I bet you did an inward eye roll when you read that title.
I don’t blame you. I felt resistance rising up in me just writing it.
After all, pretty much every day us women come across the message that all of life’s problems could be solved if we just learned to love ourselves.
But what the heck does that even mean?
Some days we’re told that we’ll find it in running.
I hate running.
I ran to the letterbox once and felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me by the time I got there.
Other days we’re told that we’ll find self-love in yoga.
I often imagine myself doing yoga but the one time I tried it I put my back out after being assured by my instructor that I could absolutely do a shoulder stand at my first class.
I could not.
I ended up walking around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame for well over a week.
If it’s not running or yoga that’s being sold to us as the key to self-love, then it’s often the subliminal messaging that if we just became a little less of ourselves and little more of someone else then we’d be set.
Self-love can be sold to us in very sneaky ways, disguised in packaging that hides the fact that the ways in which society wants us to love ourselves looks an awful lot like needing to do some serious repair work.
And I’m not talking about the odd spot of DIY around your house either.
I’m talking being sold the lie that you’re a major fixer-upper in need of….well, fixing up!
But guess what?
Self-love has absolutely zero to do with needing to run or do yoga to find yourself or read a zillion self-help books in order to fix whatever it is you’ve been told is wrong with you.
Because there’s nothing wrong with you.
Self-love isn’t about fixing something that’s broken, it’s about accessing what’s already there.
So, if it’s not about any of that, then what exactly does it mean to love yourself?
It comes down to understanding and embodying these 3 truths.
#1: Your Life Is Not a Democracy
You will never love yourself if you’re running your life like it’s some kind of democracy.
Your life is a dictatorship.
Now, I’m not saying you don’t consider and weigh the thoughts and feelings of others because of course it’s important to hear the voices of the people you’ve invited into your life.
But you don’t owe them your life and that’s a key distinction.
“It’s not your responsibility to want the life that others want for you.” — Colin Wright
Too many of us are going beyond simply listening to how others feel about what we want to do to actively implementing their thoughts instead of our own.
Too often we’re overriding what we know to be true for our own lives in favour of what others say to be true.
Think about it for a minute and see if you find anything in these examples that resonate with you:
- You want to take a ballet class but your friends laugh at you when you tell them and say “aren’t you a little old for that?!” You smile at them and agree that it’s a stupid idea.
- You want to write a book but your brother scoffs at you and says “writings a nice hobby but it won’t make you any money.” On the way home you realise your brother is completely right and delete the notes for the book you’d written on your phone.
- You want to quit your job and travel the world for a year, only to have your parents say “that’s a great dream honey but giving up your well-paying job that you’ve worked so hard for seems irresponsible and besides, you don’t want to let Bob down, he took such a chance when he hired you.” Of course it’s irresponsible you tell yourself, who am I to think I can just pack up my life and hit the road for a year, people like me don’t do that.
- You want to put your toddler into daycare so you can go back to the job you love only to have your neighbour tell you “in my day, the woman always stayed home to look after her children. No wonder so many kids are getting into trouble these days, it’s because their mothers all put work first.” Your neighbour is saying exactly what you know other people are going to be thinking and she’s right, what kind of mother thinks about abandoning her own child?!
- You want to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a block of dark chocolate but the voice in your head says “really, we’re going to sit on the sofa reading all day? That doesn’t feel very productive. I bet Rachel Hollis or Mel Robbins don’t spend their days on the sofa. That’s why you’ll never have the success they have. You’re too lazy.” I know my body needs to rest right now but that voice is telling the truth, I’ll never make my dreams come true if I’m not hustling 24/7.
And on and on and on it goes.
The parliaments of our lives are constantly in session and everyone in the chambers is fighting for their voice to be heard.
We spend so much time listening to all the noise that surrounds us that we completely lose the ability to hear our own inner voice.
If the decision you’re weighing in your head doesn’t affect anyone else, and none of the above scenarios do, then take action and do what it is you want to do.
And if it might impact others? Then by all means consult, listen, and weigh their thoughts and feelings but remember that the final vote rests with you.
If you choose to compromise do so because you want to, not because you feel an overwhelming sense of obligation to make everyone else in your life happy.
#2: Your One Job Is to Be You
That’s it and it could not be simpler.
And yet we all make it so darn difficult for ourselves.
Here’s the thing you need to understand. While you’re busy trying to be who you think the world wants you to be, you’re robbing it of who you are.
Not only are you stealing from the world but you’re also stealing from yourself.
You only get one shot at life. Why would you want to waste precious moments of it trying to be like someone else?
“Some people around you will not understand your journey. They don’t need to; it’s not for them.” — Paulo Coelho
It’s not selfish to be who you and to follow the path your intuition is pulling you down. It’s selfish to not do that because you’re going against the truth of the person you were put here to be.
If you think you should be a doctor because that’s what your parents want you to be but what you actually want to be is a writer then you’re being selfish because your words have just as much of a chance at saving someones life as your hands do.
You will never love yourself if you’re constantly trying to be who you think the world wants you to be instead of who you are.
I’ve spent most of my life doing this and it’s exhausting.
When you release the expectations of other people and start allowing yourself to live as who you are you begin to feel free.
You realise that who you’ve always known yourself to be is exactly who you were put here to be.
Your intuition has been right all along.
Follow it and let it lead you back on to your path.
#3: Trust Yourself
Loving yourself means always having your own back.
It means trusting that voice inside of you that whispers to you when something does or doesn’t feel right.
All too often we look to others to be our anchors.
We look to them to tell us who we are.
We look to them to give us the thumbs up that we’re on the right track.
We look to them for validation that who we are is okay.
“I’m not who I think I am; I’m not who you think I am; I am who I think you think I am.” — Charles Cooley
You must stop putting more faith in the thoughts and opinions of others than you do in your own inner compass.
Deep down you know your true north, you’ve just been relying on other people’s navigation systems for so long that you’ve forgotten how to steer your own ship.
But it’s never too late to take control again.
Trust yourself and self-love will follow.
There are many more truths than just the 3 that I’ve shared above but they are 3 of the truths that have come up the most for me on my own journey to love myself.
We’re told that we’ll grow to love ourselves if we workout or wear the right clothes or buy the right makeup.
We’re told that self-love is to be found in shoulder stands or meditation mantras.
But looking for love in those places will only leave us feeling like we’re failing when we do those things and still feel that self-love alludes us.
To truly love yourself all you will ever need to do is return home to who you have always been.
Only in lying under the stars of your own sky will you find the peace that you’ve been searching for.