How to Love Yourself (From Someone Who's Desperately Trying)

No Post-its with positive affirmations involved, promise.
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Publish date:
December 11, 2014
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Tags:
self esteem, mental health, self loathing, Loving Yourself

There are very few things I'm embarrassed to admit. Whether it's pooping problems or letting a wet queef slip in a hot yoga -- or a series of unfortunate and arguably self-induced traumas that provoked me to move across the country, and then break up with one of the greatest men I've ever met -- I'm usually an open book.

My reasoning? Like many writers on xoJane, I think sharing the ugly stuff helps normalize it, or at least start a discussion to let fellow weirdos realize they're not really weird at all.

HOWEVER, there is something that pains me so much to divulge, I may have gotten up six times in the last 100 words to avoid revealing it:

My self-loathing is strong.

I'm in therapy, and for the zillionth time we're talking about the man I've been seeing for the last six months who's been basically screaming, "I'm unavailable!"

"And why do you think you go for men who are emotionally unavailable?" she asks.

OH, MAYBE BECAUSE I DON'T LOVE MYSELF AND DON'T THINK I'M WORTHY OF LOVE, I say in my head, and then proceed to dump her.

I get it. I need to love myself before I can expect to be in a normal, healthy, intimate relationship. Since the age of 15, I haven't been alone for longer than two months. So I've always found someone who loves and adores me that I can latch onto like a sexy little parasite. And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that it hasn't quite worked out.

Since getting involved with Emotionally Unavailable Dude, and becoming single for the first time in forever, I've been finally making an effort to, gleh, love myself.

When your natural state is to beat yourself up all the time, though, an appropriate response to such a suggestion is, "WHAT DOES LOVING MYSELF EVEN MEAN?" ("Masturbate more?")

Months ago, I Googled it. (Ugh.) But after scrolling through a dozen crappily-designed how-to sites, I realized loving yourself can't be learned.

There are, however, a few ways to start the journey (anyone else ready for "The Bachelor"? I hate myself.) (WAIT.) to being your own BFF.

Here's what I've been trying:

1. GET INSIDE YOUR HEAD

Lesley just wrote about a bunch of meditation apps. The app Headspace has been an amazing tool for me, and I should probably make commission from them since I tell EVERY SINGLE stressed-out person I know about it.

My relationship with meditation has been a bit rocky: I've always wanted to do it and I've read about the benefits. Back when I was forced to do it daily under the guidance of "Meditation Mark" (whilst getting that R&R) -- who played the recorder and said things like, "Stop judging yourself," every 15 seconds at 6 a.m. -- sitting with my thoughts in silence made me want to vom. I thought it just wasn't for me.

Headspace eases you into meditation with a 3-step starter pack. The first set is free, and if you subscribe, you can choose from various packs that work on specific issues like stress, anxiety, and relationships.

And, hey, what do you know! Turns out the relationships pack (which, naturally, I gravitated to first) is all about loving yourself.

As a visual person, I adore the app's little animations that illustrate how meditation works.

Like this one about your thoughts being like clouds, and that there's always a blue sky:

Also, "Meditation Andy" has a soothing voice that doesn't make you want to throw your phone across the room because OMG SO CORNY AND AWFUL.

2. START AND FINISH A PROJECT

After a recent move, I kept my clothes in bags on the floor in lieu of a dresser for months. I'm not sure what motivated me (maybe knowing it'd make me feel better?), but I finally bought a naked IKEA dresser, some paint from Home Depot, knobs from Anthropologie, and put it together.

A bit trite, sure. But completing a project -- like painting a wall, making some candles, knitting a scarf, organizing your closet, or putting together an adorable dresser -- is a way to zone out and get into a flow.

The tangible result will be a reminder that you're kind of rad, and give you a boost of confidence. (And also, perhaps, get your clothes off the floor.)

3. TREAT YO'SELF

This doesn't mean buying things! Maybe purchasing some services, though.

I LOATHE how massages are considered a luxury, when they have so many perks vs. a weekend of spending all that $$monies$$ binge drinking or ordering out (which ultimately makes you feel a bit shit).

Hitting Pho-Siam Thai Spa in L.A.'s Westlake has become part of my "wellness routine." For $50 an hour a tiny lady steps on my back, and dammit, it feels good. I always leave with a natural high.

Even if you can only manage a spa-at-home night (30-minute bath + 10-minute face mask + lying down and NOT doing chores and things) make treating yourself a must.

4. DO NICE SHIT FOR OTHER PEOPLE

And keep it to yourself! Don't expect anything in return. When you realize life is more about the people around you, and the connections you build with them, it relieves the internal pressure to be perfect.

5. FORGIVE YOURSELF

Research shows our brains spend more energy and time processing harsh feedback and negative happenings, so we're hardwired to remember them more than the positive ones.

Whenever a difficult emotion or regret comes to mind, simply breathe and say, "I forgive myself." You would make up with a loved one who fucked you over (because again, no one is perfect), so attempt to do the same with yourself.

6. AS MUCH AS IT MAKES YOU WANT TO HURL, APPRECIATE YOURSELF

Make a gratitude list. It's so dumb! When you're stuck in a downward spiral of self-hatred, it'll instantly shift your train of thought.

Mine usually consists of things like, "California sunshine," "my rad roommates," and "lipgloss." Whatever it is, savor the small stuff.

Another DUH tip is to recognize your talents and exercise them. I started this thing recently where every time I'm stupid-stressed and want to check out and cry, I use my creativity to make something unrelated to work.

Last week, I started painting again for the first time in four years. I originally stopped, because, um, I sometimes hate myself, and thus, think my work is ugly-butt.

When I painted as an instant mood-booster, though, I felt inspired, energetic, and produced this morbid dead fish that I'm proud of.

What's one of your major strengths? How can you use it to do something positive this week?

Make love to yourself and tell me about it on Twitter: @caitlinthornton