need to do is focus on just one incredibly small step. One small victory to act as a catalyst for the rest.
The first thing I did was focus on the negative self-talk. There was no way I’d allow myself to focus on any of the other steps to increase the love I had for myself if it meant I wasn’t speaking kindly to myself. Instead, I asked:
“What would I say to my best friend right now?”
I’d tell my best friend that we’re all human beings. We will not get everything perfectly right every single day of our lives. We are meant to make mistakes, to fall, in order to learn how to get back up stronger.
I’d tell my best friend that there is a lesson to be learned through the pain.
Summary: How the 4 Steps of Self-Love Connect.
Alright, so now that we’ve talked about what self-love really means and four steps to help start your journey of self-love. Let’s figure out how they connect. I’ll use examples of myself to make it easier to understand.
- By discovering the one thing that made me feel alive and truly live with vitality (writing) and as a result, I was able to find purpose in my days.
- When I used the one thing that made me thrive (writing), I could then I allow myself to be vulnerable and brave by sharing my words with other people about the person I really am.
- By allowing myself to be brave, I released my authentic self who no longer needed to hide.
- When my authentic self was brought out into the world to shine, as a result, I found validation within myself instead of needing to find it from others.
- Because I found the validation within myself, I was able to take one small step (rewording the negative self talk) to pick myself up and continue to live with vitality.
- By living with true vitality, I was able to love myself unconditionally.
You have the power to love yourself. You have the tools to ignite the self-love that lives within you. It starts by breaking down the barrier that you are not capable, smart, clever, beautiful, or strong enough.
Because I’m here to tell you that you absolutely are. I’m here to tell you that you, my love, are enough.
Now go show love to yourself today. You deserve it. Every single ounce of it.
Don’t let yourself go another day without taking a step towards unlocking the potential of self-love that already lives within yourself. You just need the tools to take that next step forward.
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