The Key to Unlocking Genuine Self-Love (it's not face masks or bubble baths!)

I deserve to speak my truth. I have the right to be heard. I am worthy of being loved. I am allowed to feel my emotions. I am worthy of taking up space. I deserve to feel happy. I have the right to say no. I am allowed to be myself.

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If you were to ask me three and a half years ago to read the above statements, I wouldn’t have believed a single one. I would have internally scoffed at each word and my mind would have told me how I really felt about myself. “No one wants to hear my shit. I am unlovable. No one wants to be around me. I am worthless. I am ugly. I am the worst person I know....” There would be no end in sight to how long this list could go. I would show you a smile, and then retreat to my bed and go into hiding. I would have nodded my head to the evil words of my mind and surrendered immediately without a fight.

Now, when I read those first statements I feel each one course through my veins and I believe them. When I read the negative statements out loud, I know they are lies and I have proof to refute them. How did I learn to believe the positive statements? I hit a breaking point and was faced with two options: 1) continue hating myself, hurt all the people I care about and suffer, or  2) learn to love myself, work my ass off to crowd out the self-hate, and save my relationships and myself. I chose to start loving myself.  But, to be honest, when I first started my journey towards self-love, there was a part of me that doubted self-love was possible. I set foot on the quest, knowing it was a path I had to take for my survival, and the survival of my relationships. Yet, I couldn’t help worrying that I would never really feel love for myself. The thought of it seemed unachievable, and too good to be true. Well, here I am, three and a half years later, and I can tell you that self-love exists. I feel it throughout my whole being, and it’s still growing.

I want to share with you how I got here, and one of the biggest keys I discovered to unlocking genuine self-love.

After setting out on my new path, I started to build practices that were nourishing and life-giving. I started stretching, meditating, journaling, breathing, moving, and cooking. Little by little, these practices became habits that healed me a tad more each day. These habits helped me build self-trust, and self-reliability that gave me the strength to tackle more challenging aspects of self-love. With this foundation of healthy habits, I was able to start practicing what I like to call “tough self-love.” Tough self-love is being brutally honest with yourself and what you need. It’s taking responsibility for yourself, and taking the actions necessary to get you to a better state of well-being, even if it’s hard as hell. Tough self-love is the key I discovered to unlocking genuine self-love. It is something I continue to practice as I grow more into myself and craft the person I want to be.

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Tough self-love actions I have implemented so far are: finding a therapist, reaching out for help, setting boundaries, speaking up for myself, standing up for myself, cutting ties with people who are harmful, and saying no to myself and others.

None of these steps were a walk in the park. Each one pushed me above and beyond my comfort zone and required deep self-reflection and courage. Yet, each one proved that I was willing and able to put myself first. Each one taught me that I was important, and that I deserved dedicated time from others and myself to heal. These actions made me believe I was worthy of love, respect and care. Yes, there are still times that I want to hide like I used to, ignore my problems, avoid confrontation, and fall into the depths of self-hate because, for a very long time, that’s what was comfortable. But after practicing tough-self love, and being rewarded with its gifts, I refuse to let myself down. Tough self-love requires me to show up every single day for myself, rain or shine, and to jump into the mud of life and get dirty. It is exhausting, enormously difficult, and sometimes painful. Yet, it is through showing myself tough self-love that I am finally falling in love with myself.

What does that feel like? It feels like I am taking care of my inner child. It feels like I am standing up for her against all the bullshit she put up with and protecting her. It feels like I am giving myself a hug and becoming my own best friend. It feels compassionate, tender, playful, and warm. It feels like being gentle with myself on my darkest, messiest days. It feels like making loving actions and decisions for myself even if I’m not in the mood. It is an experience I believe everyone could and should have, yet so many do not.

We have a self-love deficit in our world and it is causing catastrophe, heartbreak, and pain. While we can not save the world, we can choose to start loving ourselves more and more each day. I’m not talking about self-love in the form of face masks, and bubble baths. I’m talking about getting down and dirty and showing ourselves some more tough self-love. That’s what has the greatest potential to change your life and impact the world for the better. Why? Because when you genuinely love yourself, you can fulfill your dreams with confidence, be more present for the people you love, give more to your community, and show more compassion and empathy to others. This creates a ripple effect on all the people around you, and can inspire them to do the same.

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If you are having trouble on knowing where to start, I got you boo! here are ten ways you can practice tough self-love and start loving yourself for real.

1) Ask for help.

Asking for help can come in a variety of forms. You can reach out to your friends, family, or someone you trust and ask them for support. You can find a therapist, a health coach, or a life coach to help support you in gaining self-awareness and making healthy changes in your life. However you go about it, remember that you are not weak if you need to ask for help. We all need support in our lives, and some of the greatest healing takes place when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest with others.

2) Set boundaries.

