I have been reading your advice column, and I find it really helpful, but I am struggling with the idea of “loving yourself,” something you talk a lot about. What is loving yourself, and what can I do to love myself?
Dear Love Me?
Loving yourself is a simple but complicated act, so thank you for such a great question. I get this one a lot, so I am happy to write more about it.
To love one’s self in the most simple terms is to have no condition put upon that love. Conditional love is predicated in the world: what I look like; acting like others want me to; having a certain amount of money, or type of home, or job; having fame; being married; or any other thing outside ourselves.
But real Love is loving the you that is you. What a beautiful thing that is! Each person is so special! We are given our own unique thumbprint in the world to remind us that we can do things in a way that no one else can. It is not the types of talents or gifts that we have that make us unique, but the special touches that we bring to them. We are all beautiful stars and it is our job to shine, but the only way that can happen is if we know how beautiful we are. Can you imagine if the stars in the Milky Way acted like humans who didn’t love themselves? How dark the world would be!
The first step in loving yourself is to fall in love with yourself. Have you ever had a mad crush on someone and found everything about them amazing? They could have walked up to you in their underwear with a mouth full of food and picking their nose and you still would have thought they were wonderful? Well, that’s what you need to do for yourself.
Everyday, look in the mirror and tell yourself how gorgeous and incredible you are. Feed yourself good food, take naps when you're tired, cry when you feel sad, vent when you feel angry, be happy even when others around you aren’t, do things that bring you joy (even if you or someone else thinks those things are weird), and surround yourself with nice people—which might mean staying away from some of the people in your life for a little bit. If you have a desire to paint, do it. If you feel you may be a writer, then get out a pen and paper and start to write. If you have a desire to learn about flowers, follow it! Think about it this way: If the person you had a mad crush on wanted to open a bee farm, you would probably go and find out everything you could about bees. Do that for yourself!
You also need to start looking for all the good inside of you. (Are you a good organizer, teacher, cook, DIYer, gamer, athlete, friend, parent, worker, leader, or anything else?) Also learn to be gentle on yourself. When you feel like you’ve gotten something wrong, tell yourself that it’s ok. Treat yourself the way someone who thinks you’re amazing would treat you. Cheer yourself on and seek out others who are positive influences on you.
As you start this new habit of loving yourself, you’ll start to spread love to others, sharing compliments and encouragement, and reminding them to be gentle to themselves and follow their joy. When we love ourselves authentically, we give permission to others to love themselves. The old fear that someone being better than us will diminish us will fade away. Soon you will start to realize that the more we love, the more we feel. And when you have all of that love, the more there is for everyone in the world. But you have to start with yourself..