I would love to wave a magic wand over everyone and say, “Poof! You now love yourself and embrace all that you are.” But I know that’s not how it works. It’s not something that happens instantaneously or over even a short period. My personal journey to self-love began two years ago when I learned that my brain lesions were gone and I had a new lease on my health. I had the opportunity to make important life changes, and part of that was figuring out how to love myself.
It isn’t an easy journey, and I am still in the beginning stages of self-acceptance. It’s been easier to focus on my exercising, food, and self-compassion than admitting to what I love about myself. I will spend the rest of my life contending with myself over whether or not I am worthy of my own love.
I think it’s like any other relationship we have: loving someone takes work. We have to constantly reaffirm that love, engage with it, and nurture it. Our love is no different.
Love, Don’t Just Like
We can all find things we like about ourselves, but can we find something we love? If you did the exercise from Monday, listing of five things you love about yourself, how many of them are really just “likes?” Be honest.
Sometimes it’s easier to approach ourselves from a slight distance like implies less depth of feeling over love, and that is a fine place to start. But we do want to work towards turning some of those “likes” into “loves.”
Any new relationship is based on “likes” that develop into something more, so this is very similar to that. Look over some of the qualities you like about yourself, are any of them worthy of your attention? You may appreciate how you handle your exacerbations, but you may not celebrate that perseverance to the degree it deserves.
Take a moment and see if a particular quality is worthy of an internal appreciation upgrade. Embrace those qualities and start to look at them with love. Embrace what makes you unique and amazing. You are worthy of your love.
The Science of Loving Yourself
Science backs up the importance of loving yourself. When we focus on our negative qualities, it impacts our relationships, health, and ability to overcome adversity. When we engage in self-appreciation, we give ourselves a chance to cope with stress and any mood/anxiety disorders we might have.
While this won’t cure our depression, it may help you lessen symptoms or get you to a space where you can ask for help.
I found that when I take a stand to care more about myself, that I am able to back away from negative relationships. My drive to be healthy is greater, and I find that I self-assess my abilities as a mother to be higher.
When we engage in self-appreciation, we are more open to making healthy medical decisions. This isn’t necessarily about eating right or exercising, we are more open to fighting for what we need to manage our chronic illness.
Speaking of chronic illness…
Chronic Illness and Loving Yourself
When you have a chronic illness, you’re stuck with it. Until they find a cure for our particular illness, we are biding our time managing the best we can with what we have.
Chronic illness is an obstacle in our wellness journeys. I’ve said this before on the blog: it’s so hard to want to get well when our bodies betray us. It’s hard to love ourselves if we view our bodies flawed beyond repair. Asking someone with a chronic illness to take the steps towards self-love seems unreasonable, but it’s not.
I will be honest, if someone who didn’t have a chronic illness tried to tell me that, I would probably give them the biggest eye roll possible. Even today. Why? Because it’s usually said to make themselves feel better, not me.
Because we cannot change whether or not we have a chronic illness, there is a level of self-acceptance that must happen. When we fight against the illness, via ignoring it or caving completely to it, we signal to ourselves that we are not worth caring for and we signal to the illness that it wins. Patients with negative attitudes, tend to fare worse than patients who are positive with their healthcare approach.
It’s easy to get lost in our illnesses. It’s part of the grieving process, which is perfectly healthy on its own. But it’s a process, which means there needs to be forward movement in our journey, not stalling for an unhealthy length of time. We sometimes forget that we aren’t alone in this world, even though it often feels like it.
We have to fight to love ourselves and keep on fighting despite our health setbacks, lest the illness wins. Chronic illness takes so much away from us, leaves us feeling helpless and worthless, but why let it? Why allow it to take more from us? We have to give it permission to leave us feeling unloved, and we can revoke that permission at any time.
How to Love Myself
So how do we begin loving ourselves? Very slowly, as mentioned in Monday’s post. We’ve been slowly building up to this point throughout the year:
- Choosing to take a self-improvement journey despite having a chronic illness is an act of love.
- Engaging in acts of self-compassion signal that we accept our imperfections and want to be gentle with how we treat ourselves.
- Self-reflecting to find things we like and want to change provides a more realistic view of ourselves.
- Embracing our flaws as part of ourselves and lessons to learn about our imperfections.
- No longer engaging in our self-doubt as a means to keep us from achieving our goals.
Find ways to start incorporating self-appreciation in your daily life. Get a workable morning routine that allows you to feel good about yourself. Include affirmations if that works. Find some way to exercise to boost the feel-good hormones.
Tell yourself that you are worth fighting for.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton