Since self-love is a topic that I genuinely enjoy reading up on, I decided it was time to really question how we get there.
So often we hear that self-love is the most important love you can elicit; but if we don’t already love ourselves, how do we get to this point?
It can be damaging to you to surround yourself with people who don’t value and appreciate you for who you are, but it can be even more detrimental if you yourself do not show yourself that same respect and appreciation.
I know that, in the past, it was very difficult for me to understand why some people thought so highly of me; and that was because I lacked self-love.
Unfortunately, the absence of self-love can show up and negatively impact other other aspects of your life. It can negatively affect your friendships, intimate relationships, work ethic, ability to thrive in hobbies/extracurricular activities, and in school.
When we don’t show ourselves self-love, we are forgetting to acknowledge who we are on a deeper level, as opposed to just a superficial, surface level.
I found a beautiful article written by Vironika Tugaleva titled, 6 Questions to Help You Love Yourself More When It Feels Impossible. In this piece, Vironika elaborates on six questions that she found were very important to ask her self during any period of time when she starts to falter in her self-love. These questions act as a compass to redirect her back on to the path of personal well-being:
1. How can I better understand this experience?
One sentence that I found frequently written in my old journals was, “Why does this always happen to me?” I said this about periods of depression as much as relationship patterns.
When I asked this question, I wasn’t looking for an answer. My biggest mental health breakthrough was learning to genuinely ask that question. No, really, why do I always end up alone when I most need people? Why do I sometimes experience overwhelming periods of depression? Thus, I started to learn important things about myself.
When you’re in the middle of criticizing or judging yourself, take a moment to shift your focus toward understanding.
Instead of trying to fix your emotions or your reactions, how can you understand them better? What are your feelings trying to communicate to you? How can you acknowledge these messages?
Instead of beating yourself up for saying or doing something, how can you get a more holistic perspective on your motivations for saying/doing this thing?
When you make a conscious decision to be more curious about your experience, you will naturally stop resisting, judging, and criticizing it. The more you embrace each moment, the more you will be able to embrace yourself.
2. Who am I beyond my behaviors, thoughts, and emotions?
To be able to embrace the ups and downs of life without losing self-love, you must love yourself beyond those ups and downs. This is the difference between self-approval and self-love.
Approval comes and goes. When you make a mistake, you might disapprove of yourself. This is healthy and normal. If you didn’t experience lulls in self-esteem, you might never learn from your mistakes and end up hurting others.
Self-love, on the other hand, is something you need in each moment—especially when your self-esteem is low.
When you don’t approve of your behaviors, ask yourself who you are beyond those behaviors. How can you accept yourself beyond the rollercoaster of day-to-day experience, so that no matter what those experiences are, you continue to think of yourself as worthy of existing?
3. What do I need right now?
Each day, ask yourself what you need. Like this, you can begin to nourish yourself. You can also begin to understand some of the side effects that you experience when you don’t meet your needs. Once you feed your hunger, you’ll better understand your symptoms of starvation. This can lead to profound self-forgiveness.
Especially when you are trying to break bad habits, you can ask which needs you’re trying to meet with those habits.
Every single self-harming action, even if it hurts you deeply, also serves you in some way. Maybe your unhealthy habits make you feel comfort, control, or even help you gain attention. The need behind each behavior is always valid, but some behaviors are more sustainable and healthy than others. By acknowledging your deeper needs, you can make a plan to consciously meet them in a healthier way.
4. How can I give myself what I need?
Once you discover what your needs are, you can begin to anticipate them and fulfill them.
Simply to acknowledge your desires is half the work (especially if they are different from those of the people around you).
The other half of the work is asking yourself, every day, how you can meet your needs. The key is to foresee your hunger and feed it before you feel starved. This way, you can avoid relapsing into those desperate self-destructive habits.
5. How can I acknowledge the needs that I can’t yet meet?
Let’s say you discover that you need more alone time than you thought. And suppose you discover this while living with four roommates. Chances are, you will not be able to meet this need overnight. However, self-love isn’t a report card on how quickly you’ve fixed your problems.It’s simply the practice of having a kinder relationship with yourself.
You can acknowledge your frustration and your desires before taking action to address them. You can comfort yourself and assure yourself that you are going to do something about it. Remember how you’ve felt better when other people have reassured you. How can you give that kind of reassurance to yourself?
6. How can I take responsibility for myself?
One thing that might interrupt your journey of self-nourishing is waiting for someone or something else to save you.
You might acknowledge your need for appreciation, but instead of taking action to meet it, you might tell yourself a story about when it will come.
You might tell yourself to wait until some promotion, accomplishment, or event. Thus, you can lose out on valuable opportunities to love yourself.
Start to pay attention to which needs you aren’t meeting because you’re putting them into the future or into other people’s hands. And ask yourself how you can begin to meet that need right now by yourself.
We all long to have someone be attentive to us—to really care about what we’re going through and how to make it better.
The most beautiful part of learning to ask and answer these questions on a regular basis is this: your longing will finally be fulfilled.
You do not need to wait for someone to make you feel like you are worth listening to and caring for. Your savior has been waiting in the mirror all along.
Asking yourself these six questions can help you to better understand your motives, behaviors, wants, and fears. Once you are better able to understand yourself, you will also be better able to love yourself.
I felt it was so important that Vironika acknowledged that self-approval and self-love don’t always go hand-in-hand. Just because you act in a way, or think a thought, that you are not necessarily proud of, does not mean that you should stop loving yourself. Just as you wouldn’t with another person, you shouldn’t just disregard yourself because you aren’t perfect- no one is, and no one should be held up to that expectation.
Self-love is not a trait that will be picked up over night, it is a journey and learning experience. So, give yourself a real, fair chance to get to know you; and treat yourself how you wish others would treat you.