How to Love Yourself, Updated
By Thao Nguyen
A few days ago, one of my old articles was reposted on Instagram and Facebook. In all honesty, I had forgotten I had written it (it’s been a loooooooooong year), and to be even more blatantly honest, I still struggle a lot with what I talked about in that article.
But it’s also super hard to change that attitude, I can easily attest to that. We’ve spent our whole lives judging ourselves, feeling guilty about our darkest desires and thoughts, feeling insignificant when we aren’t given the respect we deserve, feeling like failures when we don’t achieve our goals. Losing that way of thinking is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Start by trying to see yourself the way you see your favorite person. You know that they aren’t perfect, but you love them anyway. Do the same for yourself. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, for all of the ways you haven’t met the standards you’ve given yourself, and love yourself enough to know that it’s okay to be imperfect.
I’ve gone through my fair share of self-loathing in the months since this article was written. A lot of repressed memories were brought to the surface, and I was forced to take a long hard look at why it was that I disliked myself. From insecurities, to trust issues, to a general sense of insufficiency, I had a lot to deal with. What made me feel even worse was how I choose to deal with the bad days - by not dealing with them. I pretended to be okay, even when I wasn’t. I lied to myself and to everyone around me when they asked how I was doing. I put a smile on my face and floated through my day(s) just waiting for the periods of turmoil to pass. But one day was particularly bad - like cry in the bathroom at work bad - and I finally chose to be honest with myself and with some friends about what I was feeling. And excuse me for the cliche, but damn did the floodgates open after that. The experience was cathartic, eye-opening, and extremely relieving. I felt more at peace and more confident than I had in ages. More than that, I learned a lot about actual things I could do to love myself better, something I didn’t really know when I wrote the previous article.
Admit when you are not okay.
One of my most debilitating habits was refusing to admit to anyone, including myself, that I wasn’t okay. I’m okay. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. Enough about me, tell me more about how you’re doing. That was my constant refrain. I didn’t want to entertain the thought that I was unhappy with myself because I knew it would mean admitting weakness and that I would have to deal with a lot of sludge I had buried. But one day, the weight of pretending to be okay just became unbearable and I found myself crying in the bathroom at work. As I sat there crying and answering emails (responsibility doesn’t stop for existential crises) I knew that I had to face the fact that I wasn’t okay.
So I finally said it out loud. I told my friends how I was really feeling and it was both liberating and scary. I was realizing things as I was speaking; all of these emotions and insecurities that had been hiding beneath the surface came forward. For the first time in months I felt totally at peace and free. It was amazing feeling like I didn’t have to hide or pretend to be something I wasn’t anymore. Self-love doesn’t mean avoiding the parts of your life that make you unhappy. It means dealing with them so you can move on and get rid of them.
Let people help and truly see you
Just because it’s called self-love doesn’t mean you have to do it on your own. Witnessing the care and love others have for you will do huge, huge things for your confidence and self-worth. I’m not telling you to depend on others for validation or happiness, but letting others care, comfort, and support you will go a long ways in relieving some of your stress and pressure to be “perfect” all the time.
It’s an amazing feeling knowing that there is someone who will love you at your most vulnerable. It’ll help you to see that you can love yourself in that state too. If someone reaches out to see how you’re doing, take a chance and be honest with them. It’ll surprise you how much compassion can do for your wellbeing. Having guards up is still important, there’s always the risk of getting hurt or disappointed. But having them up all the time is only gonna make you feel more alone, desolate, and misunderstood.