You know, when I was younger I had a phase where I started to realize that I was really miserable and would need a lot of changes in my life to be able to feel better. I looked for books and on-line material that could help me on my journey and I came across suggestions that didn’t make sense to me at that time. They didn’t help me because I wasn’t in a place where I could do anything about them.–When you’ve tried to become (emotionally) healthier and happier, you may know these moments when you finally can relate to other people’s explanations and experiences that you couldn’t relate to before.
One of these suggestions was to “love yourself”. I knew from the books I should love myself, but I had no fucking clue how to do that. Instead, all I felt was a giant void in my chest that needed filling with attention and appreciation by others. You probably can imagine that this way of living isn’t sustainable and so I could only be successful with this for certain periods of time. You just can’t use people that way for your emotional well-being and you shouldn’t. It will make everyone cranky at best and desperate at worst.
So NOW, for the people out there who are at a stage where they actually don’t get what “loving yourself” could mean, I will explain to you what it means to me/I think about it. I certainly haven’t fully managed it yet, but at least I am in a place where I can proceed with determination and confidence to get where I want to go.
“Love yourself” seems to be a rather strange demand. I mean, either you love someone, including yourself, or you don’t. But, like in relationships, it really is a process. Or at least, when you want to “suceed” at loving yourself, you should see it as a process. Because you want to go from not loving yourself/not knowing what the hell this is supposed to mean (now) to loving yourself (preferably soon), right? A process. Got that.
So. Loving yourself means actively trying to be nice to yourself.
Do you have a supportive inner monologue or are you scolding yourself without empathy when you do something wrong? I for example thought, I was really nice to myself. Then I realized that I am making fun of myself (in my head) when I am embarrassed. And it’s not in a good-natured sympathetic way, but rather unkind teasing.
Can you nurture yourself? That means, when you are sad about something, can you sit with it, be sad and have empathy for yourself instead of telling yourself you should get over it/suck it up or pushing the feeling away because you feel you are not strong enough to come through at the other side?
When you have achieved something (and we are not talking big “important” achievements here, but eating something, when you are depressed or finishing a small task of work etc.) can you give yourself credit for that?
And so on and so forth. Being your best inner cheerleader, respecting your boundaries, being forgiving with yourself, kind to yourself and not hard on you. That is what loving yourself means.
For other explanations, here are some comments over at Captain Awkward that try to describe loving yourself. (The thread is full of whiny dude/letter writer who can’t get over himself, so be prepared.)
Let’s have a look at zweisatz’s, staranise’s, solecism’s and JenniferP’s comments.