By Kate Kole
I grew up in the era of Freddie Prinze Jr. movies and Nicholas Sparks novels, and you’d better believe that my view towards romantic relationships was skewed accordingly. You know, towards that soul awakening, against all odds, white hot and passionate kind of experience. Which it seems, exists in some form and duration, but isn’t exactly the foundation of every lasting love story.
My journey towards self-love has proved to be equally misguided. It doesn’t look or feel like I thought it would. I firmly believed that once I sorted through my life and perfected myself, then I could accept and celebrate who I’d become. Self-love was a finish line to cross with a million road blocks to overcome and mile markers to get through first.
It looked like shrinking to a certain size, accomplishing educational goals, personal goals, and professional goals, being charming, sweet, smart, and beautiful. It was set in achieving the right style, having the right things, and creating a version of myself that could fit in, adapt, and excel in any environment.
And so, I made those things my mission. They became the parameters I used, both consciously and subconsciously, to measure my worth, purpose, and place on this earth. The problem being that when I used a million different measuring sticks to determine whether I was good enough, I was never quite satisfied. Feelings of acceptance were fleeting, contentment was rare, and self-love seemed impossible, unless of course, I could wish upon a star and turn into Beyoncé overnight.
What I’m just now learning – what has taken a solid 30 years to discover – is that self-love isn’t a destination. Embracing who we are isn’t something that happens at once. It’s an ongoing decision to wake up and to make every single day. And most days, to make again by the time lunch rolls around. To show up, to be ourselves, to try, to accomplish, to fail, and to keep going. Like any other relationship, it isn’t linear. It’s hard and gratifying and stressful and rewarding all at once.
Sometimes, it looks like seeing and feeling the most painfully human parts of yourself: the jealousy, comparison, shame, guilt, anxiety, and judgment, and choosing not to disown yourself in the midst of them. The same way you wouldn’t abandon your best friend for feeling those feelings.
Sometimes, it’s giving yourself the same pep talk you’d give to your partner. It’s staring in the mirror and saying the words your heart needs to hear. It’s believing that you have what it takes to make it through difficult conversations, and uncomfortable moments, and experiences that feel like they might break you.
Sometimes, it’s acknowledging that you’re not feeling your sexiest, or most confident, or talented, or most patient, or anything else you aim to be. And still, choosing to be proud of who you are and what it’s taken for you to get here.
Sometimes, it’s breaking the cycle of negative self-talk, and repetitive self-doubt, and constant scrutinizing, analyzing, and overthinking and deciding instead, to simply be as you are. To lay down the expectations, and forget about numbers, and let go of who you’ve convinced yourself you need to be. To love yourself first, and to sort through everything else second.
I’m not a self-love guru, but the hopeless romantic in me likes to think it’s attainable. Maybe not the perfect version I once envisioned, but a grittier, raw, and real one. One that believes in trying and forgiving, and grace and acceptance, and meeting ourselves where we are with open arms.
featured image via pexels