Jordan Gray was a jerk to himself for the majority of his life, until he decided to change.
I’ve had chronically low self-esteem for the majority of my life.
I haven’t thought much of myself. I’m a perfectionist. And I’ve been insanely hard on myself for as long as I can remember.
When I was a toddler I was extremely reluctant to accept praise from anyone. For example, my parents would compliment me on a finger painting well done and I would push back saying that it wasn’t any good.
If I didn’t place first in a sports competition I would beat myself up about it for weeks in my mind, even if it was a team sport and not something that should fall squarely on my shoulders.
Last year some of my friends and family were astounded when I wrote four books within the calendar year. The only thought on repeat in my mind was “That means that there were eight months that you didn’t put out any books. You could have done a lot better.”
Basically, I’ve always been a jerk to myself in my head. I say things to myself that I would never dream of saying to another person.
At the beginning of this year I decided that enough was enough.
I set the intention to fall in love with myself through whatever means necessary.
I would limit my negative self-talk, become more self-compassionate, and begin to see my positive qualities seen by others in my life.
Here’s what I learned throughout the past year in my attempts to boost my self-love.
1. You Will Meet Resistance From Yourself
Whenever we decide to make a change for ourselves that will stretch our comfort zones, our ego throws a fit in hopes that we’ll continue to play small.
I started to call my negative inner voice my “Gollum” because it was a vocal, belittling demon that wanted me to suffer.
Thoughts like “You want to fall in love with yourself? How pathetic.”, and “How do you fall in love with someone who is fundamentally unloveable? This should be fun to watch…” circled around in my mind when I first set the goal. It was primarily within the first couple of months that my inner demons were the most vocal about pushing me to play it safe and not make a change. But I breathed through every one of my internal resistances and kept marching forwards.
2. You Will Meet Resistance From Others
When I told a small handful of close friends about my goal for the year I was met with many versions of “That sounds kind of extreme. You don’t want to get a big head! But I’ll be here to keep you grounded.”
The idea that someone with such low self-esteem could get big headed was truly laughable to me at that point in time. That’s like a poor person not going to work for fear of becoming too rich, or the scrawny teenager (aka me at 14) avoiding going to the gym for fear of getting too ripped.
For me, any improvement in my love for myself would have been momentous. While I appreciated the concern from my friends that was grounded in love for me, I had no fear of falling overly in love with myself.
3. Self-Care Is The Foundation, Self-Love Is The Skyscraper
Through my journey of falling in love with myself I realized that you need both self-care and self-love to, not just get by, but truly thrive.
I define self-care as the daily practices of eating nutritious food, getting proper sleep, socializing with people who inspire and encourage me, and exercising semi-regularly. So if self-care is the foundation upon which you build the building, self-love is the 40-floor tower that you build on top of the stable foundation.
Self-love will look different for every unique person, but for me self-love ultimately came down to proactively living a life aligned with my passions, values, and highest ideals, setting hard boundaries with people who drained my energy, and regularly spoiling myself past what I was used to. For me, self-love was literally the practice of being loving towards myself and guarding my life and my mental energy like I would that of a 5 year old niece or nephew that I care for deeply.
Some weeks my self-love would look like taking myself to see a movie. Other times it would mean staying in and writing a self-indulgent article on something that was more therapeutic for me than it may have been for my audience. And, when the mood struck me or if I felt especially low on myself during a certain week, then I would have a me-day filled with purely selfish activities (gym, hair cut, nature walk, reading a trashy romance novel, eating a pizza, and dancing around my apartment in my underwear would all have added up to a perfect day for me).
Whatever it takes to fall in love with yourself, do it. Regularly put it in your calendar and make it non-negotiable.
4. Consistency Is Key
I quickly realized that falling in love with myself wasn’t going to a be short-burst, sprinting like activity. It would take time, effort, patience, and consistency.
While I could certainly get a quick brain high from a thorough day of self-love practice, it was the ongoing small actions that eventually convinced my mind and my heart that I was worth something.
5. There Will Be Setbacks
You may have heard the quote “Don’t let a set back set the tone.” No where have I experienced this more profoundly than in the cultivation of my internal self-love.
Just like drug addicts are likely to relapse after an unexpected trigger, so too was I likely to relapse into a full blown self-hate fest whenever something tried to trip me up.
Whether it was a poorly received article, a 1-star review on one of my books, or someone questioning or attacking my life choices, my heart was too fragile to hear criticism. My underlying thought process being “Everyone who likes me or my work is just easily impressed, and the one person who hates my work/me is the one who is the smartest, most intuitive, and is the only one who is brave enough to say something to me.”
But, over time, my resilience to the slings and arrows of life became higher. The negative comments didn’t affect me as much. I wasn’t as reliant on external validation because I was starting to like myself. And if I was over-flowing with self-love than I no longer needed to rely solely on the approval of others.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It
Whether it’s self-care, self-love, daily mantras, mindfulness meditation, or any other tool that you use on your journey, find something that works for you and stick to it.
Over time, you too can learn to love yourself.
The journey that I embarked on during the past year has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I have ever done for myself… and I’m so glad that I did it.
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This post is republished on Medium.
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