As an introvert who always struggled with self-esteem issues, a lack of confidence and a head full of negative self-talk, I never really thought much about the importance of loving oneself.
Part of me thought that kind of self-acceptance was reserved just for those perfect people who lived perfect lives and had every reason to appreciate themselves. The other part of me was so busy listing off the negative attributes I possessed, that I failed to see any reason how or why I would end up loving myself.
Before I began to appreciate myself, I seemed to think that self-love was more about arrogance and being self-absorbed, but over the years I learned a lot more about what self-love means, why it's important and how we can achieve it.
What does it mean to love yourself?
It means accepting all that you are, flaws and all.
It means appreciating your good qualities and celebrating the positive parts of who you are.
It means improving your health and wellbeing out of love and not disgust.
It means being your own biggest supporter.
It means treating your body with respect.
It means talking to yourself with kindness and compassion.
It means investing in yourself.
It means knowing your self-worth.
It means believing in yourself.
It means choosing yourself and being able to put your needs first without feeling guilty.
It means forgiving yourself and letting go of negative emotions.
It means being proud of who you are in this moment.
It means acknowledging the strength you've shown in overcoming, enduring and surviving life's obstacles.
It means finding happiness within yourself rather than expecting other people or things to make you happy.
Why is it important to love yourself?
The way I see it, loving yourself is mandatory if you want to live a happy, healthy and meaningful life. I spent many years of my life quietly criticising every part of who I am. I ridiculed myself for the way I looked and beat myself up for my every mistake. I compared myself to everyone around me and left myself feeling like I was never good enough. I found no freedom, no happiness and no contentment during those years.
Since learning to love who I am, a breath of fresh air has filled my lungs. I've learned to believe in my abilities and have stopped holding myself back from achieving my dreams. I've stopped comparing myself to other people, content in knowing that every day I choose to be the best version of myself that I can be. I see my flaws as opportunities for growth rather than a reason to loathe myself, and consider my failures and mistakes valuable lessons worth learning. The words I speak to myself nowadays are words of encouragement and support, and inside of me I feel a sense of peace and satisfaction.
How did travel help me learn to love myself?
Travel has had the most significant impact on me as a person, and it gave me the experiences, opportunities and perspective I needed to start my journey towards self-acceptance and self-love. This journey has been a long and sometimes confronting one, but one that I know was very much worth it.
Travel forced me to step out of my comfort zone and allowed me to take chances and leaps of faith that I wouldn't normally be able to. This boosted my confidence and taught me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
Travel gave me the opportunity to be immersed in many different cultures and communities who see value in different aspects of a person than where I'm from. This made me see positives within me that I had never seen before.
Travel presented me with an array of obstacles, challenges and tough times. Every time I overcame one I felt a stronger sense of self and began to belief in myself far more than I ever did before.
Travel introduced me to an endless stream of people from all walks of life. It showed me that we are all equal and there is no perfect person with a perfect life, we all have shortcomings. I realised that there is so much beauty in the diversity of the human race and I stopped comparing myself to others, instead choosing to accept my individuality and uniqueness.
Travel gave me an enormous amount of time to be alone with my own thoughts. It gave me the chance to reflect and listen more carefully to my internal dialogue. The more time I spent with myself, the more obvious it became how critical I was of myself. I utilised that alone time to change my negative self-talk into positive self-talk which significantly impacted my ability to love myself.
The bottom line is - it's not about being perfect, it's about being the best version of yourself today that you can be. By all means continue improving yourself but be content with who you are in this moment.
So am I cured? Am I fixed for life now? No. What I've learned is that loving and accepting yourself is a life long journey. Life throws all sorts of curveballs our way so there will always be times where I need to remind myself that I am worthy, I am deserving and I am capable.