A while ago, long enough that I can’t remember (we are talking years), I stopped loving myself.
I thought if I just loved other people enough, it would be equal to loving myself. If I threw myself into every relationship – personal and professional – if I tried to be the best “someone” to everyone else, it would be enough. It would be enough to replace me.
What I have found, many years later, is that no matter how hard you love others, you can’t replace yourself.
You may hear all sorts of advice, “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” Or, “If you only loved yourself, you wouldn’t make these choices.” But once you are already down the path of not loving yourself, these all sound like platitudes.
Now, I am not talking about needing more, “Me time.” I mean that point at which, at a very deep level, you are putting everyone’s needs before your own. I mean the point at which every decision you make is focused on someone else’s happiness or satisfaction. That is the level at which I was living. The place I had made a home.
I can’t quite pinpoint the moment I came to the realization I was living for others. It felt like the Hoover Dam had a tiny leak in it, one that had been dripping for a while. A drip small enough that it was annoying, but not a catastrophe, until the day that little leak led to a complete break in the dam.
When that dam within me broke, I realized I needed to make some changes. It was hard. But along that way back to loving myself I have learned some very important things.
- Forgive yourself. (This was a big one for me. I still struggle with it.)
- Set aside time for yourself. (Try just five minutes everyday to breathe or be mindful.)
- Live with the best intentions for yourself and others. (Honestly, when I started forgiving myself, it became easier to forgive others.)
- Take care of yourself. (This might be eating a healthy meal or doing yoga for five minutes on the floor of your bedroom. It doesn’t matter how small, just consciously do something for yourself.)
- Ask others for help in your path to self-love. (It is hard to admit you need help, but all of us do at one point or another.
I do not have all of the answers in life but I can tell you that by trying to do these five things, I have found myself again. It has been humbling. It has been hard. I am far from complete, but I do feel I am on the path back to self-love and that means everything. Because I have to live with myself for the remainder of my days, I might as well love myself as much as possible.
Wishing you a Valentine’s Day filled with self-love.