REAL Self-Love (Loving with Depression Series)

by - February 05, 2018

What the heck is self-love? 

In recent years, there have been a million posts, articles, quotes, songs, etc. on loving yourself. They teach you that you don’t need anyone else, that you should treat yourself, take baths, put yourself first, date yourself. 

And, while I appreciate the spirit behind them, I find them superficial. Loving yourself does not come from retail therapy, Netflix marathons, ice cream cartons, or a “screw you, world” attitude. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t pick up self-love pills at the store like cold medicine. 

Self love is believing that you are worthy of love and belonging. Want to know how to be worthy of love and belonging? Believe that you are. For research on the topic, watch this video and this video of TED talks by Brené Brown. We all feel unworthy. Imperfect. Like we are not good/smart/pretty/cool/wealthy enough, but the first step to feeling worthy is believing that we are. 

Here are a few ways to help yourself feel worthy: 
"Stop comparing your worst to someone else’s best." (Quote from Joy D. Jones) Growing up in the world of dance, I constantly fell prey to this. When I would get sick and fall behind in class, I felt paralyzed by insecurity and anxiety that I wasn’t as good as so-and-so. That doesn’t even touch how I felt about my body. Dance, ballet in particular, requires a certain physique, one that I constantly strived to achieve. If I had spent as much time focusing on my technique as I did on how my body looked in comparison to others in the room, I would probably be a thousand times better dancer. 

Comparison games eat up your time, energy, self-worth, sanity, and, sometimes, your wallet. Catch yourself when you start comparing and reframe your thoughts to things that you do well, things you have done well, experiences that led you to be the wonderful person you are today. Which leads me to...

Remind yourself of your successes. I actually picked up this tip from a book called The Success Principles* that I read years ago. Reminding yourself of things you’ve done well helps your mind shift from "I can’t do things" to “I have done things, and I can do them again.” There were days when my successes amounted to getting off the couch and eating one halfway decent meal in the day. But, the next day I remembered that it was possible, and maybe today I could do that and one more thing. 

So, pull out a sheet of paper and write them down. Keep a running list and pull it out whenever you need to be reminded that you are capable. If you have a hard time making this list, ask someone to help you out. Having someone else point out the things you do well gives you a different perspective because if your mind is stuck in a self-loathing spiral, then you might not be able to come up with much. 

Eliminate people and things that make you feel unworthy and surround yourself with people who make you feel loved. Unfollow people who make you feel insecure. You need to feel better about yourself, and they are not helping. A loved one of mine used to look at the blog of someone we knew who seemed to have a picture perfect family. After looking at it, she felt like she wasn’t being a good enough mother, wife, homemaker, what-have-you. I told her to stop reading it. Social media can be great for connecting with people, but it can also be the downfall of our self-worth. We can all capture little moments of our lives and photoshop and filter them to perfection, but to pretend that that is the reality of our lives is disingenuous and only serves our egos. 

Also avoid people in person who make you feel insecure, wherever this is possible. Especially bullies. Bullies don’t always come in the form of a ginormous eighth grader stealing your lunch money and calling you stupid. They can be anyone anywhere, and their methods can be explicit or implicit. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I say that no one has the right to try to make you feel inferior. Anyone who does try is not worthy of your time or energy. 

Instead, make connections with people who love and respect you. These kinds of relationships don’t happen with the snap of your fingers, but they are more than worth the investment. You don’t need thousands of social media “friends” and followers to make you happy. You need real interactions with real humans. Even if your real friend count amounts to one, that one is worth more than a thousand instagram followers who only followed you so that you’d follow them back. 

I don’t subscribe to the “screw everyone else, I don’t need anyone but myself” philosophy. While I believe that you should live your life without worrying about what other people think of you, I also believe that we need people. We need others, and they need us. As a solid introvert, it took me a long time to understand this, but I came to realize that I could not live in a bubble (read more here). Remember, “No (wo)man is an island."

Treat yourself like you are worthy. Talk kindly to yourself. Feed yourself food that makes you feel good (long term, not just for a few moments until you reach the bottom of the carton.) Treat yourself to things that improve your life. While I’ve heard (and believe) that spending money on things does not bring you happiness, I also believe that spending money on certain things that improve your quality of life can bring happiness. Like a better mattress to help you sleep at night, a high powered blender or other kitchen appliance that enables you to make healthy meals, or a service that frees up time for you to spend with people you love doing the things that you love. 

Don’t numb your pain. In the TED talks by Brené Brown that I referenced above, she says that we cannot select which emotions to numb. When we dull our pain, we also dull our joy. With a culture so oriented around instant gratification, we can distract ourselves with the click of a button or the tap of a finger. Remember that it’s okay to not be okay. 

Self-love is not always easy, not always simple. But it is always worth it. 

Stay amiable,

*Book links are through Amazon Affiliates. At no cost to you, I sometimes make a small commission on what you purchase through these links. It helps keep this blog up and running (and me sane). All links would be made regardless of receiving commission. Thanks for your support!

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