When was the last time you said “I love you” to yourself?
When I was 18 I fell in love. Not in the way I loved how the pavement glowed after a rainstorm or waffles on a Sunday morning. I was fully and wholeheartedly in love with a boy, who I’m sure at the time loved me back, too. But time passes and people change. While we are no longer in each other’s lives I remember taking our separation very painfully.
It wasn’t because I lost him. It came from feeling like I lost a piece of myself.
I’ve struggled a lot with love. Whether it is self or romantic love, neither seemed to be working for me. If you were to know anything about me, it is that I love love. I don’t know where it stemmed from but I always have.
It probably came from all the Disney films or the fact that all throughout my childhood my parents fought a lot but they’re still together. It makes me believe and yearn for a type of safe love, one that would always be there. Who wouldn’t want someone to be their ride or die? I’m not perfect by any means and to find someone who accepts all my flaws seemed too good to be true.
I’m a firm believer that in order to love others, we have to love ourselves. Yet, self-love is such a difficult practice.
Everyone teaches you how to be kind to other people; Don’t steal someone’s toys, always say “please” and “thank you,” and love others. But I can’t remember a time when someone reminded me that I have to treat myself with equal kindness, love and respect.
As a kid, no one ever taught me to walk away from a situation that made me feel uncomfortable. It was always about working it out and thinking of the other person.
This is why one of the pivotal moments of self love was when I found a boy to give it to me. Even though we’re not still together, I envied the way he looked at me. I wanted to see myself the way he did.
At 18, I knew there were many circumstances that contributed to our separation, but those haunting imperfections of mine fogged my senses and fooled me into believing that I was the sole reason we didn’t work out. I was the reason no one wanted to be with me. I felt lost. I felt empty. I couldn’t get over him and maybe I didn’t want to.
I let him love the parts of me I couldn’t love and relied on him to validate how I viewed myself. He accepted my darkest fears and still stayed with me as if to say I was worth it. Despite not loving myself, I found someone who did. It was so easy to create a dependent relationship.
It was almost as though I didn’t have to work to love myself because I had someone who did. He unconsciously persuaded me I didn’t need to practice self love.
Society is scared of people who love themselves.
This is because our confidence will always overpower its attempts at manipulation. If we love ourselves, we don’t need anyone else to.
This makes sense because our relationship to ourself is the longest one we will ever know. By no means is anyone perfect. Even I get tired of myself at times. I’m moody and messy. I’m indecisive and sometimes a pain. But I have so much love to give not only to others but to myself.
We’re so used to being told how we can create a better version of ourselves that we forget the person we currently are is pretty great. We’re constantly advertised a way to improve ourselves — a new diet plan because beauty means looking like a Victoria Secret model, a new skin care routine because acne is unheard of.
But one day, I saw it. I saw the beauty of who I was, not just on the outside but the inside too. There wasn’t a magical epiphany where birds sang and I can’t remember if the sun shone that day. All I know is that I took the time to reflect and realized I needed to love myself before anything else. I did
n’t date for a while because I wanted to see myself in the eyes of others. I tried new hobbies and I put myself first.
I finally understood that it’s okay to love yourself.
Love is one of the most complicated human experiences. It will get messy. There will be tears and perhaps many arguments, but it is so worth it at the end of the day. There is something to be said about finding a significant other that accepts us, all of us. What speaks louder than being loved by another is that moment of peace one faces when they are completely and utterly comfortable being in the presences of themselves.