If you're one of those people who loves themselves, but also occasionally considers altering their bodies and all but bathes in self-loathing for an hour after a terrible date, you're not alone. We talk a lot about why self-love is important, and we do so because it's so often made out to be some impractical, narcissistic, negative thing — when in reality, it's a necessity to being a functioning, thriving human. We also paint another unrealistic image that I'm here to talk about today: the one wherein the people who "love themselves" love exactly who they are no matter what, and never want (or need) to change.
It seems we've confused loving yourself unconditionally with accepting yourself unconditionally. (Acceptance = true love, BTW.) You can love yourself unconditionally, but one of those conditions will inevitably be wanting to change. This is not a fault or a flaw, this is part of the process that we overlook. You can love who you are and not love some aspects of yourself. The truth is that you must love your presence, which is your essential self. The other things, the details, they will come and go. How good you are at your job, how pretty you look, how many friends you have: these things are not steady or permanent or reliably sound. They are transitory. Your presence, and your inherent personhood, is not.
So when it comes to loving yourself (which, for the newbies out there, simply means regarding your life as worthwhile and taking measures to care for it/you) the point is not that you have to get to a place where you never want to change — but be able to accept yourself even when that is the case.
You Can't Only Love Yourself When You're Certain You're Perfect, Therefore "Deserving" Of It
True self-love happens in the gaps between certainty: loving yourself is not collapsing into a pit of self-hate when you're not affirmed or lose a job or are kind of broke or feel unattractive. It's being able to say "I don't love this aspect of myself, but it doesn't mean I don't love myself at all."
You Will Always Be A Work-In-Progress
There's nowhere to arrive at in life. If you've stopped changing, it only means you've stopped growing: mentally, emotionally, and so on. Waiting until you're a perfect version of yourself is pointless and painful, simply because you'll be waiting forever.
Loving Yourself Is Accepting Your Whole Truth — Not The "Elevator Speech" Version
The "elevator speech" is the one or two line summary of who you are and what you're about — how you'd sum yourself up to a stranger quickly. This is to say: loving yourself is not just loving the best parts of you. It's about seeing yourself in your entirety — good, bad, ugly — and accepting these things, not because you're necessarily OK or happy about them, but because rejecting them brings you no closer to where you want to be.
Sometimes The Best Way To Love Yourself Is By Opening Up To Change
We assume that to love ourselves we must cement an idea of ourselves in our minds and hold to it forever. The reality is that sometimes the most kind and loving thing we can do for ourselves is say: this needs to change. Loving yourself does not necessarily mean not wanting to change yourself. It only means you love yourself enough to want to be better.
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