Self-Love: Why It Doesn’t Just Start With Being Nice to Yourself (And What to Do Instead)

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Years ago, a reader e-mailed me and asked to write about how to start loving yourself. She was struggling with self-love and wanted my thoughts. I could probably dig up the article and share it with you again. But five or so years later, it feels important to revisit this topic.

I remember writing that, in my experience, falling in love with yourself is a lot like any other relationship. Typically, early on in dating, people try to present their “best” selves—highlighting the attributes they see as praiseworthy and hiding the ones they view as shameful.

And, eventually, that mask of perfection slips a little. Maybe they accidentally reveal some real and vulnerable. Maybe they make a mistake. Maybe they have to react to a crisis. And suddenly you aren’t dealing with a set of perfectly curated attributes; you’re doing with a human being in front of you. A subjective being.

And we can only ever fall in love with a subjective being; anything else is simply infatuation.

But, for most of us, we keep ourselves so busy and keep our beliefs about ourselves so rigid that we don’t really get to see the mask ever fall off. We can’t fall in love with that which we don’t know. And most of us don’t really know ourselves—we just know the socially constructed identity imposed upon us.

At least that was true for me. And, to some extent, continues to be true for me. I’ll have a whole life of deconditioning and radical subjectivity. And the deeper I go into it, the more I fall in love with myself.

I mean, there’s a reason people often recommend you take potential partners on out-of-the-box dates. Sure, it makes you seem interesting. But it also takes the two (or more) of you out of your comfort zones. It forces you to shake things up. Because it’s really easy to hide your shame when you’re doing something you’ve always done. But skydiving? Ziplining? Paintballing? Your fears and anxieties and anger and sadness might come flying forward.

We get to see the real you.

So my best advice to fall in love with yourself isn’t exactly to be nicer to yourself or say some affirmations. I mean, if that feels right, fantastic. Always honor your own subjectivity. But, if we could just will self-love, a lot of us would be a lot happier right now. Many of us have had partners we wish we could fall in love with but never felt that spark. So, for me, it’s not a sustainable solution.

What is sustainable, though, is to get to know yourself. Really know yourself. Separate from what you’ve been told about yourself and socialized into.

Take yourself out on dates. Put yourself in situations that terrify you. Try acting class. Or join a climbing club. Or take a salsa dancing class without a friend for support.

Get all dolled up and go out to that fancy dinner you’ve been wanting to try. Or, at the very least, get dressed up and see a movie by yourself. Give yourself the date you’ve always wanted.

Feel the discomfort. Feel how awkward it is to be out in public alone. Notice your thoughts. Notice yourself.

Journal. A lot. Write down your feelings. Get to know what’s actually happening inside.

You know, I started writing this blog because I wanted to share when I had something to say, but especially when I didn’t. I wanted to see what came up when I had to dig deep. And write often. And when I was out of words. Because it’s easy to curate perfection when you’re in total control. But it’s not so easy when you have to find material to write about. The well thought-out stuff kind of evaporates. And you’re left with the unfettered you.

And that’s who you’ll fall in love with.

It’s hard to fall in love with yourself when you’re living somebody else’s life. I should know. I lived a life for a while that never felt 100% like me. And it took me a long road of radical subjectivity to break down these beliefs and structures that kept me from living my own life.

And I remember when I was so sick that I couldn’t leave the house for two months. I was vomiting blood daily. And I had no choice but to get to know myself. It was the most time I’d ever spent alone. And I realized that I was funny—no, hilarious. And I was charming. And kind. And loving. And courageous.

And I didn’t just fall in love with Garrett during that time; I fell in love with myself, too.

And then I started trying new things. I took assertiveness class and acting class. I went to herbalism school and nutrition school. I started going to psychic circles. I started trying acupuncture and Reiki. And with each radical step I took, I fell deeper in love with myself.

It’s crazy to think that, just five years ago, at the start of writing this blog, I didn’t have my own business and I still worked in public relations and I wasn’t married (in fact, hardly anyone knew I had been dating Garrett for well over a year), and I didn’t own this beautiful house, and I hadn’t even run a Sacred Circle or Sacred Mastermind, and I didn’t dress or look anything like I do today.

And all of that—all of it—came forward as a manifestation of me falling in love with myself. The more I love myself,, the easier it is to create a life based around myself. That’s it.

And it all starts with knowing myself. Knowing the real me. That subjective presence that I can fall in love with. Not old stories about who I am. But the real, true, honest, vulnerable me.

Try something new this week. Take yourself out on a date. Play and explore and get to know yourself deeper.

Who knows? You just might fall in love.

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