Updated: Sep 22
"Sometimes the hardest person to be honest with is ourselves. Loving every part of you is a gift that will keep giving for the ones meant to receive you. Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is one of the most loving things that we will ever do.” ~Keyonna Monroe~
What comes to mind when the phrase “self-love” enters the chat? Do you think of pampering yourself? Relaxing? Of course treating yourself well is important, but what about when self-love means to make decisions for yourself that may seem harsh? Or when it means reflecting on all the times you’ve participated in not loving yourself (for the purpose of recognizing the patterns that need change)? I’ve learned along the way of my own journey, that the intentional practice of self-love can at times be anxiety inducing and painful.
I’ll openly state that I’ve battled depression and anxiety most of my life. Years ago, I went to different Al Anon and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings, after having a handful of therapists recommend them to me. That’s where I was introduced to the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s been well over a decade since being introduced to it, but I've only recently learned how to apply it to my life. I’ve lately been very intentional in prioritizing and cultivating my practice of self-love, and what that looks like for me, is doing what’s necessary and within my power to get to my version of peace and happiness. My healing work has required me to face hard truths, reevaluate relationships, change course in many of my approaches, and unlearn a lot of negative programming I’d received and internalized over the years; programming that didn’t serve me in any way, only to cause me to fall further on the self-hate end of the spectrum.
Self-awareness and self acceptance have been the foundation of my self-love practice. Being aware of who I am and what I value helps when it comes to accepting the reality of my flaws and shortcomings, being open to doing the work to make necessary changes where I can, and it helps when it comes to assessing the company I keep. Being honest about where I am allows me to set realistic goals to improve my problem areas. You can’t work on what you won’t accept or even acknowledge, and God won’t bless who you pretend to be.
Below are examples of areas in my life where I’ve had to accept what I couldn’t change, find the courage to change what I could, and gain the wisdom to know the difference.
Accepting the things I cannot change
Self-love to me is feeling comfortable in my skin. I had to do a little bit of work to get to this space. I overcame a lot of insecurities that I’d been plagued with since childhood. I always received the message that there was something wrong with how I looked and how I was. I showed up everywhere unsure of myself, wanting to hide, and trying to appease others by constantly taking up as little space as I could, and apologizing for it. It took me realizing nobody’s opinion or disapproval of me mattered enough for me to move through life uncomfortable. Nor is anything about me so bad that it’s going to harm someone in any way. Little by little I began shedding some layers, like doing the most to hide myself because I was self-conscious of my scars and features [that I can’t change], or feeling obligated to engage in small-talk because “people don’t like that I’m quiet.” Gradually I grew to accept things about myself that I’d been insecure about for so long. I began feeling the freedom in not caring what others thought or said, and I loved that for myself.
Courage to change the things I can
Being a people pleaser has never served me. While just being aware of this wasn’t enough to do anything about it, acknowledging the problem was a good first step to making a change. I had to dig into why I was doing it, especially when it rarely resulted in me feeling good. For the most part, I’d bend over backwards to appease others because I never wanted anyone to be upset. However, nobody cared if I was upset (seemingly). Constantly reminding myself of this helped when it came to lessening my guilt and breaking this pattern. I didn’t have to do anything drastic. I discovered a simple, yet powerful tool within my control, the power of no. And the beauty is, no is a complete sentence. I don’t always feel obligated to explain myself. Being able to take back some of my power in ways that allowed me to find the strength and validity in my own voice, putting myself first, and doing what I want instead of always doing what others wanted, I loved that for myself.
Wisdom to know the difference
Sometimes you can’t change your environment, your circumstances, or the people around you. Sometimes you just have to do what you can to change the dynamics. For example, I habitually observe how dismissive or empathetic others around me are, when it comes to areas of mental health. When I express I experience depression or anxiety, and the response is along the lines of “what do you have to be depressed about? All you have to do is (insert random unsolicited solution), and you won’t have anxiety!” I can’t change a person’s attitude towards mental health, therefore I move accordingly. I’ll make adjustments in how I engage. This isn’t someone I’m likely to confide in and trust with my feelings. In order to protect my mental health, I’ve learned to trust my discernment when it comes to how I engage with others, and I love that for myself.
I’m continually a work in progress. In the meantime, I practice self love by caring for my mental health and protecting my peace as much as possible while working toward the version of me I envision myself being. Being able to accept who and where I am at the moment, allows me to show up authentically, and unapologetically, me.
“When you accept yourself, you radiate authenticity and confidence. You attract people for who you are, not who you pretend to be.” ~Keyonna Monroe~
What are some of the ways you practice self love that may be a bit uncomfortable? How did it feel when you realized you can put yourself first and the world isn’t going to end? Feel free to leave a comment. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the LYF Matters newsletter, where you’ll receive regular content and resources on Loving Yourself First.