The Surprising Truth About Self Love
Nov 29, 21
“How do I learn to love myself?”
Is a question I’m often asked on my beauty table,
It's actually a question that can feel so overwhelming, much like the task of loving yourself can.
The idea of loving ourselves has become somewhat of another trend. However, I’ve learnt that what it is portrayed as, and what it means to embody it, are two different concepts entirely.
Let's explore what #selflove is commonly portrayed as.
More often than not this ideology looks a lot like “doing”; treating yourself to gifts, pampering yourself with treatments, meals out, friend dates, making decisions that put off tasks you may need to do and choosing things you want to do instead.
To some it can look like simply managing your basic needs or perhaps it’s baths with candles. A workout. A sleep-in here and there, a short meditation, maybe some journal writing. Positive affirmations, positive thoughts, positive life. It usually is presented as something that feels good, looks good, or is even glamorous.
Are all these things important? To some, yeah absolutely. Is there anything wrong with that? I’m my opinion, there isn't.
Now I’m going to offer a contrasting thought...
It's not often what you're “doing” that matters the most, but what is driving the action.
Let me explain further.
I couldn't keep count of the amount of times someone has said to me, “is it bad/good that i do this?”
I can't tell you what is good or bad, because everyone's judgment of good and bad is different. What I can ask is, “does it feel good/bad for you?”
This often leads to a conversation about what drives the thing they are doing, which reveals more important details.
Much of the time we do something for a reason that isn't actually out of love for ourselves, even though we label it as an act of self love.
If we do something to change something about ourselves, and this includes changing how we feel, are we truthfully loving ourselves or are we simply loving the desirable bits, and avoiding or covering up the bits about ourselves that we struggle to love?
If this has made you a little curious, then this leads me to my response to the question from the beginning, “how do i learn to love myself?”
My answer is always the same, find where you don't.
Ouch. No thanks, right?
Finding where you don't love yourself is not as appealing is it? It sure doesn't sound so glamorous. But this is the other side of the coin, and just as important, if not more-so, than all the other things listed above.
Most people can list attributes about themselves that they love, or at least like. It seems easier to do the things that make you feel all the “good feelings”. Being only positive might help you feel good for a time, but is it really sustainable long term to be only positive? And what happens to the rest of our traits? We can share with others our strengths and we can show all our “good” parts; all the parts of us that we have learnt are accepted and enjoyed by others.
But, what about the parts of ourselves that we haven't received so much approval for? The parts we hide away on autopilot when we present ourselves to the world outside.
What about the parts and truths about us that we don't feel so confident about, or the things we could do or talk about that don’t instantly result in all the “good feelings”, but the ones that feel uncomfortable, challenging or vulnerable.
When we hide these parts about ourselves, try to cover them up, or pretend that they aren't there, they don’t automatically disappear. They still exist. But they are instead, rejected by us, and not loved.
The need to hide and reject these parts of ourselves doesn't usually come from ourselves, often certain traits are not accepted during our childhoods and throughout our lives. We learned from our parents, from our teachers, our peers, and society, what parts of us are lovable and which parts are not.
And then we adapted. We adapt because we all have an innate need to belong and to be accepted.
So in our everyday quest to impart ourselves with self love, the real question becomes, are we being driven by the need to change or hide parts of ourselves, to look or feel different in order to gain more acceptance and belonging; or are we actually coming from a place of love?
What do we do with the parts of ourselves that we don’t love… Yet?
Do we just get rid of them? I've been asked this many times.
My answer is quite the opposite, we learn to love those parts.
I believe self love is a practice, rather than a task that one finally achieves. It isn’t something you either have or don't have.
We can’t remove the parts of ourselves we haven’t yet learned to love by showing them less love, or by turning our backs on them. We learn to integrate them into the greater whole of ourselves by turning towards them. We can't ignore, judge, or hate ourselves into more love.
Discovering where your shame, guilt, judgment and fear hides takes much courage. Allowing those feelings and parts of yourself some space to live within you takes radical self-acceptance. This is where you find layers of truth about yourself that will bring you closer to a true sense of self-love.
So kindly and compassionately sit with all the parts of yourself, even the ones you label “bad” “ugly” or “unworthy”. Instead of denying their existence, shine your light on them. Meet the parts within you that have been rejected. Call them back in to join you. Give them another name, another definition. Provide them a voice, and then hear them out.
Now, what if it was okay to be those parts of yourself? What would your life be like if you let them be you and you them?
What surprises me every time that I find and love an unloved part of me, is that once that part feels loved and accepted by me, it no longer creates so much havoc in my life. I realised that these disowned parts have far more impact than we allow ourselves to see while we are busy disowning them.
There is nothing good or bad about you, or in the things you do in the pursuit of loving yourself. There are things you have been taught are good or bad about you that you have learned, and this, you can unlearn.
Ask yourself, “What would someone who loves themselves do?”