What is self-love? How do we learn to love ourselves? Are we born with this knowledge? What are the influences which teach us to love ourselves?
I’ve often wondered how some people can be comfortable and love who they are. How they respect their ideas, ways, and choices. They don’t seem the least bit bothered by their quirks; instead they embrace them. So, it would seem, self-love also needs a dose of self-worth and self-confidence.
When I researched about self-love, I pulled up over 1,240,000,000 sources. That’s a lot of humans seeking, writing and explaining the meaning of self-love.
As a licensed mental health therapist, I have discovered that for most people, self-love is a skill we develop during the course of a lifetime. We learn to love who we are and accept our faults as well as our gifts.
Over the years, I’ve learned the most about self-love from a small handful of trusted mentors, therapists, teachers, and friends who I admire for how they love themselves. Their modeling and guidance have helped me find my own inner appreciation. When we see what self-love looks like in another person — and through a lot of practice, acceptance, and encouragement — we eventually see it in ourselves.
To demonstrate the concept of self-love, I read through hundreds of quotes from my research and decided the following seven quotes captured the essence of self-love and what I’ve learned from each.
#1. “how you love yourself is / how you teach others / to love you” ― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
For the longest time, I didn’t love myself. Unknowingly, I let people take advantage of me. I thought, saying no! to them was wrong and offensive. But that old way of thinking hurt me. Personal boundaries are incredibly important. Having boundaries is probably the first step towards loving oneself. It is a statement: I am worthy. You will no longer hurt me.
Once I realized I was worthy, it was easier for me not to please others for the sake of protecting them and disregarding my own feelings, dreams, and values. Loving myself became an antidote and a shield against abuse. Trusting myself and listening to my intuition became a part of a greater recipe to discover the secret ingredient: self-love.
#2. “Don’t worry if people think you’re crazy. You are crazy. You have that kind of intoxicating insanity that lets other people dream outside of the lines and become who they’re destined to be.” ― Jennifer Elisabeth, Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl
This quote reaches and touches me deeply. I am creative and it took me a long time to admit that because I thought I was wrong and too crazy. My imagination sparks me and lives inside of me and brings me into other worlds. I am different. I can sometimes play the part of being ordinary, but I get bored and find ways to break those rules. Crazy isn’t a malady; it is a way to express how I see the world. How I experience and taste the flavors and write from inside of a sunset. It is intoxicating, spiritual, and holy.
Understanding and accepting this side of me is an act of self-love.
#3. “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” ― C.G. Jung
Carl Jung nails it with such clarity. There are multiple sides to us. When we finally feel safe enough to show these sides to ourselves, that’s the golden gift to loving oneself. Only showing the pretty and safe sides, the parts that are socially acceptable, denies us of our wholeness.
Accepting that we aren’t perfect (thank goodness) is freeing. The child inside of us can blow those sweet bubbles while the logical side of us can research for hours to find the exact information to complete a story.
Of course, this process is terrifying and yet owning and seeing we are multidimensional is the seed that completes us in loving ourselves.
#4. “A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else.” ― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
I’m not sure it’s that simple. Self-doubt cripples self-love. So, I’ve learned to ask a trusted friend, teacher, therapist — what is it that you see in me that is love? With time, consistency, and trust I’ve learned to believe what their eyes see in me and then integrate it with my own truth. It’s a process of redefining the deeper hurts and allowing outer love to grow with our inner love. What a beautiful osmosis.
#5. “It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.” ― Eartha Kitt
These are such true words and felt at the heart of my soul. How do we fall in love with ourselves? We start small. We wrote love notes.
Dear Self: I see you trying so hard. I love the way you write until the sky turns a deep gray and the day has been spent in solitude and realness.
Dear Self: Thank you for giving me this chance to admire my age and wrinkles, accept my faults, tease myself gently with my idiosyncrasies, hold myself warm with my favorite sweaters.
Dear Self: I appreciate and love who I am whether with someone or with myself.
#6. “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” ― James Baldwin
James Baldwin wrote on the level of depth and heart. He swiftly focused on the corruption of racism and sexism. He heard the hatred inside of spoken and unspoken voices. He understood self-hate which led him to self-love.
When we can begin to let go of the sharp and negative words we’ve heard — those insults that have penetrated our naked body, the disappointments yelled at us with the lash of a leather belt, shaken, penalized and criticized for being who we are — we begin to “[vomit] up all the filth”.
This is exactly what is needed to empty the outer voices convincing us we are worthless and begin to fill ourselves with self-love.
#7. “The most adventurous journey to embark on; is the journey to yourself, the most exciting thing to discover; is who you really are, the most treasured pieces that you can find; are all the pieces of you, the most special portrait you can recognize; is the portrait of your soul.” ― C. JoyBell C.
To love oneself is a journey. We find ourselves in others who treat us with respect, kindness, and joy. We start to get comfortable with who we are because we know our limits and have created boundaries.
We aren’t perfect and our imperfections show us our wholeness. We love to love, and we know when to pull back and not to give ourselves away to those who would use and drain us.
We’ve purged ourselves from the voices, you aren’t good enough to be loved. And now we can say, that was a lie!
We learn to talk kindly with ourselves and understand self-love is a process.
And finally, as Nayyirah Waheed, so simply and beautifully writes:
“i like myself. when i am myself.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. My hope is you’ll find your own self-love in the qualities and gifts you have, and in the imperfections that make you perfectly whole and truly you.
Originally published on Assemblage: 7 Powerful Quotes About the Heart of Self-Love
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."