My obsession with RuPaul’s Drag Race always seemed useless. However, one fateful night, RuPaul’s words finally hit home: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
We rarely hear people openly stating that they love themselves. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone on social media who was content and satisfied with themselves. Social media is dangerous: we are always bombarded with a mental negative bias, as we sit and compare our lives to those who are supposedly ‘happy’. For years, I have thrown myself pity party after pity party, sat in a pool of shame and insecurity, drowning myself in overthinking and hate. Enough is enough.
Covid-19 provided me with an epiphany I didn’t know I needed. As more and more was taken away from me, I reached a turning point in my life. After my aunt lost her battle with cancer, I realised life is too short to live in the past and let negatives control you.
We must stop running away and come to terms with our emotions
From the moment we enter this world our habits, our opinions and our feelings are shaped by stimuli. When we go through trauma in our childhood, we bottle it up and ignore it. Little do we realise the extent to which the habits we create at younger ages affect our behaviour today. The first step to loving yourself involves understanding your feelings and forgiving.
Take a step back. Can you think of a moment in your life that keeps you awake at night? Maybe you were bullied in primary school, maybe you had a poor relationship with your parents. We must stop running away and come to terms with our emotions and really look in on ourselves. I found that if I bottled up my emotions, they would overwhelm me and cause me to have a serious blip.
Now comes the hard part, think of one positive and one lesson that this event taught you. I remember looking back at some moments and thinking how could this possibly have a silver lining: how could I have learnt from this?
Forgiveness is letting go to better yourself
I can tell you now I would not be as strong as I am today if it weren’t for those moments. Every situation we face, every pain we feel has a positive and a lesson attached to it. When we grow stronger, when we learn something about ourselves, we become a better person. It’s important to stop allowing ourselves to become victims of circumstance and instead be triumphant in our newly found strength.
There is a huge misconception about forgiveness, and I will admit I used to think that it was all about excusing the behaviour of another. I urge you to think of it like this – when you forgive someone, you aren’t saying you understand what they did, or that it was the right thing to do. What you’re saying is, I will no longer let the negatives of that occasion affect me, I will not allow myself to be defined by that negative instant in time.
Instead, I will use that moment to reflect and propel me forward. Forgiveness is letting go to better yourself. It’s no easy feat, but it’s the most rewarding feeling when you realise you have healed yourself of your past.
Caring for yourself is crucial
I found it cathartic to write letters to people, places or days which I perceived unfavourably. Try writing a letter to someone you’ve hurt, apologise and feel forgiven. Thank them for being part of your life and teaching you something, and then forgive them. Maybe you’ll realise that you judged someone based on your own flaws and insecurities. Maybe you ran away because you didn’t know how to confront your own feelings. We cannot dwell on negatives because the minute we do, we forget all of our positive attributes. Forgive the past and just keep swimming.
Forgiving yourself is a rather strange concept but equally important to forgiving others. You cannot love or care for yourself until you’ve absolved yourself. I love writing things down, so I wrote my past-self letters, I looked at myself in the mirror and really started to understand who I am and what I wanted personally. I forgave myself so I could move on and start loving me unconditionally.
Step two is self-care, which unfortunately has a horrible connotation with selfishness. Caring for yourself is crucial. Take time out for yourself when you are stuck in your feelings. I found that many books have helped me on my journey for self-love. Feeding my knowledge on how to care for myself has been influential in changing my mindset.
I used to focus on my bad feelings instead of looking at the bigger picture
The book that changed my life has got to be Happy by Fearne Cotton. If you’re into podcasts, I would recommend downloading an app called Sanity & Self, which covers a range of different topics all geared towards healing and loving yourself.
We attract what we are and what we want. If you always focus on the negatives in your life you will only attract negatives. This is a bad habit many struggle to break. I used to focus on my bad feelings instead of looking at the bigger picture, but gratitude journaling has helped me appreciate my life and I am satisfied with everything I have now. You can still have goals and want to make changes, but it’s important to love yourself now so you can grow in the future.
Feed yourself positivity. I found it challenging to reprogram my mind to look at the good when I, like many, focus on the negatives, but it is easier than you may think. When you feel a negative thought creep in, acknowledge it. As I’ve said, you shouldn’t bottle up your emotions but reassure yourself, say positive affirmations when you can feel yourself slipping.
Surround yourself with positive influences and cut out the toxicity
Personally, if my brain is overwhelmed, I will meditate. I will sit down in a quiet room, put on some relaxing music and just breathe for ten minutes, away from the rest of the world. It’s not for everyone but you should find something which calms you down. Sometimes I like to dance in my bathroom for hours listening to Todrick Hall and really hype myself up. Don’t give negatives the power to ruin your day: instead, acknowledge them, reassure yourself and let them go.
Surround yourself with positive influences and cut out the toxicity. When you’re learning to love yourself, you have to remember you’re doing it for you, so reach out to friends who make you smile, do things you love to do. Keep momentum and you will see so many changes in your mindset, just like I have. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a hard process but if you keep trying, I promise you in no time you will have a different perspective on life and it’s challenging.
I know it’s hard to stay motivated in what feels like the apocalypse but keep doing things you love. When I was at my worst, I threw myself into helping people because that gives me purpose and made me feel invigorated.
You can empower yourself and love yourself before anyone has anything to say to you
I used the Chloe Ting two-week shred workout on YouTube to motivate me to stay active. As intense as it was the results were impressive, you know what they say – healthy body, healthy mind. I decided to go a bit radical with this and I even went vegan for three weeks. Do what makes you feel good and remember to stay motivated and keep that purpose.
Taylor Swift has a habit of releasing albums at the perfect time and folklore has provided me with a beautiful and reflective backdrop for my journey. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reactions. Once you have begun to delve deeper into yourself and think about how you want something to affect you and how you want to be perceived, you can begin shaping yourself mentally. You can empower yourself and love yourself before anyone has anything to say to you, it all starts with you. It’s been a journey and I know I’m not done yet, but I am thankful I can now finally say: I love me.