They say that to be loved, you must first love yourself. I've long felt that was unrealistic, and really pretty mean, but I've done my best.
And I've failed, for years.
See, loving other people comes easily. It's almost a natural progression. But self-love? That takes work, and it's so much easier to not.
We feel like we have evidence that we're not deserving of love. People leave, or don't love us the way we'd like. The unconditional thing we crave is long in coming, so we believe the shitty bill of goods the universe seems to have served up, and we withhold love from ourselves.
But I'd like to suggest a different tack, and it's one I've discovered quite by accident. It was a few years ago when, in a fit of self loathing, I realized the way I was talking to myself. It was pretty heinous; I would never treat a friend the way I was treating myself. So I tried to be a little nicer to me. Just a little. I became more conscious of my self-talk. And yeah, I started looking in the mirror and pointing out something nice.
It's getting easier. It's becoming natural. Maybe it's age that's allowing me to become more comfortable in my skin, but I am becoming my biggest fan.
It was just an hour or so ago that I was talking to a friend of mine about my marriage, and she said she'd like to meet my ex. "I'd like to meet the man," she said, "who took a pass on you." Truth is, he and I travel on completely different paths, and I could never have become this version of me had I remained with him.
I've learned through practice to really, truly love myself where I am. It's not a perfect love - there is no such thing - but it's as close as I've ever known.
So to me, there are two secrets: 1. Start loving yourself, as best as you can, as often as you can. 2. Stay close to a tribe who loves you big, exactly as you are.
Lather, rinse, repeat.