This story doesn’t have a beginning, nor does it have an end. It’s a process and with every cycle, we become a little stronger, and a little wiser.
I can remember the conversation so clearly. I was 17 or so and was excited to be a senior in high school. I was in math class and our teacher was handing out our graded tests from the week before. I had so many butterflies in my stomach- partly because I was nervous about getting my mark but also because I was eager to see if I had improved from the last test. Math wasn’t my strong point. I actually re-did Math 11 in my senior year with enough time to still finish Math 12, and saw a tutor once a week for about a year or so. That test mark was a big deal for me.
Time felt like it was going impossibly slow while I waited for my test. When my teacher finally got to me, he handed my test over with a sly wink; he knew how hard I had been working so I took his gesture as a good sign. I flipped the test over and madly scanned over all the pages until I found what I was looking for. I actually can’t remember the exact percentage but it was a B+, which was a really good grade for me at the time. I remember feeling a wave of relief and pride wash over me. I did it! I couldn’t wait to tell my parents.
Unfortunately, my silent celebrations were short lived. I hadn’t even fully comprehended my accomplishment when one of my “best” friends leaned over to me and asked what grade I got. (I should mention, this girl was a smarty-pants and she knew it. I don’t think she had ever gotten below 95% in any class in her entire life. Needless to say everything was a competition in her eyes. I should have known better.) Anyways, I proudly told her I got a B+ and before I even finished she said with disgust, “Katelyn, did you even study?” And before I could fathom a response, our lesson started and I don’t think I heard a word of it.
Sadly, this is the kind of story we’re all too familiar with. It’s the same story at the gym. You’re excited and feeling good because you ran your fastest circuit on the treadmill. Every week you’re making an improvement. And all it takes is one person to undercut your success; your accomplishment; and you’re back to square one. For a split second we grant ourselves love and within the blink of an eye it’s stolen from us. In today’s comparative society, we are CONSTANTLY being robbed of our self-love. We’re brainwashed to believe that followers are more important than morals, that image is more important than heart, and that perception is more important than reality. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of it.
Okay, so we understand that self-love is delicate and is often at the hands of other people’s standards, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, self-love, self-worth, and self-perception should NEVER be in the hands of anyone but you. I understand that’s exceptionally hard in today’s day and age of followers, likes, and subscribers, but I’m telling you, it’s just a mind game. There are a few things that have helped me in my journey to self-love and I’m going to share them with you.
FIRST OF ALL, STOP COMPARING.
I say this not because comparing yourself to others makes you feel crappy, but because comparison prevents you from seeing how truly outstanding you are. When I compared myself to my “friend” in math class every day, it’s no wonder I never saw my own accomplishments for what they were. If I continue to compare myself at the office, I’ll never see the breakthroughs I’m making instead of everyone else’s. I’ll never give myself the credit and LOVE I deserve. How the hell is that fair? It’s easier said than done to break the habit of constant comparison but it’s more than possible. Focus on you and what you’re working towards. I like to keep a journal of my improvements with each project I’m working on. For example, if I’m starting a new routine at the gym, I’ll write down what I did and how I felt. Maybe I only lifted a few weights and did the Elliptical for less than 5 minutes, but down the road I’ll be able to see how far I’ve come and the improvements I’VE made. Journaling your progress can be done with almost anything and it really helps with keeping the focus on your personal journey. Not to mention it gives you small victories to celebrate every day.
GET TO KNOW YOURSELF BETTER.
For the longest time as I grew up and went through University, I always thought I had to like what everyone else liked. I thought I liked certain music, food, clothing, etc. until I was no longer in that environment and realized I didn’t in fact like trap music, for example. It sounds obvious or even juvenile to let others influence the things you like, but it’s not. The friends and people we surround ourselves with highly influence the things we do. But when you’re alone and in your most comfortable environment (for me, it’s in my bed with a cup of tea in hand) ask yourself what it is that makes you, you. The more we align ourselves with our interests, goals, and aspirations, the more we feel like our truest selves and loving ourselves is that much easier. For example, I know that helping others gives me purpose, and that I’m actually an extroverted-introvert and alone time is really important to me. I know that I’m not naturally design-savvy but instead I’m really good at logistics and problem solving. I also know that as much as I want to have thick skin, I’m actually pretty sensitive and it takes me longer to overcome hurt than it would for someone else. And I’m okay with that because these things make me unique and undeniably myself.
LASTLY, CELEBRATE YOURSELF.
There’s nothing more powerful than a woman celebrating her rare intricacies. Now that you’ve spent some time digging deep and getting to know yourself better, it’s time to celebrate all that makes you beautiful and unique. Celebrating yourself can be done in many ways but the ultimate goal is the same- to do something for yourself and no one else. It could be as simple as running yourself a bath with a fancy bath bomb that makes you feel like a unicorn princess. Total win. It could be treating yourself to that really pretty summer dress that you’ve been eyeing up for months. It could be checking yourself in to a quiet hotel for the weekend with nothing but cozy robes and room service. Whatever you come up with, just remember to celebrate the crazy, awesome person that you are. And own it.
Learning to love yourself requires patience, forgiveness and a whole lot of unconditional love.I hope that after reading this you realize self-love is a journey that looks completely different to each of us. No matter what, I want you to know you are strong, beautiful, and deserving. And remember to always let your best light shine through. You’ve got this.
*This post was originally published on WholeHearted Woman. Thank you to my internet pal, Molly Ho, for encouraging me to write this post and for being a constant source of light and encouragement. Check out Wholehearted Woman for soul-driven stories that go beyond the surface.
Photo Source: Esther Funk Photography