A hard truth about self-love

I’m in the midst of my 30-day self-love challenge, using my illustrated creative journal, Find Your Awesome. As I type, it’s Day 23, in which we are “practicing pleasure,” not just doing what we love, but relishing it, letting time fly in that way that it does when you’re completely engaged with whatever lights you up inside. I say “we” because I’m doing the challenge with 157 people who signed up to do it with me.

Doing the challenge in a group has been eye-opening for me. It has tested me in unexpected ways, and given me fresh insights on a topic I thought I knew inside and out. I’ll share some of my observations in my next post, after the challenge is over, but I want to talk about one thing in particular today.

I’ve noticed it in my own self-love journey, but it’s become even more obvious to me as I go through the challenge with others, and I see where they succeed and where they stumble. Here’s what I’ve observed:

It is when we feel it least

that we need self-love most.

It’s a terrible truth. It means that self-love is sometimes going to be hard.

Really, really hard.

When we’ve screwed up, or we’re feeling stuck, or we’ve suffered a setback professionally or personally, it makes sense that we feel disappointed in ourselves. We’ve not lived up to our own expectations, and under the weight of our glaring imperfections, we’re in no mood to be kind to ourselves. Why would we reward ourselves for failure?

But self-love isn’t a reward. It’s not a prize for good behavior. It’s not a shiny trinket to be given or taken away depending on our performance in life. Self-love is a way of being. It’s the embodiment of all that is good about being human – our capacity for tenderness, kindness, and compassion, our ability and willingness to reach out to each other, and to reach back to those who’ve reached out to us.

To withhold self-love when we are at our lowest is every bit as cruel and wrong as withholding love from our children when they’re hurting, or our spouses, or our best friends. The key to lifting ourselves out of those darkest places is love. Failure, hardship, and tragedy don’t necessarily foster growth. Growth happens in the painful process of getting back up, which is rarely accomplished in a single heroic action. More often, it’s a series of little movements, tiny acts of self-care, until finally we find ourselves standing upright on the other side of hard-earned truths, stronger, more confident, and more connected to our own (flawed and beautiful) humanity.

As Danielle LaPorte wrote recently, it’s easy to love yourself when things are going well, when you’re feeling successful and happy. It’s much harder when you’re feeling lost, or scared, or guilty, but that’s when you need self-love most of all. So many people have written to me about why they aren’t able to fully participate in the 30-day challenge. Their obstacles are real. Their stories are often heartbreaking. I want to tell them that, of course, NOW is the time to practice self-love, but I hardly ever say that. I just listen. I understand. I hold them, in person or virtually. I try to be for them what they can’t be for themselves.

And I imagine what this world would look like if we all learned to love ourselves as tenderly and compassionately as we love the people in our lives.

It would be, quite simply, the greatest revolution of all.


1 Comment

  1. […] told me that they didn’t feel loving toward themselves, I told them that, of course, it is when we’re feeling it least that we need self-love most. I realize now that, while those words are true, they’re only half of what I needed to say. […]