my journey to self love

I submitted an essay on self love to an online publication five months ago. My work wasn’t chosen to be shared on their website, but I still had the document just sitting on my computer. Waiting for the day that I’d want to share it on my own personal blog. Well, I decided today’s the day. 2017 has been so good to me. I’ve really embraced the messiness but beauty of life. I’m learning to embrace the journey particularly the one I embarked on in 2016 to truly learn to love and celebrate myself.

It’s been fun, it’s been challenging, it’s been frustrating, but it’s been worth it. Progress is not linear.

Anyways, here’s that letter I wrote during the summer. I hope it helps you as much as its helped me.
For nearly 18 years I struggled with self-love and acceptance. I often felt inferior to other people. I lived my life believing that other people’s opinions of me determined my worth. I viewed the world as my mirror and believed that if the world didn’t like what they saw then there must be something wrong with me. It’s a sad truth to reveal, but it’s a sad reality that many of us face. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been blessed with the best family around who support me with unconditional love and encouragement. And my friends? They’re just as great. I seriously ask myself almost daily it seems, “How did I get so lucky?” I love having the biggest support system- whether it’s a friend texting me just to remind me how much I’m loved or making plans to see me after a long time, I just always feel loved by my friends and family. They constantly remind me how I’m great I am- inside and out.

Yet, I somehow always felt empty. I used to thrive off the affirmation I received, but that high eventually wore off and I would begin feeling low again. I would have a self deprecating monologue on loop in my mind. But this story has a happy ending don’t worry.
I’m going to take you on my journey to self-love as 2016 was the year I finally learned to love myself.
I. Accept yourself. Celebrate Yourself. Repeat.
    Despite the positivity and love flowing from my support system, I still couldn’t shake these feelings of self-hatred that would deter my journey to self-love. I built myself up only to be torn down by a hateful or rude comment someone may have intentionally or unintentionally said to me. I used to place entirely too much value on what other people thought of my appearance especially. I distinctly remember times growing up when I would feel confident wearing something only to have someone tell me I looked big or that I shouldn’t dress that way. The thing that always bothered me the most and still bothers is how people are so concerned with the lives of others. People I barely know would feel the need to comment on my size as if it affected them. I used to feed into this negativity. I would think I looked terrible because someone didn’t like how I looked. It’s a self destructive mindset. Because the truth is, even after you begin to love yourself, people will still find flaws in you. But it’s up to you to be so content and satisfied with yourself that their words are nothing… just merely words.
    I decided I didn’t want to continue living my life according to what other people thought, so I made the decision to begin accepting myself. I began listing the things I loved about myself. I began listing personality traits, too. I realized that my list of things I loved about myself far outweighed the list of things that I didn’t particularly like.I realized that these things don’t define who I am as a person. They’re parts of me sure. But they’re not who I am. I decided not to let them rule or define my life.
    After you’ve accepted yourself, the joy truly begins when you decide to celebrate yourself. I felt celebrated already by the people I love, but that doesn’t compare to the love you feel when you learn to celebrate who you are. Your quirks. Your body. Your story. Your life. I began celebrating everything about myself. I began celebrating just the simple fact that I was in good health. I began celebrating my existence on this planet!
II. Embrace your flaws. Choose authenticity + vulnerability.
     Sure it’s fun celebrating your great qualities and learning to embrace them, but what about those insecurities? What about those problem areas that caused you to neglect self love in the first place?
     The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to meet myself where I am. To realize that I am a work in progress. That I’m not perfect and never will be, so I might as well stop aiming to be perfect (or anything close.) I learned to appreciate the progress. To put in the work and value the journey to becoming the person I hope to be someday. Once you embrace your flaws and insecurities, they lose their power and dominance in your life. You tend to take them at face value. You begin seeing yourself as a whole human being who makes mistakes. Give yourself grace. Show yourself kindness when you have a bad day or make a mistake. Remember that you are human and that you are still learning.
    Once you begin recognizing that you are a work in progress, you will begin to value authenticity in your life. You will start feeling inspired to just be yourself. The raw you. The unfiltered you. The you that sometimes doesn’t have it all together. There’s power and beauty to authentic people. I personally am drawn to people who present themselves in an unapologetic way. In a way that says “This is me. All of me. Take it or leave it.” It encourages me to be myself. It encourages me to be my biggest fan. It helps me realize that we all are on our own journeys towards acceptance of something. We all have fears and insecurities and it makes life seem a little less scary when you realize that everyone’s a little scared, too. I mention vulnerability because that goes hand in hand with authenticity for me. I’m becoming more vulnerable with sharing my journey. 
III. Progress is not linear. Take it one day at a time.
    Lastly, before I go… it’s important to remember that progress is not linear. Once you begin to love yourself and encourage yourself, your bad days won’t disappear. Your feelings of inadequacy may still show up at your door, but I want you to know that each day that you make the decision to love yourself is a step in the right direction. If you take steps back in progress, that’s okay. Your self-love journey is still valid. Take it one day at a time. Write down accomplishments in your self-love journey. Write down mantras that inspire and encourage you. Share them with others on social media or written on a note to give someone in person. Find activities, hobbies, or exercise that feels good. Live your best life. Whatever that looks like for you.
Stop looking at other people’s progress as a measure for your own. You are your biggest competition. Be a better you than the day before.You are your home. You are the love of your life- no one can ever take that from you.

P.S. Take a break from the screens every now and then. Sometimes social media is exhausting. I take days where I choose to engage more with the world around me and less with the world in front of me through a screen.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! you’re the best.
remember to spread kindness and love this holiday season.

Happy Holidays,
Nicole

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