The journey of self-love isn’t the rainbows and butterflies everyone makes it out to be. Hearing people talk about it is the equivalent feeling to when you’ve got a big holiday coming up. Everything is exciting and you’re positive that your body has gone from 75% water to 75% adrenaline because you can’t stop thinking about the place you’re going.
In reality, the journey of self-love is kind of like you’re still going on that big holiday. Except, you can’t afford a plane ticket so you take an older car without functioning air-conditioning and all four of its tires happen to be half-flat spares. You also can’t take the interstate, because that gets you there far too quickly. And what, did you really expect to take the easy shortcut there? So you end up taking dirt paths across country only to reach the beach and remember oh yeah, you were flying overseas.
In other words, it’s rough.
There’s one common misconception people tend to have, though. There’s this unspoken idea that something good has to happen to you or in your life in order for you to properly love yourself.
I’m completely guilty of this myself. I was stuck in this year long funk where I’d keep telling myself, “I love myself, I do, I just need to fix this and this and this about myself and then I’ll really love myself”, as if I needed to fight to even be considered eligible to love myself.
I spent this time convincing myself I wasn’t worthy of self love because I wasn’t X, I haven’t accomplished Y or I haven’t done Z. I let myself believe that I couldn’t truly love myself until I had ticked these things off my to-do list.
When I’d just decided that I was going to practice self-love, I felt overwhelming amounts of guilt when I had a bad day, like when something didn’t go right. I was under the impression that the concept of loving yourself that everyone always preached about was so strict to the point that if I felt sad one day it essentially meant I wasn’t progressing at all. After opening up to my friends about this I found they had felt the same way, too.
We mindlessly place this expectation on ourselves that loving yourself comes with no bad days, no angry days, no anxious days, etc. when that’s the most important and too frequently neglected part.
Learning to love yourself unconditionally is an entirely different chapter after getting comfortable with the concept of broadly loving yourself. Loving yourself unconditionally is realizing you’re having a bad day and accepting it while knowing it doesn’t take away from your worth in any way whatsoever. People have bad days. People get sad. You’re human. It’s nature and most importantly: it’s okay.
You need to learn to embrace the sad days and think “Hey, I’m pretty sad today, but that’s okay” instead of carrying around guilt and shame from feeling a completely normal human emotion.
It’s important to realize that you are important and worthy of love from yourself and others at all times, not just when good things happen in your life. You’re just as needed on this earth as anyone else and you’re just as deserving of your time here. On good days and on the bad days: you matter.
Unconditional love gives you the power to step outside of your comfort zone because you know that no matter what happens you love yourself unconditionally, whether the outcome is good or bad. It teaches you that your overall state of happiness isn’t dependent on outside forces, but on yourself.
You’ve got to have your own back throughout thick and thin, no matter what. Don’t be your worst enemy.
It took me this long to realize loving yourself isn’t a destination that you eventually just pop up in or reach after years of navigating. Your love for yourself is something that should be tucked away in your luggage with you on the trip to wherever you’re going.
I’m fully aware mental illnesses such as depression can make this feel close to impossible, but that’s okay, too. It doesn’t need to happen overnight and it most likely won’t. It’s a long, bumpy ride, but it’s called practicing self-love for a reason and practice eventually makes perfect. Just take it one day at a time, a little more each day.