I once saw a quote that said “behind every successful person is someone who sets boundaries” and it is so true. This act of tough self-love is especially important for my fellow empaths who have a tendency to soak up other people’s energy and emotions. Setting boundaries forces other people to respect your time, energy, and space. It prevents others from pushing you around, and puts your needs first. It can be as simple as turning your phone off on vacation so your boss doesn’t call, or as big as stating clear limits on how a family member treats you.

3) Tell other people no.

Learning to say is no is hard for many of us, especially if you are someone who values pleasing others, and being accepted. However, it is crucial for setting boundaries and taking care of yourself in the long run. People like to pressure you into different activities, events, and situations, but only you can decide whether or not these will benefit you. If you have to refuse going to a party because you are more likely to drink there, or you have to decline an invitation because you know your toxic ex-boyfriend or girlfriend will be there, do it. It may be uncomfortable at first, and your friends might not understand, but you will know you are serving yourself by protecting your emotional, physical, and mental well being.

4) Cut ties with people who are harmful.

This is a drastic step to take, but is sometimes necessary. Before making this step, I urge you to first start setting boundaries and saying no before cutting ties completely. However, if someone is truly toxic in your life, or is causing more harm than good time after time, consider breaking off the relationship.  If you are not sure if that is the right step, you may want to seek out a therapist who can help guide you towards the right decision for you.

5) Practice forgiveness towards others + yourself

Forgiveness does not come overnight, but it’s important to at least start the process. It can free you from hate and anger that weighs you down. Of course there is a time and a place for forgiveness, but when you are ready to take this step, know that it is one of the greatest actions you can take towards self-love. If forgiving someone in person feels like too much, try writing a letter. Even if you don’t send it, putting the words down on paper can be extremely therapeutic. Remember that you can also choose what things you are ready to forgive and what you are not ready to forgive and that’s okay. The important part is that you start making moves towards forgiveness, even if they are only baby steps.  Equally important, is forgiving yourself. Ask yourself what mistakes you might be holding onto, and what self-blame you carry. Practicing self-forgiveness might require you to apologize to someone else or it might require you to apologize to yourself. Whether you are working on forgiving others or yourself, the process is guaranteed to bring up uncomfortable feelings. Be sure to follow up with the next step for true healing.

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6) Face your uncomfortable emotions + feelings.

From a young age, a lot of us are taught that we can not handle difficult emotions. We are told not to cry, that anger is unacceptable, and we are told to focus on something brighter. However, facing your uncomfortable emotions and feelings allows them the breathing room they need, and creates more space for healing. You learn that you are strong enough to handle discomfort. By tending to these emotions in yourself, you are more able to hold space for others who are experiencing hard feelings.

7) Speak up + stand up for yourself.

Start speaking up for your beliefs, values, and who you are as a person even if it means defying social norms. Stand up for your well being and safety even if it’s uncomfortable. You can start speaking up for yourself in a variety of ways like writing more honest posts on social media, disagreeing with someone in an argument, or opening up vulnerable conversations with people you are close with so that they can learn more about you. You can start standing up for yourself by calling someone out if they make inappropriate or derogatory remarks to you, or if it calls for it you can report them. The more you learn how to speak up and stand up for yourself, the more capable you will be able to do so for others who might not be able to, or need your support.

8) Tell yourself no.

We all have vices and escapes we like to use to avoid dealing with life’s difficulties. Yet in the long-run, these vices do not serve us and only cause us more harm. Think about what outlets you use to avoid hard emotions. Is it social media? Drinking? Mindless hook-ups? Eating junk food? This step requires brutal honesty, but always moves you towards deeper self-love, and self-trust. Remember, sometimes saying no to one thing in your life, means opening up more opportunities for “yes.”

9) Take responsibility for your life + show up for yourself.

Nobody is going to be able to do any of this work but you. Nobody has the ability to heal you, save you or make you happy. Only you can do that. Take ownership of your life and start making the necessary changes to live a fulfilling, healthy, and happy life. It’s hard ongoing work, so show up for yourself even when you don’t feel like it. Stay committed to your process and your growth and never give up.

10) Balance tough self-love with gentleness and fun!

I lied earlier when I said I wasn’t going to talk about face masks and bubble baths! Tough self-love requires a balance of harshness and softness. Being gentle with yourself and having fun is crucial to learning to love yourself. Balance your hard work with self-care practices like applying face masks, getting a bubble bath, getting a massage, taking a yoga class, buying a new outfit, or taking yourself on a coffee date!

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Remind yourself that you don’t have to do everything at once. Take your time and be patient with the process. Above all remember that the greatest love story of all is the one you have with yourself. If you haven’t started writing that story, start today! 

Now I would love to hear from you! What tough self-love practice do you want to try? Which ones have you already implemented? Share in the comments below! And if you loved this post please spread the encouragement, and share it with your friends!