If you can’t love yourself
Every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race ends with the same, iconic phrase: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Many folks, understandably, have mixed feelings on this type of thinking; however, I’ve found that this phrase not only rings true for me, but it has significantly impacted my life. How I feel about myself shapes nearly every aspect of my being.
For example, loving myself well means doing things that I know will benefit me in the long-run, even if they’re not the things I want to do in the moment. Waking up and getting my home ready for the morning instead of lying in bed and looking at my phone. Eating something nutritious with a reasonable portion size instead of having leftover pizza for breakfast. Taking a few minutes in the morning to meditate instead of jumping right into work. Investing in myself means loving myself well.
Loving myself well means being a big fan of myself. It’s taking a pause to remember what I like about myself and to emphasize those parts of myself. I like writing, and I’m a good writer. I’m very in touch with my emotions, and I like using what I’ve learned about feelings to better understand the perspectives of others. I like helping others, and I want to be a calming, kind voice. So, I write these articles. Celebrating my authentic self means loving myself well.
Loving myself well means protecting myself from things that aren’t serving me, whether it be a relationship or a pastime or a job. In the same way I had to learn what relaxing felt like, I also had to learn what it felt like to, well, feel good! I’m still learning. I’m learning that a glass of wine in the evenings doesn’t make me feel as good as I think it will, and neither does a Taco Bell run or a Netflix binge. I’ve adjusted relationships in my life that felt draining or imbalanced. Protecting my peace means loving myself well.
Loving myself well means knowing that even the crummiest, laziest, greasiest, grumpiest version of myself is worthy of being loved just for existing. I don’t have to have a stellar career to be worthy of love, I don’t need to say “yes” to every request to be worthy of love, and I definitely don’t need to do it all on my own to be worthy of love. Hyper-independence is a concept I’m all too familiar with; no one can let you down if you don’t rely on anyone. Life changes a lot when you raise the bar for the people you allow into your life. It also changes when you lower the bar for what version of yourself is worth being proud of and caring about. No longer performing or achieving in order to be worthy of love is loving myself well.
Lastly — and most importantly — loving myself well means speaking kindly to myself and forgiving myself when I slip up (because we all slip up, even the people that write articles on self-love). I’m going to spend too long on my phone sometime this week, and I’m probably going to have pizza for breakfast at some point. I’m going to have a lazy evening. I may have a negative thought about my appearance, and I’ll probably feel embarrassment about something weird I said. That’s all okay. If you take anything away from this article, let it be to speak more kindly to yourself. (Not the ten-pounds-lighter version of you or the have-it-all-together version of you. You right now.)
How I spend my time, how I show up in the world, and my overall mood are all impacted by how I feel about myself. When I began to love myself more, so much changed. My relationships got better because I stopped spending time in dynamics that were draining. My career got better because I believed in myself more. My health improved because I knew that I was someone that was worthy of calm and healing. I was able to be loved more deeply by others because I was more capable of showing up as my authentic self (rather than a version of myself that I thought was more likable). And I was able to love others more deeply, because I could see the shared humanity between us all — the flaws and fears and messiness — and love folks anyway.
I still have bad days, but I have many, many more good days than I did before. And while I send mountains of credit to therapists and authors and artists and others that have shared their stories, I send most of the credit to me. Because I did the work (and I love myself for it).
In the words of Brené Brown, from her newest book, Atlas of the Heart:
We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection. Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can be cultivated between two people only when it exists within each one of them — we can love others only as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can survive these injuries only if they’re acknowledged, healed, and rare.