love yoself

To know yourself is to love yourself

Love yo’self series

The first step in learning to love myself, was getting to know myself. To start doing all the things that I enjoy, to go back to my childhood to all those things that I did because I loved them but maybe stopped them because someone judged me for it. To think of things that I like, if no one knew I was doing them. What would I do, if I was completely free of judgement? What would I do if I knew no one would find out?

All these questions to truly find out what makes me tick, without fear of anyone shaming me, or putting my interests down, no fear of not being interesting enough or cool enough or good enough. Just me, figuring out who I am.

Woman in front of sign that says "love"
Me and all my quirky

Part of this journey, and to gain self-knowledge, meant that I had to start spending time by myself, to figure out who I am, and what I like. It’s almost like dating, you go out with a person, and over a series of outings you learn about who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, and whether or not you are comfortable with this person. And self-knowledge is exactly like that.

You spend some time with yourself. Talk about your past, how you grew up. So with yourself, you think back to your childhood, and who you were, and what energized you and what you were passionate about. What could you do, or talk about, for hours without getting bored.

As a mother of two, with a time-consuming job, it’s not always easy for me to find these moments, but I try and create them where I can. If I have 30 minutes spare on my weekend, I’ll go for coffee by myself, and journal, or colour in. Or if one of my kids has a party, I drop them off, and then use the next two hours to be by myself, and figure her out.

Also, think about what is important to you – just you, whether or not society, your family, and friends will agree with them, or think they are bad or good. None of that is important – it’s just about what is important to you. Later on, you can decide if this is the person you want to be and you can always readjust your values. People are always growing and changing, and while you are on a journey to know yourself, doesn’t mean that who that person is static and unchanging.

Last year, I was lucky enough to have an ADHD coach and we went through my values, and there were a lot of values that I thought I had, but when she asked me to write down all the things that I wanted to do with my life, frankly I had to admit that wanting to go snowboarding, and complete an Ironman 70.3 had nothing to do with humility. And for someone as health conscious as I am with a strong interest in how the body works, and keeping fit, and wanting to be a triathlete again, not once did I mention health as one of my values.

We worked through a lot of self-limiting beliefs I had, especially around money, and unpacking my thoughts around “the love of money is the root of all evil”. A lot of my values had to be re-thought because the good girl people pleaser in me wrote down my first set of values, and I had to go back and be real about who I am, not who I want people to think I am. It was not easy. And I’m still working on it.

Are there any activities, or things you have always wanted to try but didn’t because of whatever self-limiting beliefs, or judgement from others? If you have the means, try these things out, see if you like them. See if they fit into who you want to be. Do you enjoy them? Then roll with it.

Towards the end of last year, I had a random thought about wanting to do tennis. And because my kids were interested in doing tennis, I thought I may as well, because then it can be a fun activity that we can play together. I started Tennis coaching, and it was like a light went on. I had so much fun, and I had clearly forgotten how much I enjoyed playing tennis as a kid. I recalled that I had played from about the age of 10, all the way to the end of high school. I didn’t place any value on my enjoyment of the sport because I only played socially, I never tried out for the team. But, I had to admit to myself that this is something I really enjoyed.

This journey of self-knowledge has been a hard one, and I’m still learning new things about myself every day. Sometimes it’s this great feeling of learning something really positive about yourself that you hadn’t realized before, and other times you have to admit to yourself that you have qualities that are maybe not that likeable. And you can keep them, or put them in the self-improvement bucket, but as long as you acknowledge all your parts… and we’ll get into the self-love and acceptance part later. But for now, all we need to know is who am I?

love yoself

Love yoself:

Self love is the best kind of love

Cartoon woman dancing surrounded by butterflies with text stating self love is the best love

I recently had a breakthrough in therapy, which, to be honest, while I’m going through it, feels like a breakdown. As I was speaking, all my psychologist said was, you can cry here, and as she spoke those words, I thought, ‘But I don’t need to cry’, and before I knew it, I was bawling about why I don’t matter.

But more important, than my incredibly vulnerable admission, is what came next. The realization that I do not love myself (more vulnerable admissions), and while for the longest time, I ‘knew’ this, I didn’t actually know it.

Following our appointment, where she allowed me to cry and talk for 15 minutes after my allocated time, she sent me multiple links about self-love, and how to develop self-love, which I then binge watched when I got home.

I think I had spent a lot of brain power rationalizing and trying to understand the origins of self-hatred and what happens when you don’t love yourself, and what it looks like. And a lot of cerebral thought analysing my behaviour, and relating it back to feelings of self-hatred. It was all educational and in my head.

But finally, in the month of love (when I said recently, I meant February), I realized what it felt like to not love yourself. And why I didn’t love myself. And how I allowed myself to remain in situations that continued to validate my feelings of self-unlove.

"A new start and way to go" with stars at the top and bottom

But the real work begins now. I bought myself a beautiful journal with a motivational message about thriving on the cover, etched into a colourful image of plants and flowers (always start with a beautiful journal). And I took copious notes from the youtube videos from my psychologist. I did some desk research on sites like psychologies, and school of life, and this is what I learnt so far:

The academic stuff

According to Psychology today, self-love is comprised of four elements: self-awareness, self-worth, self-esteem, and self-care. What this means, is that we need to become aware of our bodies, and our feelings, and how they are expressed within us, and how to identify our emotions. Self-worth is then acknowledging what the good parts of us are – we all have them, but the world we grew up in tells us that it’s not enough, it’s reconnecting with what you deem to be your good parts (they’re in there). A high self-worth leads to a high self-esteem. Self-esteem is all about how comfortable you are with yourself and where you are in life. It’s being ok with yourself and your good (and bad) parts. Finally, self-care is all the activity we do to keep ourselves (both body and mind) healthy.

A journey starts with the first step

Pink background, with woman hugging herself, surrounded by bed of flowers, with text saying welcome to my self love journey

I’m in the beginning of my self-love journey, and so far, I’ve been focusing on getting to know myself, by doing things that I enjoy, or enjoyed in the past. It’s almost like starting to “date myself”, well at least, using the same principles of dating. When you start dating someone, you spend a lot of time getting to know them, and what makes them tick, figuring out if you like them or not. So, I need to spend time with myself, to learn who I am, and what I like and don’t like.  

Feel free to follow my monthly series of “Love yoself” posts, as I continue along my self-love journey, and share what I learn. Watch out for the first post of each month.  

Some further reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/the-upside-things/201911/self-love