Photo by Liz Gordon
For most of my life, I have sought affection from someone else. Whether it’s romantic or not, I always thought it was something only another person can provide.
For some reason, I’ve been convinced I cannot provide enough care for myself in order to feel full and content. I don’t like the phrase “treat yourself” because it implies you should only love yourself at certain moments. It’s a reward system based on pity. You’re alone and you’ve had a rough time? Treat yourself.
What if we appreciated ourselves all the time? What if we used the energy spent on a potential someone interested in us, on ourselves? What if you talked to yourself like you would someone you’re really into?
“You look beautiful.”
“You’re so creative.”
“I love being around you.”
Instead of loving yourself all by yourself (which is usually what it feels like, lonesome and sad), date yourself. Take yourself out on dates, buy yourself ice cream, draw yourself a bath. Remove yourself from the inner monologue that destroys you. Create a new dialogue in your head which uplifts yourself.
We know we can do that, because supporting people is a skill we’re all capable of, except this time, it’s yourself. The weight of supporting yourself is lifted and placed on a new idea. That new idea can alleviate pressure and brighten the shadows of stress, anxiety, self doubt, even self loathing.
Because let’s face it, we often don’t feel self worth until someone gives it to us. The moment when words of affection finally fall off the lips of another, you sigh with relief, and believe it.
What have we been taught?
“Find someone now.”
“Not finding them?”
“Change, change something, change something now.”
“I’m not with anyone, there must be something wrong with me. There’s a lot of things wrong with me.”
“I hate myself”
The main idea is if you talked to yourself like you talked to someone you really like, you could take your life back. It’s no longer up to others’ discretion when your self worth is concerned. That power resides in you, and so it’s always untouched. Protect yourself like you would a significant other or best friend.
Maybe the term “love yourself” is too much. It can feel like loving yourself is a monstrous task to accomplish by yourself. You almost feel like you need to hold a person’s hand while they talk about you, in a sweet, admiring, and loving way in order for you to agree. Because what else have we been taught?
“Don’t get a big head.”
“Don’t take compliments.”
“Don’t love yourself.”
Somewhere along the way, someone decided self love and arrogance were the same thing, and masked it as arrogance or pompous behavior, and someone else also decided self deprecation and self hate was funny, relieving, relatable, grounded, and accepted by all.
What if we replaced the words ‘love yourself’ with…
All of these words carry the same importance and value as love, they’re just a little easier to carry.
Love is heavy. I mean, it’s a lot of fucking weight. So let’s carry words with just as much value. Then maybe we can begin to tackle the term
“be yourself.” (Yikes)
This has to be the most overdone and cliche sentiment, but you really should be kind to yourself. You are all you’ve got. What would you tell someone looking at your life? Would you be proud, embarrassed, or sad?
Are you taking care of the kid with big dreams?
Here’s how I stop my inner monologue from putting me down everyday: I imagine my younger self sitting in front of me, observing my life. She’s looking at my face, my clothes, the way I’m sitting, my body language, my surroundings, the way my bedroom is decorated, what I have on my desk at work, if I’m alone or talking to my friends.
She’s slowly inching forward, looking up, trying to listen to my voice. She wants to know how grown up I am.
She’s looking at my face and wondering if I’m wearing makeup, exactly how she’s always imagined. She loved playing with makeup, using her mother’s red lipstick to color her rosy thin lips. Is she wearing perfume? What is her job, does she have a house? Does the house have a swimming pool? If so, I hope she gets to be a mermaid whenever she pleases.
She’s looking up at me, close enough to hug my waist.
I know when I agree with a self deprecating thought in my head, I’m saying it to her. I’m looking down at my younger self, the one who just wants to wear her mother’s lipstick and be a mermaid, and saying…
“You’re not pretty.”
“You’re not doing enough with your life.”
Doesn’t that feel much worse? It’s crazy how aware it can make you of the things in your head. Give yourself a break. We all do it, but let’s change it, for them, for our younger selves. That’s the only person that matters. They don’t care about any of the things society holds on a pedestal.
From now on, I’m doing things for my younger self. I’m taking her out to ice cream. I’m taking her out for joy rides in my car so we can belt out our favorite songs. I’m going to make sure she gets to play basketball, swim, dance, and draw whenever she pleases. And I’m going to love her, by myself, because she’s the best company.
She’s silly, curious, sweet, quiet unless spoken to, active, and her head is always in the clouds.
I’m reminded I’ve never been alone, I’ve always had her watching me, even in the moments where I chose not to see her. I refuse to ignore her any longer. She’s my best friend and we’re alone together.