If only you could wake up one morning and decide to start loving yourself. Imagine a self-love switch in the middle of your chest. In an instant, you could switch off the sound of that voice in your head that points out your flaws and failures. Suddenly self-assured. Suddenly confident. Suddenly ready to live your best life.
But the decision to love yourself is not one choice; it is thousands of choices over hundreds of days. And as hard as it sounds, choosing to fall in love with yourself will be the best decision you can make, over and over.
Choose your words
The way we speak matters. My personal journey to self-love started in my mid-twenties. I was suddenly single and feeling like a complete failure after wasting years of my life with the wrong person. As I considered the prospect of leaving my job to move home with my parents, I felt like I was “falling behind” all of those around me who moved on with their careers and relationships.
Cue the reframe. Without intention or direction, I started to shift the way I looked at my situation. The failed relationship was an experience in love. It was going to help me to recognise a healthy relationship in my future. The wasted years were behind me. I had a lifetime ahead to do things differently. My rock bottom was my launch pad. My broken confidence was my project. My mistakes had made me stronger. I was not falling behind; I was starting over with experience.
Of course, the self-doubting voice in my head was still there; but now there was a new voice that I was choosing to listen to.
Action: Make your affirmations a daily habit. Look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love you.”
Choose your company
They say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you don’t feel truly seen and loved by them, how can you love yourself?
Choose to spend your time with people that value who you are, not what they can get from you. Invest your time and energy into people who make you feel good about yourself; those that celebrate your success and admire you without competition or jealousy. Who are those people in your life?
Your decision to love yourself can be triggering for some people. It’s usually the people that say “you’ve changed” like it is a bad thing. When you’re conscious of the way you speak to yourself, you’ll start to notice the way that others speak to you. If someone is unkind to you, it’s usually a reflection of how they feel about themselves. Don’t take on the criticism. Forgive them and move on.
And remember, you get to choose who you spend your time with. If seeing someone feels like an obligation, it’s usually a sign that you could do with some healthy boundaries.
Action: Think about the people you spend your time with and how they make you feel. Plan to spend more time with those that make you feel good - and less with those who don’t.
Choose your actions
Our actions can impact the way we feel - just like the way we feel impacts our actions. Choose to be in control.
Be conscious of the things you do that make you feel good. The little things that lift your mood and the big things that have you buzzing for days. Prioritise feel good activities in your daily schedule. Block out the time and make it non-negotiable.
And the holy grail? Finding work that makes us feel good. We spend so much of our time working so an unfulfilling career that isn’t aligned to your passions and skills can really suck the soul out of you. If you can’t make the change right now, start working towards it with a side project, some volunteer work or study.
Action: Think about the activities you do that make you feel good. Carve out some time to do them as often as you can.
Choice by choice, our love for ourselves can grow.
I know this to be true. Suddenly, after a decade of better choices, I can truly say that I love myself. I love the people in my life, and I love the life I have created.
If I could meet my younger self, I would thank her for her commitment to this journey. She didn’t know it at the time, but those difficult early choices would set her on a path that would change her life.
It may feel like a climb at the beginning. The right choices are not always the easiest. There will be mistakes and set backs. Forgive yourself and keep going. With a little momentum, you will fall deeply into the greatest love of all; self love.