I’m winging this one, y’all.
I have months worth of notes, pages of ideas, quotes, examples, the whole nine yards. Today, I realized that no one needs another instructional list on how to improve life. You don’t want to read ‘The Five Steps To Happiness’ or ’30 Days To a New You’. If it was that simple, you wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be writing this.
Sometimes, we just need to talk to someone; to know that we aren’t alone. We need to know that we deserve the happiness we secretly desire.
But I’m not here to sugarcoat things for you. I’m not here to give you the top five ways to achieve happiness.
I’m here to tell you that YES. Happiness can be achieved. But it’s not going to be easy.
Nothing worth having ever IS easy. And that’s why it’s so worth fighting for.
‘Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’ – Howard Washington Thurman
Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, let me make one thing clear: self-love is NOT a selfish act. It means taking care of yourself. No one is ever going to take care of you the way you need to be taken care of.
A very good friend once told me, ‘you can never make anyone happy until you’re happy with yourself’.
Yes, I know she didn’t come up with this on her own. But it never stuck in my brain until she said it. In that moment, everything became clear. Since then, I have tried to hold true to this statement. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve certainly lost my way. Multiple times.
But here I am, at least fifteen years after hearing it the first time, sharing it with you. About a year ago, I made the decision to walk away from a situation that I knew was making me unhappy. This choice didn’t happen overnight. I put it off, ignored it, tried my best to make it work. But everyday, I looked at my baby and wondered how I would feel if I knew she were in this same situation. I wondered how she would be affected if I decided to stay.
Ultimately, I chose my own happiness for the sake of her. I knew she deserved to see strength in her mother, to understand that love should be inward, as well as shared.
I knew that with this choice, I would be setting myself up for a significant amount of self-doubt. To this day, I sometimes wonder if it would have been easier to stay. YES. The easy choice would have been to stay in a long term bad situation rather than face a WORSE short term situation.
You see, loving yourself sometimes means dealing with discomfort in your choice.
Self-love doesn’t always have to do with a couple relationship. But it DOES have to do with your relationship with everything. Your job, your family, your love life, your friendships, your health. It’s everything.
Making the choice to take care of yourself means you’d better be prepared for a lot of self-doubt, worry, fear, sacrifice, and pain. You’re going to question yourself. There might be tears. You might lash out and say things you don’t mean, do things you don’t normally do. Almost like a withdrawal, you will experience negativity and self-loathing.
Stay strong, my friends.
You will need it. Because along with all your own insecurities, others will begin to scrutinize your decisions. They will judge you, ridicule you, drive you down as far as you can possibly go.
My advice? Ignore the naysayers(even if it’s the people you love the most)and hold tight to the ones who support you, who get you through each day. They’re the ones who will try to brighten your day any way they can, and if you trust them, they will see you through this(Even if they’re the ones you lash out against).
‘When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits-anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.’ – Kim McMillen
I know where I want to be. I know what will make me happy. I’ve tried every way I can think of to achieve said happiness. Except the one thing that will actually work: WORK.
I know, I know…this is silly, right? Common sense, any idiot would see this right away. And the thing is, I DID. I’ve always known that the level of happiness I long for is going to take more work than I’ve ever had to do. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to take the easy way out, to jump ahead.
It wasn’t until I had ANOTHER conversation with a friend…he told me, as true friends do, that I was going about everything all wrong.
WHAT!? How is it possible that I, the person who keeps love for myself at the forefront of my mind, trying to achieve happiness the wrong way??
But then he pointed out, ‘You’re reaching too high for things you need to take small steps to get to. You want to have a house, but you haven’t yet saved the money. You want to be a writer, but when’s the last time you sat down more than two nights in a row in front of your manuscript? You want to be successful, but you’re doing the same job you’ve been doing half your life without striving for more.’
I remember being angry, embarrassed, even, to be told that I wasn’t doing all I needed to be doing. But he was right. I was talking about happiness, about putting myself first, about getting to the point in my life I only dreamed about. But I had yet to take that first step to getting any of it done. I was leaping when I should have been creeping.
And that is failure at its finest.
I still have a long journey ahead of me. But I do know what I want in life, and I do know how to get there. It’s going to take time, and a lot of heartbreak.
I have a feeling you know what you want, too. Maybe you’re scared to go for it. I understand that. The world is scary. Rejection is scary. Success is scary.
But stagnation is terrifying.
I don’t know your situation. There are people out there who are sad, lonely, angry, lost, and completely shattered.
This is for the ones who sit up at night, seeking rest but finding deafening silence instead…for the ones who spend precious time Pinning the ’30 Days To a Better You’ lists…for the ones who read self-help books and toss them aside with the idea that loving yourself is just too damn hard…the ones who wonder where they went wrong in life, who thought they had it all figured out…the ones who trusted the wrong people, who were once at the top and are now nearly six feet under…this is for the ones who hear ‘you aren’t good enough’, and, ‘you’ll never make it’.
Did you ever stop to think of what kind of world this would be if we were all taught self-love? If, for everyday we were taught that you’re supposed to ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’, we actually treated ourselves that way? If we heard from our parents, our teachers, our friends, our bosses, that we are important, and smart, and kind, and that we can make a difference, maybe we could truly make a difference.
Perhaps the darkness of the world would give way to new light. The hatred would thin and be replaced by love and acceptance.
If only self-love was taught and encouraged. If only such a thing wasn’t so shameful, so frowned upon.
‘If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.’ –Fred Rogers
I made a choice to struggle, to show my daughter how important it is to stand up for yourself, so that she may know how important she is. That by making a difference in my own life might teach her enough to make a difference in the world.
Baby steps, people. Learning to love yourself is a full-time job. But it is the most important job you will ever do. It is the doorway to possibility. Opportunity. Success. Happiness.
Whatever that means for you.
Do what you have to do…quit your job, go back to school, find a therapist, end your relationship, friendship…whatever. I’m not saying you should jump into anything, here. Remember those baby steps I talked about? They’re important. You should always know your motives, and weigh all of your options. Know yourself or fail yourself.
And if you ever need an ear…or an eye, if you’re emailing…I’m here. I’m open, I’m willing to talk. You are never alone.
There is a true dark side to self-love. It is whole and consuming and ravaging. It will beat you down and nearly break you.
It is the one and only thing in the world that will continue to learn, and to teach, and to explore, and to trust.
But before they will work for you, YOU must work for you.
This is our key word. WORK. Quit looking for an easy fix. Put down the ‘Get Rich Quick’ books. Drop those diet pills like they’re on fire. None of these things will work because none of them get to the heart of the matter. YOU.
You will never love anyone else until you learn to love yourself. You will never find true happiness until you learn to love yourself. You will never truly succeed until you learn to love yourself. You will never TEACH until you have learned about yourself. And the only way you can learn about yourself? Is to love yourself.
‘The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.’ – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross