When my eating disorder was at its worst, I used the internet to figure out "better" ways to starve myself. Once I began seeing a therapist, I used Google's handy search engine to figure out how to feed myself and nurture self-love. Often, Google churns out some useful tidbits of non-information. Case in point: I once read that to truly and completely love yourself, you must make signs that say, “I Love You,” or, “You Are Beautiful” and tape them to your bathroom mirror.
Because this sounded slightly insane to me, I gave it a try, only I went above and beyond by taping “You Are Beautiful” signs to all the mirrors in my apartment, causing my fiance, to ask, “What gives?” to which I replied, “I’m loving myself, goddammit!” as if he ought to fully comprehend, understand, and support this very odd mental exercise.
In case you were wondering, no. The signs didn’t work. For the most part, I ignored them once I started to get used to them, which took approximately one day. Most people probably believe they love themselves, but a lot of us don’t love ourselves in the way we want and need to be loved: like a dog. Which is to say: completely, despite our perceived flaws and imperfections.
Waiting for the perfect day or moment to love yourself is like waiting for that perfect day when you weigh a perky 110, or have gained the obligatory seven years of professional experience to apply for your dream job, or until you are financially stable enough to do whatever it is you dream about doing. Waiting is passive. The reason I’m writing these words right now is because I became tired of waiting. People dislike passivity in general, and entitlement in particular. “Waiting for the right time” implies laziness, or fear, or some other characteristic you probably don’t want to claim.
Self-love should be easy. It should be innate. Somewhere along the way, we mashed it into something complex and hard. You need to love yourself more than you love anything or anyone else before you can truly love anything or anyone else. You may have heard this before, maybe online somewhere.
I began loving myself, just a little, once I realized, through much trial and error, that I alone am responsible for my happiness. I began to forgive myself for being flawed, because:
1.) I’m human, and
2.) I became tired of punishing myself.
There are about 1 million self-help books that will tell you exact ways to love yourself, but I'm about to save you $10,000 and a million hours of your life by providing a succinct synopsis: smile more, find your ‘why’ or purpose in life, surround yourself with good friends, do something every day that scares you, listen to insightful podcasts, fly a kite, call your mother, et cetera et cetera et cetera.
If you want to fly a kite, watch it, and ponder the meaning of life, go ahead. Just don’t assume that this will really help you. Loving yourself is a purposeful, intentional action that you must decide to take, every day, over and over again until it is second nature. It might take a long time for self-love to become second nature, and you might have some days when you feel like burnt toast or that dirty handkerchief that grandmum keeps stuffing in her bra, or like those people on Doctor Phil who cry and fling chairs at their husbands. But you’ll also have good days, and before you know it, you’ll have more good days than bad ones.
The next time you have a terrible, awful thought about yourself, imagine saying that exact same thing to the 5-year-old version of you. Then maybe say you’re sorry and give yourself some chocolate, I mean love. If it helps, maybe make a mirror sign.