Once upon a time in my life, I was looking for romantic love. Almost every piece of advice I had ever received on finding love was, “You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you” to which I always responded with enthusiastic head nods of but of course! Really deep down inside I wasn’t sure what self-love was, or if I even had it. What does it mean to love you? And surely for me, I have been so unlucky in finding true love from a man, it must mean I do not love myself or I would be happily coupled up by now? Do my friends love themselves? These are the questions that circled my mind. My journey to self-love and discovery began after a series of tragic events that led to my unemployment and a savings account increase, how those two events go together is a longer story for a different time. Anyway, I traveled Europe for 30 days alone. Just one tiny suitcase and me. My journey led me to amazing people with the warmest hearts. Their love fed me, and my vibrant spirit and smiles returned the favor.
When I returned to America, I was challenged on how to hang onto this feeling that I had on vacation. Almost immediately I returned to constant anxiety, self doubts, depression and worry. I became somewhat more confused than when my journey began. I even moved back to Italy to somehow regain my vacation bliss. And although it was a good band-aid to the darkness inside of me, it was no cure.
Self –love doesn’t start in Rome, NYC or anywhere else in the world. It starts with you. After this realization hit me over the head like a ton of bricks, I acknowledged that I was going to focus on loving myself. The first step was acceptance. Total acceptance of everything I am. The bright and glittery parts, that looks great in my finest labeled fashion, and the dark parts, the clouds from past pain and traumas that have shaped who I am now. I recognized acceptance for myself, by quitting the self-depreciating talk. My humor was sarcastic, bitter; making fun of myself was my specialty. I could do an entire stand up act on how many bad boyfriends I’ve had or the promotions I have been passed up on, the instances in which I have publicly failed. My age was a constant thorn in my side for me. I felt as if my youth had passed me by, and I should register for old maid status and give up on my dreams of marriage, children even career success. To judge myself so harshly was not love, if I thought so little of me, how could my world reflect anything positive back to me? Loving yourself is not revisiting thoughts constantly about past or present mistakes. To err is human, and is part of it. And every time you really fuck something up, you can affirm that at least you had success in trying. Loving yourself is going to the gym when you want, or having an entire cheesecake in one setting if you so desire. Loving yourself is putting yourself first, your needs. If that means getting 8 full hours of sleep, a morning run, or an extra five minutes on lunch break. Meeting your needs could even mean setting healthy boundaries with your friends and family and letting them know when you need time for just you. The simple practice of more self-love and gratitude will manifest positivity in you life. Plant the new seeds of goodness, in time you will learn to nurture those seeds with even deeper love and respect, for your gardens to bloom and bloom.