You Don’t Have to Love Yourself All the Time
Sometimes, the best form of “self-love” is not forcing it
You don’t have to love yourself.
That can’t be right, can it? Not when every other post on social media is silently screaming at you to love yourself, flaws and all. Type in “self-love” on google, and you’ll see tons of articles, all with similar headlines touting 10 to 15 ways you can love who you are and why this is vital.
But here’s the thing — loving yourself is a tedious task. And loving yourself unconditionally at all times? Next to impossible.
What Does Loving Yourself Look Like?
From taking a spa day to shattering negative beliefs, the concept of loving yourself has taken on many forms. Social media and self-help gurus remind us at every swipe to love ourselves. They shove it into our faces.
But how exactly do you do it? What does it look like?
During my early twenties, self-love wasn’t something I thought or heard about. In my mid-twenties, it became all the rage. Influencers were posting pictures of spa days, candlelit baths, massages, or trips with a tag of #selflove on them.
I went along with it. I thought that was self-love. I would go to the cinema alone for some me-time or buy something nice for myself. I’d slap on a face pack. I was doing stuff for myself, to make myself happy, so that meant I loved myself. Right?
Now, in my late twenties, I know none of that was true self-love. Of course, taking some time off or treating yourself to something nice is great. It’s self-care. You are taking care of yourself.
Deep self-love, though, is hard. It comes from being self-aware, breaking patterns, saying no to things that do not serve you, letting go, moving on, questioning belief systems, creating new thought processes, forgiving yourself, taking responsibility for your life, being fully open to your feelings, building deep connections, being vulnerable, and practising radical honesty.
These are just a few examples.
It’s a lot deeper than bubble baths and scented candles.
It is shattering who are think you are so that you can be who you are meant to be.
Can You Love Yourself Through the Highs and Lows?
It’s easy to love yourself and others when you are happy. When you are on top of the wave, life is a breeze. Everything works out. Things are good.
But what about when you are going down?
When you feel sad, lonely, heartbroken, or depressed? Can you love yourself the same way, with the same conviction?
It’s challenging to do so when your life seems to be falling apart and your thoughts are running wild. And what happens when you cannot love yourself during your bad days? You feel disappointed.
“I hate how out of shape I have become. But I should love my body in any shape.”
You see, the trendy concept of self-love doesn’t have a middle ground. You either love yourself completely, or you don’t. Social media says whether you are fat, or have acne, you must love yourself. If you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. You’re not loving yourself enough.
The problem is, it’s tough to love yourself fully when all you can see are your flaws. I had a bad bout of acne last year. I have had unblemished skin my entire life until suddenly, my face was full of angry red spots. It bothered me so much, to the point I stopped taking photos. I know acne is not a big thing, others have it way worse, but I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling despair. So, how was I supposed to love myself?
This is where the concept of radical acceptance comes into play.
A Crucial Part of Self-Love We Rarely Consider
There is one aspect of loving yourself that doesn’t make it to social media. It’s called radical acceptance. And it may be the answer to loving yourself unconditionally, no matter where you are in life.
Radical acceptance is the ability to accept situations outside your control without judging them, which reduces the suffering caused by them.
Non-acceptance causes suffering in our lives, not pain. Pain plays a part, but it is the denial of reality that makes you suffer. Trying to fight reality is exhausting, and it rarely works.
So what does this have to do with self-love?
Radical acceptance is something you can use when you find it hard to love yourself. Rather than forcing unconditional self-love, it’s easier to say, “I am not where I want to be, but I accept myself at this moment while working on what I can change to get there.”
This shifts things. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval or agreement. It is an understanding of where you are on your journey. It helps to turn your resistant thoughts into accepting ones.
Radical acceptance isn’t easy, either. It takes practice and self-awareness. But it is easier than trying to love yourself when you don’t feel it within you. It’s a good middle ground to be at.
Unlike what the self-help gurus say, you don’t have to love yourself unconditionally at all times. It’s okay if you are not there yet. Instead, learn to accept yourself unconditionally.
It allows you to feel better about yourself, and to strike a balance between where you are and where you want to be.