As I prepared for this year’s Valentine’s-themed blog, I read through last year’s Love Is…post. It was an encouraging day-brightener for me, being reminded of some anecdotes of what love means and how it is often expressed. I started thinking about the ways love fills my life, from the love I feel both from and for my family and friends to the love I believe in through my faith. Then it struck me: when thinking about all the love in my life, why do I hesitate to include the love I have for myself?
Love of self is a tricky topic for a variety of reasons. It feels vulnerable and requires a special blend of confidence, compassion and humility. There is no shortage of opinions for the best ways to most effectively extend love to oneself, and seemingly endless options of you-deserve-it luxuries. However, despite the plethora of self-help resources and indulgent products, all promoted as being critical components, it is, in reality, often an awkward navigation between the self-love that appears self-absorbed and arrogant versus the self-love that is kind and accepting of oneself while also gently encouraging constant change.
Sometimes, or rather, often, I have a hard time practicing this self-aware version of love. I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. In some way or another it seems like many of us struggle to love ourselves well. Part of my problem is I am always daydreaming about what the best version of me could be. This reminds me there are parts of myself I want to change, parts of myself that I’d prefer to ignore, and parts I’m just not confident about. Sometimes this leaves me feeling disappointed or embarrassed, and it’s hard to love in such a mindset.
Unfortunately, I often find myself fixating on the aspects of myself I’m trying to change. When looking back at parts of my life, I get stuck on regrets and mistakes, wishing for some major do-overs. Recently, however, it struck me that those same failures and imperfections are a part of me and have contributed to the person I am today. And, they are just that: only a part. There are also other parts of me, positive attributes that I do appreciate, successes that I am confident in. It is just so easy to overlook those when I am stuck thinking about the ways I hope to change.
As this realization started to sink in, I found my typical quest for self love through self-improvement interrupted. It became clear to me that I need to start loving myself now, today, with all my messiness, imperfections, and regrets. I’ve been trying to keep in mind that loving myself requires a lot of grace and means I shouldn’t wait until I eventually become the idealized person I sometimes daydream about. Further, I’m learning to acknowledge I may not change as much as I envision, and that is okay. It reminds me of a quote from a character on the sitcom Modern Family, “People are who they are, give or take 15 percent. That’s how much people can change if they really want to.” Regardless of how much I change, I am realizing I need to choose to start loving myself today.
“Love is a choice,” I remember my husband telling me while we were still dating. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of this apparently unromantic side of love. However, as I have aged, my appreciation for this sentiment has deepened. I am thankful for an increased awareness of the value in choosing love. Of course, love is more than just a choice – it’s feelings, emotions, thoughts, words, and actions, but it is, also, a choice. And, same as I can choose to love others, I can choose to apply this sentiment to myself. More importantly, I should choose to love myself, my flaws and failures, gifts and talents, mistakes and potential.
Loving myself means accepting where I’m at, where I’ve been, and where I’m going in life. It also means accepting the multiple parts that make up who I am: faults and mistakes and also talents and positive qualities…all of it. This journey of self love means I do my best to grow as a person while also practicing self-awareness, treating myself with understanding and humility, not disappointment or embarrassment. To paraphrase a sentiment expressed by a character in the series Ted Lasso, loving myself means that I love the person I am and forgive myself for not being who I’m not.
So, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner and as I consider all the love that fills my life, I’m going to also work on extending some of that love to myself. I accept that it is going to continue to be a challenge to shift this hesitancy to love of self. As I continue along this journey of choosing love, I hope to find comfort in the humility, compassion, and grace that encompasses it all.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photo