Over the past couple of days, I’ve been getting this message loud and clear: pare down and get to the technical, nitty gritty, applicable in REAL LIFE implications of self-love.
I’ve had a lot of people asking me for clarity around this issue:
If I love myself, utterly and unconditionally, am I giving up?
Does loving my body mean that I’m going to just give up becoming healthier?
Does loving myself mean that I’m going to become selfish and arrogant?
Does putting myself first mean I’m the asshole who doesn’t care about anyone else in my life?
If I don’t push myself to become better, will I fall into an abyss of slovenly, self-important, food-riddled misery?
To all of these questions, I offer a resounding no.
Now there are many, many beliefs around the meaning of self-love and self-acceptance, but, as this is my site, I’m going to offer my person beliefs on this issue. Hopefully it helps to answer some of your questions.
The first problem many people have is with the word acceptance. Acceptance, according to Merriam-Webster, means: the act of giving admittance or approval to. This, I believe, is where people begin to take issue with self-acceptance. It stands to reason that if, by giving admittance or approval to their bodies when they find their bodies unacceptable, some believe that they would be condoning that which they abhor: their own laziness, their inability to transform into a thinner version of themselves, and the eating habits that have gotten them where they are.
We fear that if we accept themselves or grant themselves approval – we will be forever condemned to this ugly, unforgivable, and unloveable version of ourselves.
However, there is another definition for acceptance: to agree to undertake (a responsibility). Under this definition, we are able to deepen our understanding of self-acceptance to include accepting the responsibility for our lives, our bodies, and our best selves.
Now. I don’t typically talk in the realm of self-acceptance, because I’ve found that it is too loaded for many people, laden with implications and questions. It feels obtuse. Clunky even. Like the type of things that self-help gurus say that never actually takes hold in our every day life. It’s not that I’m against it, but I do find that it needs to be accompanied some very specific subtext and direction.
I prefer the language of self-love, because it is the concept that lights me up.
Similar to self-acceptance, self-love has a bit off woo-woo air about it, like narwhals or energy work or manifesting. It can feel like a country on the other side of the world that we’ve heard of and even seen pictures of, but we doubt we’ll ever get to experience for ourselves.
The reason that I gravitate towards self-love is because my natural process is towards the type of re-parenting that I underwent after deciding that I could either make some different choices or die the way I was living – strangled in the grasp of my self-loathing. When I hated myself, I would have told you to fuck off if you told me to just drop the struggle and learn to love myself completely.
And yet? That is exactly what I did. The important difference here is that the effort, the decision to change my life radically, came from within myself. It came from making the decision to take responsibility for the quality of my life, and to decide that I deserved more than I was allowing myself.
It took time. It required patience with myself. It required re-learning how to be an active participant in my own life – stating my needs out loud, asking for support, letting people in, and grounding myself in a deserving frame of mind.
It was like raising myself. Again. From early childhood.
I have chosen the term self-love, because I an inclined towards the healing power of love, the tender sweetness of love, and the protection inherent in taking care of the object of my affection.
When I became the object of my own affection – protection and care naturally followed in suit.
I had to relearn how to eat. I had to relearn how to sleep. I had to relearn how to allow myself to be loved and to be taken care of.
I had to determine what made me happy and lit up and whole.
My understanding of self-love (and self-acceptance for that matter) has never, not for one second, meant settling, stagnation, or giving up. It has meant learning who I am and what makes me tick.
It has been the process of doing more of what works, and doing less of what doesn’t.
It has been accepting responsibility for my life, for my relationships, for my body, and for my money. It has been approaching my life with eyes wide open, with patience and a desire to learn and grow.
It has not meant perfection – not by a long shot.
I do not always get self-love “right.” I do not always live in accordance with those principles that I have learned make up my best self. Just like many of you – I get off track, fall off the proverbial self-love wagon, and lose my way.
But then I pick myself up, dust myself off, and get on with my freaking day. Because I love myself. Because I no longer believe that I deserve to suffer. Because I know that, out of love and respect for myself, I will try to do it just a little bit better next time.
My understanding of self-love does not mean that my life will suddenly and magically be the sparkling, beautiful life that I was always trying to achieve.
Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes there are tears. Quite often there are “state of the union” chats with myself about where we are and where we are going.
It is the constant evolution of becoming more of myself.
This is the kind of self-love that I can get behind: authentic, true, and real. I swear and (more often than I’d like to admit) I don’t proofread my writing before I send it out into the world, because I’m so excited to hit publish. I eat french fries more often than my body would like. Sometimes I spend the morning working away, chugging coffee, and forget to eat breakfast. Sometimes I sleep until noon. Sometimes I become hysterical for absolutely no reason and take it out on every single person in my path. Sometimes I worry, still, that I’m not good enough.
It happens. Shit happens. We’re all human here, aren’t we?
Self-love is not undermined by how you get off track, because you will get off track. It is reinforced by the strength and relentless compassion that you choose to utilize in returning to yourself after you lose your way. It is cultivated by your desire to live in an amicable and fruitful relationship with your life – where excitement awaits, surprises exist, and love continues to mend all of those parts of you that feel worn and broken.
It is simply a choice, re-pledged moment by moment, for a better, more deserving existence.