but there I was, crying at a stoplight, utterly swamped by the realization that I didn’t love myself.
I didn’t hate myself. I just didn’t think I was that important or worth it. Other people were—and I would gladly offer a ride or help someone move; but it had never occurred to me that I could like myself and still, deep down, see all of the flaws that made me think I wasn’t worth my own care and attention. I had never realized that I didn’t feel worth it, and realizing it was devastating.
So I sat down and asked myself a question: What would loving myself look like?
When I say loving myself, I don’t mean feeling great about myself, although that can be a part of love. I mean acting like I love myself, sticking up for me and treasuring myself no matter what, the way I do for the people I love. I mean working toward what is best for me in God’s eyes, the same way I would for anyone else I love.
I began to imagine what I would do if I truly loved myself. I wrote down my ideas and formulated goals to work toward. I was sick of not loving myself. I knew that God loves me, even more than I can imagine. I wanted to love myself the way God loves me, the way God calls me to love other people.
Instead of trying to make huge changes, I intentionally focused on tiny things I could do. Small actions build up over time and are not so overwhelming. With that in mind, I set three specific goals:
- Getting to know myself. How can I love someone I don’t know? Journaling helps me to know and to understand myself. I focus on doing things I truly enjoy instead of things I think I should enjoy.
- Acting like I love myself. Love is shown through actions, so I treat myself in ways that are respectful and loving. I exercise more, do what I’m passionate about rather than filling time, and stop calling myself an awful person.
- Taking myself seriously. What are my dreams? Taking myself seriously means pursuing my dreams instead of assuming they are impossible or putting them off because they are difficult. If I take myself seriously, then I am worth some hard work.
I have been working on this project for several months. I’m nowhere near perfect at loving myself and often get pretty frustrated. Facing the bad habits I’ve cultivated or the things I hate about myself is hard—way harder than ignoring them or putting up with them. I still have days (and weeks) when I ignore my goals because they are difficult. But when I focus on my goals, I begin to feel like I love myself. I’m passionate about the things I love, such as writing. This love flows into the way I treat others; small actions feel more important, and I’m much less likely to be kind only when it’s convenient. Loving myself doesn’t mean being selfish but searching for the person God created me to be, and a huge part of that is loving others.
I still have a long way to go, but this project has helped me to learn more about myself and to love myself.
Alina Kanaski is a writer, reader, and nature lover who is slowly learning to love herself and relish the small joys of life.
NOVEMBER 12, 2017
NEXT DAY STRETCH
Spend some time alone. Consider this question: How do I feel about myself? Be honest.
Then ask: What would it look like to love myself? Don’t think about this question in terms of feelings; instead, think about how you would act toward yourself. Would you act as if you’re unimportant? Would you treat yourself badly? ignore the things you love? try to force yourself to be someone you’re not?
How can you treat yourself better? How can you act like you love yourself? Be specific; set a goal for yourself.