Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Tom Cornille (picture of me by someone who truly loves me)
Loving yourself is a trendy thing to do, but what does it really mean?
Some seem to have the idea that to love yourself means to believe yourself absolutely awesome, flawless and perfect in every way. But if there’s no room for your own vulnerability, can you really love yourself unconditionally? Thinking you don’t make any mistakes makes it hard to cherish yourself and treat yourself with compassion when you, inveriably, do make a mistake.
In my path of growing in self-love (and not self-idolisation) I’ve seen these 7 signs appear in my life. Perhaps they ring true for you as well.
- You take care of yourself because you want to not because you ‘should’.
“You’re supposed to” is the kind of motivation that doesn’t hold up. It crumbles in the face of adversity. When you love yourself truly, you don’t need to be told to look after yourself, to nurture yourself and to put yourself to bed. When you love yourself you look after yourself like you would any loved one, like you (would) look after your own children or your best friend. And it doesn’t take a stick or a carrot, all it takes is wanting the best for yourself.
- You put down and guard your own boundaries.
Loving yourself also means protecting yourself. You are worth looking after yourself and attending to your own needs. In fact, once you’re an adult, you’re the one who is solely responsible for taking care of yourself, and putting down personal boundaries is an important step.
What does that look like? Saying ‘no’ when you don’t have time to help, responding to someone who talks to you in a way you don’t want to be talked to, or ending a relationship in which you are treated badly.
How do you learn where your own boundaries are? You can sense that they have been crossed when you get angry, frustrated, irritated or otherwise upset. These emotions are valuable clues, cherish them.
- You can acknowledge your own mistakes, without putting yourself down.
As long as you believe you need to be flawless in order to be worthy of love, any criticism, blame or guilt that appears in your life will shake your sense of self-worth. Loving yourself means accepting that sometimes you just make mistakes. These can be big, small, or even massive. You may have meant well, or you may have been motivated by spite or envy. Whatever it is you did, whatever others criticise you for, you are ALWAYS worthy of love and compassion. And the only person who can allow you to receive that love and compassion, is YOU.
- You are in-tune with and can accept your own needs.
We all have desires and needs. We all have things that matter to us, things that are important to us. For me, it was a revelation when I was told at age 33 that I was allowed to really need something. I don’t have to be fulfilled 24/7. I don’t have to be stoic and go without. It can take time and practice to tune yourself into your needs, and it can be equally challenging to accept them when you do. Maybe you don’t want to be ‘someone who needs a lot of sleep’ or ‘someone who cares a lot about feeling safe and secure’, but when you accept these needs as part of you, you can also take the steps to meet them.
- You have no desire to ‘change yourself’.
I spent countless moments in my teenage years fantasizing I was someone else. I dreamt of being a blonde, or taller, or more creative. Or I imagined being a famous singer, or an athlete, or a talented writer. It took me some time to wish to be no one but myself, and it took really learning to love myself for who I am, including all my shortcomings and all my positive attributes.
- You are able to do things just because you want to, even if they have no direct use.
Do you find yourself justifying spending time on a hobby? E.g. “I’ll learn to knit since this means I can save money on scarfs and create personal gifts, ” or “Shooting pool means I can network at the same time.” Do you have a hard time buying something for yourself, or better yet, taking a course, just because you want to? Because you want to treat yourself?
Loving yourself also means expressing your love to yourself, in your own personal love language (want to know which one is your favorite love language? Check this previous post!)
- You can accept love from others.
This is by far the most important and most rewarding result of loving yourself: You can fully accept love from others. When you don’t love yourself, it’s hard to see how anyone else could. It’s so hard, you don’t even really believe it when they say they do. “They probably think I’m someone else than who I really am.” “They’ll find out soon enough what I’m really like and then they are sure to leave.
It can be so unbelievable that we could be loved for who we really are, that we don’t even show our true selves, but hide behind a mask instead.
When you learn to accept yourself and love yourself, you are able to show yourself to the world fully, to let yourself be seen. And when someone then sees you, and loves what they see, this is the most wonderful balm to the soul.
I can now say that I, unequivocally, love myself. Am I perfect? No, not in any way, shape or form. I still struggle with past trauma and with ingrained patterns. I still show behavior I want to change. I still want to grow out of certain aspects of my current personality.
But underneath it all, underneath my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, I am so incredibly grateful for the person I’ve become. My struggles have taught me so much and helped me become who I am today, and if there’s anyone I still strive to be, it’s more of that person. It’s more of me.