When I was a little boy, I was told that I was not good enough. Not directly as many people have been, but in the silent, subtle gestures of neglect and emotional abandonment. Early enough that I perpetuated a story that my presence was unwanted or negligible at best.
How do you love yourself when, at an early age, you got the message that you are unloved
You may have been told or subtly implied that you are not good enough, that you are unlovable and unworthy. You may have bought into the idea of needing to earn love through your behavior. As small children what our elders relay to us is “law”, close to divine in our eyes. You may think that if you weren’t so quiet/small/stupid/boring/anything else, then someone would love you.
You might be afraid of being alone because no one wants to be with someone like you. Or maybe being single is better than being with someone who doesn’t really want to be with you but feels obligated to?
And there’s another thing: Loving yourself can feel selfish when society tells us that life is to be lived dutifully and with sacrifice and selfishness is a bad (or something similar).
How do you love yourself when nothing about you feels safe
How do you love yourself when nothing about you feels safe?
We live in a world where our culture has glorified and normalized everything from service above self to gaslighting to hustle and grind. And when we’re constantly being told that the only way to be loved is to be hard working, a pillar in our community, or famous, it can feel impossible for us to believe in our inherent value as human beings.
I think this is how authentic self-love gets such a bad rap these days. How could anyone possibly love themselves when they’ve been abused their entire lives? Or when they’ve been told that they aren’t good enough? Or even worse: how could anyone possibly learn how to love themselves if those messages were internalized for so long?
But here’s the thing: loving yourself isn’t something that’s taught or learned from others—it’s something you must connect with inside of yourself before anything and anyone else can come next.
Loving myself is the hardest thing I have ever (and continue to) learn to do.
Loving yourself is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is a constant battle, but it is worth it. If you want to learn to love yourself, here are some things that helped me:
- Give yourself permission to be imperfect. It is so easy for us as humans to put ourselves under pressure and try so hard to make everyone else happy without thinking about our own needs/wants/desires first. When we do this, we end up unhappy and resentful because we feel like we haven’t been giving ourselves enough space or time for self-care or self-love because we’ve been running around looking after everyone else’s needs instead of taking care of ourselves first (which should always be priority). Being too hard on yourself may have worked to move you forward in the past, but when you beat yourself up over something small you hold your true worth back from the works. Loving yourself means forgiving yourself when things don’t go according to plan (as often happens).
Learning to love yourself is a journey. It’s a practice. And it’s something that none of us really get to “finish.” We just keep plugging away at it, keep trying, and keep growing as best we can—because we won’t do that perfectly either. This isn’t about being right all the time (or even most of the time). It’s about doing our best and accepting ourselves when we mess up—and if you ask me, that sounds pretty darn good!