These days we are bombarded by Pinterest quotes, cutesy signs in craft stores, and even our favorite drag queens telling us that there’s only one path to true happiness: LOVE YOURSELF!
This is what they sell us: “Love yourself and everything else will fall into place. If you focus on loving yourself, you’ll find an amazing partner, the best career path, and maybe even the perfect bra.”
Hell yes. Who wouldn’t want to jump on that? It sounds so easy and wonderful.
When I was starting my self-love journey, I sat down and said, “Ok, I’ve got my mantras and my planner and my self-care tips. I’m ready!” Little did I know that I was committing to serious hard work and energy, letting go of certain people, and embracing loneliness in a way I had never experienced.
We all know that loving yourself is not a group activity. Duh. That’s obvious. But not many people are prepared for the long stretches of alone time that are absolutely necessary for reflecting, learning, setting boundaries, and taking care of yourself.
Here are five ways self-love can feel lonely:
1. Loving yourself means putting yourself first.
Read that again. Your needs come first. If you are unhappy, stressed, or unwell, you’re not able to give your best. That means you have to learn how to create boundaries between yourself and the ones you love.
You also have to say no more often. It’s exceptionally hard at first because it feels like you’re both disappointing people and missing out on fun. The first time you say, “No, I can’t go to that party because I have to go grocery shopping and clean my house” will feel ridiculous. You have to trust that taking care of yourself will be worth it.
2. Loving yourself is not instantaneous.
This shit takes time. You’re not going to wake up next week and evolve into a better version of you like a magical self-help Pokemon. You have to work at it and be consistent. You have to make new patterns, over and over and over.
Stopping negative self talk, letting go of toxic habits, and figuring out what you want out of life are all time-consuming. You have to give yourself enough personal space to make it happen. Be patient, you’re learning.
3. Loving yourself means not settling.
Whether it’s the food you put into your body or the people you spend your time with, you cannot settle for less than good. You have to cut out what brings you down. Sometimes that means letting go of friendships. Sometimes that means saying goodbye to sugar. You have to be real with yourself.
If your best friend from third grade is selfish and negative, are you sure you want to be around them? If your date is cute and funny but doesn’t treat you with respect, are they worth your time? Once you start setting standards based on self love, you may find yourself alone on Saturday night or you may find yourself missing what you had. You have to accept that moving forward means letting go.
4. Loving yourself means making tough choices.
Not everyone is going to agree with your decisions, especially if it means you’re less available or less likely to help them. Loving yourself helps you realize the choices you make actually add up. Your future self, your future happiness, and your future health all depend on what you are doing right now.
Now that you’re putting yourself first and not settling, you have to decide where your precious time and effort will go. If you make a choice that someone doesn’t like, you may find that relationship changed. Be committed enough to yourself to take these changes with grace. Let them happen.
5. Loving yourself is an everyday discipline.
If you fuck up yesterday, you have to forgive yourself today. Self love isn’t a one-time masterclass. Self love is little nudges all day and big pushes for the rest of your life. There are times when you can’t do anything but look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love you. You’re enough.”
Loving yourself isn’t about being immune to negativity or low self-esteem, it’s about being resilient and having the tools to bring yourself back. Make the time each day to appreciate how far you’ve come. If that means shutting off your phone at lunch or skipping happy hour on Thursdays, then you know what to do.
So, the truth is that I absolutely believe what all the quotes and signs say: loving yourself is truly the key to being happy. But, you also have to be real with yourself and accept that it’s a solo gig. Embrace being alone. You’ll start to find reasons to love it.
Maybe you will fall in love with the warmth of your coffee mug in the mornings or take yourself on long walks that bring you joy. You can also find ways to combat the loneliness. Find a self-growth buddy who you can share stories and tips with regularly. Join a class or a workshop. Jump into an online community and talk about what you’re learning.
You just have to remember that at the end of the day, you’re the one who is accountable to yourself.
Originally posted on Medium