Why is it so god damn hard to love ourselves? Is it a female thing? Is it just me?

I don’t know. What I do know, is that learning to love myself has been the the greatest, most transformative gift I could ever receive.

During a recent spring clean, I came across a box of old journals. They ranged from when I was 10 years old up to about age 27. I started reading and couldn’t put them down. There were many mundane accounts of childhood and teenage events, but there were so many more heart breaking entries. Low self-esteem, obsessing about staying thin, obsessing about losing weight, my bad skin, rejection… On and on… I sat and read and cried. Cried for who I once was and all the pain I’d been through. My sadness turned to pride though, as I realised how very far I have come.

And how did I get here? It’s been a process. It still is a process.Learning to love oneself doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you’ve been in a very deep hole of self-hate.

I didn’t learn to love myself through drinking green juices and doing Sweat1000 classes. Although those are definitely forms of self-care for me, which usually results in self-love…I think the intention behind acts of self-care is so important, because you can consume green juices and sweat ’til you’re red in the face from a place of self-loathing and punishment and the results will be really really different.

How did I learn to love myself?

It started many years ago by accepting myself, as I was then. I had to make peace with myself and from that place of love and kindness, I was finally able to let go of so many destructive, self-sabotaging behaviour patterns.

Some people live their whole lives with a healthy amount of self-love and self-respect. Those people are #blessed and I’m very happy for them. For me, I think I started to lose my love for myself around the age of 10. Life’s little knocks chipped away at me. My parents getting divorced, feeling like I didn’t belong, my front teeth accidentally getting knocked out, braces, puberty, bad skin, reading too many fashion magazines, weight gain, weight loss… All these things made me not like myself very much and from that place of not liking what I looked like or who I was, I started to make some bad choices and behave very destructively. It’s a viscious cycle. The less you like yourself, the worse you behave and then you like yourself even less and on and on…

I didn’t have the tools to cope with life’s little knocks. I didn’t know how to process my emotions. I was also very silent about how I felt. I plastered a smile on my face and no-one was ever the wiser about how I felt inside. Life and soul of the party. Me.

Anyway, enough about my sob story! I am so grateful that I’ve experienced my shadow side. Everything I have been through has given me a deep appreciation for where I am today!

So how do you get to this place of self-love?

You have to truly believe that you are worthy of your own love. Right now. No-one else can do this for you. You have to look in the mirror and accept every inch of yourself and say I LOVE YOU. Stop obsessing over your “flaws”, stop wishing things were different. Just look at yourself, the miracle of your beautiful, able body and say I LOVE YOU!

That’s the exterior… More importantly, can you love your mind and spirit? Do you love what’s going on in your head? Can you find ways to quiet the negative chatter and amplify the praise?

Can you talk to yourself like you would talk to your bestie? Compliment yourself. Love yourself up. You are intelligent, you are worthy, you are kind. Meditation is a wonderful tool for cultivating loving kindness – especially towards oneself. Try it.

If you don’t learn to love yourself, every inch of yourself, inside and out, right now, just as you are, then you will never really be happy or free. Self love is not about conceit. It is not boastful. It is not arrogant.

People who truly love themselves are kinder and more caring to their loved ones, their colleagues, to animals and the environment. Think about when you’ve behaved badly, said something nasty, or even sabotaged yourself or someone else – how were you feeling about yourself at the time? Probably not very good…

When people act out and do stupid, mean, violent things, I’m pretty sure it stems from a lack of self-love and a lot of self-loathing.

I know that if I am practising good self-care, which usually results in a healthy state of self-love, I am so much more kind and loving to others and you know, what goes around comes around…

Self-care looks different to everyone. For me it’s about eating well, moving my body, meditating, reading, having a laugh with my girlfriends and getting a pedicure or massage.

Maybe self-care for you is about switching off your phone, watching a movie or getting your hair done… Find what makes you feel good and happy and do those things as often as possible. Self-care isn’t selfish! It’s about putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others. If you don’t take care of number one first, you can’t take care of anyone else properly.

I think avoiding people, places, social media, clothes, activities, whatever that make you feel bad about yourself is equally important in learning to love yourself. If you cant’t avoid something/someone who makes you feel like crap, put “blinkers” on, block out their noise and try to limit your exposure to it/them as much as possible. The more you learn to love yourself though, the less effect these negative things/people will have on you.

Lastly, I’d just like to say, that this self-love thing is an ongoing work in progress for me. I didn’t magically wake up one morning and think, yeah I love myself and lived happily ever after. It took a lot of work and it still takes work. I have days where I get into a negative thinking funk. I have days when I want to self-sabotage myself and make stupid choices. I have days where I want to be mean because I’m not feeling good inside. But I have become much more aware of these patterns and I try to nip them in the bud before things get out of hand. Gaining perspective, thinking big picture and shutting down Instagram are definitely helpful if I’m in a rut. Stop comparing yourself and your life to others. Everyone has their issues.

I am really fond of the Kundalini yoga mantra “I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am bliss, I am, I am.” Here is a link to one of my favourite versions of the mantra: https://itunes.apple.com/za/album/bliss-i-am-the-light-of-my-soul/459028399?i=459028409

Sing along (loudly!) and see how you feel! I often have this song on repeat!

I hope sharing my little journey is helpful to you. Being vulnerable isn’t easy, but the more we do it, the more people relate to us and we create deeper connections. In the end, that’s all that really matters in life. Love, relating, learning and connections.

So… have you told yourself that you love yourself today?