It is tough. The world is bombarding us with messages that we’re not perfect, we need to shape up, skill up, get better with tasks, look better, improve on every aspect of ourselves. On television, in the newspapers, on social media. It becomes tough to love ourselves when all the messaging we get from media, pop culture and also folks around us at times, is that we are imperfect. And by extension, this assumption of being imperfect makes us believe we are unlikable, or worse, unlovable. And what happens when we internalise that we are unlovable? We then become intensely self-critical.
It took me till my forties to look at all the old pics of myself and realise I was just perfect, and I had wasted all those years being intensely self critical about myself.
It becomes a running commentary in our heads, constantly putting ourselves down, rebuking ourselves, worrying about how we’re looking, how people are responding to us, imagining them scoffing at us, feeling smaller and smaller until we end up negating ourselves completely in our heads. Nothing we do is right, we don’t look right, we don’t love right, we don’t behave right, and this self-talk has a cascading effect on everything in our lives, from our personal lives, to our relationships, to our careers, to how we interact with the world. Being unlovable eventually then, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, that gets us stuck in a cycle of negativity making it difficult for us to enjoy the here and now without constantly having a running critical commentary running in our heads.
But, the truth is, we are all perfect, we are all imperfect. In this duality is what humankind is all about. If we were perfect, we would be gods. In our imperfection is where our distinctiveness, our beauty, our perfection lies. It is tough if we constantly keep focusing on the fact that we may not have the long legs, the slim waist, the perfect smile, the smoothest clearest skin that the ads and the movies advocate. While that would make us perfect in our heads, we would then find ourselves something else to worry about, something we think we lack. Shouldn’t we, instead, appreciate what we do have, and love ourselves for that? If we don’t love ourselves how could we expect the world to love us? And if we don’t value ourselves, how will others do so?
I learnt this the hard way, I confess. I was always the wrong shape, size, height, built. In my eyes. I spent all my teens and my twenties hating the way I looked. It took me till my forties to look at all the old pics of myself and realise I was just perfect, and I had wasted all those years being intensely self-critical about myself. Now, I tell myself, this is the best I will be, I am going to enjoy myself.
There are many things to love about yourself. Find them, acknowledge them. Look into the mirror the first thing in the morning and tell yourself you are fabulous and lovable. And here are the things you must, must love about yourself. Every single day.
1] Your laughter: Laughing is strength, laughing is courage, laughing is a slap in the face of everything that threatens to drag you down. Laugh often, laugh loud and love the sound of your own laugh. Laughing is also contagious. The more you laugh, the more laughter you will bring into your life.
2] Your resilience: You’ve been through some tough times. You’ve lost loved ones, you’ve moved away from people you’ve loved, you’ve been rejected, you’ve had job losses, break ups, break downs. You’ve gone through them all and come out on the other side, stronger for it. You’ve survived. You are a survivor. Give yourself credit for your resilience.
Laugh often, laugh loud and love the sound of your own laugh. Laughing is also contagious. The more you laugh, the more laughter you will bring into your life.
3] Your body: It may not be perfect. But it is perfect for you. It keeps you going. It is functional. It withstands the wear and tear you put on it. It has held you through thick and thin, and keeps you active. You are blessed. Tall, short, fat, thin, curvy or lean, your body is the only one you have and you can work towards making it the best, the fittest one, the healthiest one you could ever have. Eat well, exercise right, treat yourself to adequate sleep, cut out the junk, commit to taking care of your body so it can take care of you.
4] Your talent: We all have it. Something. One talent that sets us apart from the rest. Some of us are lucky to find it and make it our passion, or our profession. For others, talent and passion has to make way for the practicalities of a day to day living. If you’ve found your talent, appreciate it, work on it, nurture it, pursue it. It is what will give you joy and fulfillment. If you haven’t, search for it, try out new things until you find that one thing that makes your soul sing and then pursue it. The joy it will bring you will be immeasurable.
5] Your determination: You have it. When you want to do something, you’ve jolly well made sure you’ve done it. You are dogged about getting what you want, doing what you think will get you where you need to be. Appreciate that.
6] Your vulnerability: You get affected by things, by people, you get hurt, you get upset, you cry at times. Your vulnerability is what makes you open, what lets you take in the world and respond to it, and this vulnerability is a precious gift that needs to be treasured because it connects you with other humans, even if it does at times, pain you.
7] Your attitude: It is uniquely you, moulded from years of life experience, learning, happiness and sorrow, giving and taking. Your attitude towards the world, whether folks define it as good or bad, is what defines you. And what works for you. You might want to change it if it is not working for you, or you feel you need to, but that should be your decision. You create what you are, and that includes your attitude.
8] You own your story: What has happened to you, what has made you, what has broken you, what you’ve battled, what you’ve won, what you’ve lost, all this makes your story. You own it. No one else is entitled to take your story. You can do with it as you please. No one else has the same story. You need to own your story and own it with pride.
Giving love is the greatest act of giving we could ever do, and it gives us back in return. Be loving. With everyone.
9] Your completeness: You aren’t waiting for a partner to complete you, or a job, or a passion, you shouldn’t be. You are complete in the here and now. This is what you are and this makes you who you are. You are complete. You are enough. And you should tell yourself this every single day. “I am enough.” And even if you don’t think you are, you will be.
10] Your loving nature: You are a loving person and give all those in your life as much love as you can. You are generous and unstinting with your love, and in that generosity and that unstinting giving is where your strength lies. You have so much love to give; you are what others need to keep them going through bad times, through rough times. Giving love is the greatest act of giving we could ever do, and it gives us back in return. Be loving. With everyone. Even those who don’t deserve it.
11] You are an everyday superhero: You may not see, others around you may not see it, but the fact is that you are a superhero, in your own little way. You might be the sounding board a friend needs to keep her sane. The rock that holds the family together. The lap your children curl into when they need reassurance that all will be well. The champion of those who might not have the voice to speak up. In your own way, little or large, you are a superhero, and you deserve to give yourself credit for that.
We can perhaps never be completely happy, completely content about ourselves, that is human nature. There will always be gaps, spaces where we think we need more, we need better, we deserve better. But we can start by ensuring we are happy with what we have, we appreciate ourselves, and this is half the battle won towards loving ourselves as we deserve to be loved.
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
Kiran Manral is the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.