Learning to love yourself is the most difficult journey a person could embark upon. There is no clean cut path to follow, no ready-made road map, and no one can travel that road for you. Your journey is one you ultimately travel alone. And it can be dark and scary, lonely even. Of course, there will be people who may steer you along the way, offering a hint toward the right direction when you are lost, but ultimately self-love begins and ends with you.
Loving yourself requires that you get to know yourself—your flaws and failings, your fortes and fabulosities. The path to a strong sense of self and the acquisition of love for yourself goes hand in hand with that self-discovery.
Grab a pen and piece of paper or make a mental list. How do you identify yourself?
My identity checklist: Youthful. Spirited. African American. Female. Wife. Mother. Christian. Intelligent. Caring. Giving. Important. Beautiful. Insightful. Confident. Strong.
I am all of these things. I own each statement; they have become my own personal declarations. And even though it has taken me some time to appreciate myself for who I am, it has been one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve ever taken.
I did not always hold myself in high esteem. I have flaws. We all do. Only I wasn’t content unless I was holding a magnifying glass to mine. My self-hatred started when I was little girl. Like most girls, playing with my favorite doll kept my days busy. I would brush her hair and dress her in outrageously, fashionable clothing. To me, that doll represented what beauty and worth was all about. She was tall and thin. She had long, straight hair, perfectly drawn on teeth, perfect breast. To top it off she had enough smarts to be a lawyer by day, an ER doctor by night, and a supermodel on the weekends. Her house was always immaculate, she drove the hottest car, and her man was never without a smile on his face.
I didn’t realize it then, but how devastating! Who could ever live up to such rigorous and unrealistic standards?
Because I wasn’t perfect and had developed the mistaken impression that I was supposed to be, low self-esteem and I became buddies at an early age. It was difficult for me to realize that my self-worth was not attached to the latest pair of shoes or designer jeans. Like many girls and even grown women, I felt without these things I was insufficient.
My mind was filled with thoughts of one day being good enough. I started doing “cool” things that were not cool at all. And in my effort to be worthy, I developed the bad habits that allowed me to accept into my life people who didn’t deserve to be there. Never get so dissatisfied with yourself that you seek out the companionship of people who are equally as dissatisfied with themselves. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen.
One day, I hit rock bottom. I had to take a moment and really sit with myself. Is this the person I really wanted to be? And who exactly was I imitating anyway? I realized I was trying to keep up with a plastic, non-human entity, a social construct. I was trying to live up to the hype of mainstream media’s idea of perfection.
With this realization propelling me forward, I set out to define myself, without the help of others. I let experience become my teacher and stopped shifting the responsibility of my self-identification to the people around me. The way I experience my life depends on me.
My journey lead me to faith in God. I realized that without that I had been empty. It was only through my coming to Christ, that I was able to understand and appreciate my worth. I stopped trying so hard to be someone who was just a false image, and I said “hello” to me. I looked in the mirror and saw myself as I truly am. My imperfections became beautiful to me. My sense of insufficiency diminished. Situation by situation I no longer needed the validation of the outside world. Over time I became content with me; and today, I love myself mind, body, and soul.
I encourage you to take a look at your list. Are there identities you are holding on to that you need to release? Do you fully own the ones that are consistent with the person you are and want to be? Begin your journey of self-discovery and self-love today. Know that your journey will be uniquely yours, and it will change your life.
Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is knowing that you are worth the trip. I promise you are.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please contact The Stone Foundation by clicking here, or by phone at 410-296-2004.
Victoria Johnson is a Communications major who maintains honors status at the Anne Arundel Community College. She currently writes for The Baltimore Times and has written for the AACC school newspaper, The Campus Current. Victoria’s talent stems beyond her writing and schooling. She is also the co-founder of God’s Jewels, a charitable organization designed to benefit individuals in Africa who seek spiritual enlightenment.