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I used to not love myself.
I used to get in my head and say horrible things to myself.
As a result, my qualify of life suffered.
I wish I could tell you that one day I woke up and decided, "Today is the day I'm going to love myself!"
But that's not how life works.
Instead, I learned something much more profound as I struggled to love myself.
I learned that it's much more about the process you follow in everyday life than the final destination.
These days, my mental health is 100 times better than it was years ago, and I'm ready to share how you can learn to love yourself and increase your quality of life as well.
Why Should You Learn to Love Yourself First?
It seems obvious that you should learn to love yourself in your daily life, but is it?
Let's go back in time to when I was in college and in my early twenties.
Now that I look back on those times, I realize I actually wanted to love myself, and I was trying to love myself, but I was going about it all wrong.
I had self-love as the final destination.
Actually, I had many things as the final definition.
I so badly wanted to be happy. I wanted to be not anxious. I wanted to be all the things that other people were being.
Want, want want.
It didn't matter if I was idolizing negative people or authentic people. If they seemed to be happy and have something that I wanted, then I was all for it.
I thought I knew what I was doing, but I really had no idea.
I was following my desire and pursuing end states rather than simply loving myself. I got distracted by shiny objects when what I was looking for was right in front of me.
Still, I know now that learning to love yourself is a noble pursuit.
Now that I love myself, I am:
- So much happier than I was
- Living life in an authentic way on a daily basis
- Choosing to spend my time with people who love me for who I am
- Radiating courage even when I'm feeling scared
- Knowing that it's not about end results--but the process I follow to get there
That's not to say I don't still have mental health issues--because I do.
I still live with anxiety and OCD. I still navigate bad relationships that, sometimes, bring down my emotional health. I don't know a single person who doesn't have to move past roadblocks and over speedbumps. We're all human beings after all.
But the key to loving yourself is hidden in one important word.
How to Learn to Love Yourself First
That word is "learning."
At the risk of sounding cliche, loving yourself is a process that never ends. You and I will always be learning how to do it.
And that's the entire point.
Loving yourself is not a destination.
Think about it.
Have you ever gotten to a point where you've decided, "OK, that's it! I now love myself enough. Well done, me!"
When you think about it that way, it sounds silly.
But it's no sillier than pursuing all the other "wants" we seek in life.
Food. Love. Money. Fame.
These all sound like they would be great to have in abundance, but is that really true?
What happens when you actually get there?
Are you going to be a completely different person?
Or are you going to be the same person, just with more stuff to worry about?
When I was in college, I had a very naive way of looking at the world.
I truly believed that people who got what they wanted were happy.
I thought that there was a certain amount of things that you needed to collect in life--and then you win.
I'm smiling now as I type this.
I now know that loving yourself is not about collecting things. It's about immersing yourself in experiences. It's about stumbling on happiness, as Dr. Daniel Gilbert wrote.
In his excellent book, Dr. Gilbert writes about how his research showed him that we aren't actually very good at knowing what will make us happy. We think getting to a new place or a new job will do the trick, but we really have no idea.
He states that it's a much better idea to actually ask people who are doing the things we think we want to do about how they currently feel.
And there it is again.
It's always about being in the moment.
Loving yourself is not something you do. It's something that you are.
When you are immersed in something, you suddenly realize you love yourself and that you're happy.
The problem is, once you realize it, the moment is gone, and you have to go back to doing what you were doing to find love and happiness again.
In Conclusion - Loving Yourself First Like Your Life Depends On It
I would argue that learning to love yourself is one of the most important tasks of your lifetime--if not the most important.
Your life story depends on the quality of your experiences.
Those experiences determine the quality of your life.
Each day of your life, you are responsible for making countless decisions.
How many of these decisions have to do with your emotional health?
Do you love yourself like your life depends on it?
What kind of relationship do you have with yourself in the first place?
Ask yourself these questions.
Write them down if you need to.
Remember, it's not about the destination.
It's about the process you follow.
The more you choose yourself, whether it's through the questions you ask or the words you write, the more you'll find that it's the act of being that is most important.
One day soon, you will stop what you're doing and smile.
"That was it," you'll think or say.
And it was.
And will be.
Because learning to love yourself is a process that never ends.