Have we all been online for long enough — and accosted with self-help promotional trailers for as many years — to get the memo that “loving yourself” is important stuff? It’s the genesis of a life-well-lived: the moment you realize that nobody else is responsible for your happiness but you.
Here’s the thing: you love in other people what you love in yourself; you hate in other people what you can’t see in yourself. Our little worlds are constructed by images of ourselves.
We are the base point and the sounding board and the backdrop against which we experience everything else. Sounds like some more hoity-toity existentialist crap, but the moment you understand this is the moment magic starts to happen.
When you “love yourself” — which doesn’t mean to necessarily hold yourself in the highest regard, but to see yourself fully and honestly, to take care of yourself, to heal your past, to address your present, to take action where it need be taken — you’re able to love others.
You’re able to identify what you want and then focus on how to get it. You release yourself from the battles you were never going to win: the ones where you’re seeking someone else to make you feel happy, waiting for a promotion to make you feel worthy (you know how this game goes).
Here are eight ways to love yourself, even if you don’t fully understand what it means:
Value Your Truth Over Someone Else’s Discomfort
This shouldn’t be confused with “denying or ignoring someone else’s discomfort” in favor of your oblivion, but rather knowing that nobody is going to speak up for you.
You must communicate how you are feeling, what you are thinking and what you want if you ever want to see it considered.
You can’t remain mum and expect people to psychically understand or act on that assumed understanding. You must be your own lobbyist, advocate, counselor, and protector. You must value yourself enough to become those things, too.
Stop Making Your Opinion The Median Of Everybody Else’s
You become the average of what you’re surrounded by the most: your group of friends, the people who raised you, the media you consume.
Your opinions, and therefore, beliefs, thoughts, and ideas — you know, the things that ultimately shape your life — do too.
Most people reach to do what’s seen as universally acceptable within their circle. When you feel resistance or discomfort because who and what you are isn’t aligned with that, follow it. It is a message. Love yourself enough to listen.
Realize That Being Whole Is Not Being Perfect, It’s Just Being Aware Of Every Part Of You
People like to go on and on about how finding love isn’t about seeking someone to fill a gap between you, but to coexist with your whole — and while that’s beautiful and true and elusively sought, there’s something a bit truer that is rarely communicated, and it is that your “whole self” doesn’t necessarily have to be your “healed self.”
It’s just you being in full awareness of who you are, how you are, what you respond to and in what ways. That’s being whole. The rest of your life will be spent shifting these aspects, but the beginning is simply knowing.
Treat Yourself The Way You Would Someone You Love
Take care of yourself the way you would someone you love, too. Make sure you get enough sleep and exist in nice, clean surroundings and eat food that’s good and good for you.
If you have a thought that’s not critiquing and self-improving but rather just negative for the sake of degrading yourself, imagine saying that thing about someone you love; you wouldn’t. Don’t hold yourself to a different standard.
Realize That Nobody Is Going To Save You
No love, no God, no amount of money is going to save you from yourself. You are the only person who has control over your life.
This is not just the most liberating thing you’ll do, it’s essentially the one liberation you must choose for yourself. Because there are a million ways you’re assigning control to other people, completely unknowingly.
People wait lifetimes for other things to save them — for love to make them feel. For some religious deity to outstretch a hand and save them from suffering.
For their sense of purpose to hinge on the promise of a tomorrow, an afterlife, who knows. The point is: your life will change the day you change it, not the day you’ve changed yourself enough so to convince someone else to do it for you.
Listen To What You Are Trying To Tell You
When you’re in pain, you’re communicating with yourself. Discomfort and upset and “bad vibe-ness” doesn’t arise so we can just ignore it until it’s better — it’s the very powerful way we tell ourselves: there is a better way.
There is another option that I am not yet choosing. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t feel discomfort if you didn’t know something better to already be true.
Figure Out What Could Make Your Life Better — And Then Do It
Once you know the truth, act on it. The interim between knowing and doing is the space where suffering thrives. If you can identify a friend being a consistent and actively negative force in your life, break the hell up with them.
Start looking for new jobs. Start eating better. Start sleeping more. Start opening your heart and accepting invitations and creating some of your own. If you want your life to be different, make it that way.
Figure Out What Would Make You Truly Proud Of Yourself — And Then Do It
These are the building blocks of genuine confidence: decide what would make you — not your ego — feel like an unstoppable raging badass, and then do that thing. Then find another “thing” and do it again.
And again. And again. These moments may be small, but your feet will feel enormous. You’ll have created a life in which you are the heroine of your own story, not the victim or reluctant, disengaged protagonist.
So few people live within the roles they feel the world has assigned to them, without ever realizing that they were writing the book all along.
This article was originally published by bustle.