I was 24 years old when I finally began to love myself. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hating who I was. I never felt valued or appreciated growing up and these feelings of inadequacy spread to all areas of my life. Fortunately, I grew to understand that I had no control over my circumstances at the time. But I am in total control of who I am from this point on.
Likewise, all of us have life experiences that helps to shape who we are – but we need to find the strength to say, “These experiences won’t DEFINE who I am. I choose who I am.” No matter who you are, whether you were raised in a loving home or not – it can be easy to fall into the trap of forgetting to love yourself. Life might get busy, you might have many responsibilities, you might even forget that you’re important. But you are important and you do matter.
Here are 10 reasons why you can forget to love yourself and how you can put yourself first once again.
1. You felt unloved growing up, but you’re trying not to let it define you now.
For some of us, it’s not easy to love ourselves when we’ve always struggled with our definition of ‘love’. You may have had mixed messages growing up and/or a lack of positive role models. Unfortunately, this may have led you to believe that you are useless and worthless. But you are definitely not any of the horrible words that you heard uttered. Don’t let the pain of your past stop you from believing that you deserve love. You are a worthy human being and your future is in your hands.
2. You’ve been hurt recently, but you’re trying to see the best in people.
It’s not easy to see the ‘positive’ in everyone when we’ve been hurt so many times. Our self-esteem takes a beating and we question whether we’ve done anything wrong, whether we are at fault or to blame. It’s hard to love yourself when the people who we care deeply about have been making us feel anything but. But don’t let a painful friendship or relationship make you lose faith in humanity. Don’t let these relationships poison your spirit. Take each relationship as a lesson learnt and let it help you with future ones. Let these people teach you how better to treat yourself and to treat others.
3. You’re surrounded by toxic people, but you know they’re not good for you.
Sometimes we may have people in our lives that make us sad more than happy. They may bring out the worst in us and encourage us to become someone we’re not. They simply may be people we don’t need in our lives right now. But if you’re starting to realize that you’re better off without them, then you’re learning to love yourself. You are doing what’s right for you. You are thinking about your own happiness and feelings.
4. You’re used to caring about everyone else’s needs, but you are starting to understand that you are important too.
Being selfless is a great character trait to have. It means that you are kind, caring and empathetic. You are someone who thrives on making other people happy. But your needs are important too. You’re allowed to care about yourself. You’re allowed to say ‘no’ if you can’t do a favor asked of you. You’re allowed to think about the impact that this favor would have on you – because you are important. When you put yourself first, you are telling yourself, “I love myself enough to care about what’s important to me.”
5. Your life is busy, but you know you need to make more time for yourself.
All of us have responsibilities that can get in the way of caring about ourselves. We’re busy doing overtime at work, we’re rushing around with our home duties and responsibilities as a parent, we’re doing so much that our bodies are suffering. But taking time out for your emotional and mental health is imperative. By looking after your health, you will be more productive and feel more rested. Lie in bed at night with a good book, have a bath, go for a walk in the park, partake in one of your favorite hobbies – do something for you. Do it because you love yourself enough to take a well-deserved break.
6. You feel defined by your failures, but want to get back up again.
We all make mistakes. We all do things that we regret. We all get rejected in some respect, and we all fail. But failing does not mean you are a failure. Don’t let the negative experiences override the good ones. Don’t let it all stop you from getting back up again and loving yourself. You are still a lovable person, regardless of your mistakes.
7. You’re not sure what to do with your life, but you’re determined to work it out.
It’s okay if you’re feeling confused. We all do at one point or another. The fact that you’re trying to make sense of it all is what counts. Give yourself the time to work it all out. Just because you don’t know exactly where your life is heading, doesn’t mean that you should love yourself any less. Be proud that you are finding out who and what makes you happy – it’s okay to do this by getting to know different types of people and trying out different occupations.
8. You don’t feel ‘successful’ compared to everyone else, but understand that you need to focus more on your uniqueness.
Don’t let the comparisons get you down. Don’t let the money that your loved ones are making, the material possessions that they own, or their occupations make you feel that your life has less value. You are equally important and equally deserving of love. Focus on your own talents and skills. Focus on your own accomplishments and achievements. Love yourself for who you are, and remember that you have your own uniqueness to add to the world.
9. You’ve lost a loved one, but are slowly getting there.
When we’re experiencing grief and loss, it can be difficult to feel anything – let alone ‘love’. When we’re going through immense pain, we might feel that we don’t want to go on with life any more. As we’re struggling to cope, we don’t care any more about the sleep we’ve having, the food we’re eating, the pleasurable activities that we’re doing for ourselves. But you need to remember that it does matter. As painful as your life is at the moment, you still need to take care of you. You’re not selfish for still wanting to move forward and be happy. If the person who you lost meant so much to you, then you most definitely meant a lot to them. And that person would have wanted you to love yourself and to continue to look after yourself.
10. You don’t see self-love as a priority, but you realize it really needs to be one.
When life gets you down, it’s easy to forget how important it is to love yourself. It’s easy to forget that it is a priority. But you need to make it one. Loving yourself isn’t an inconvenience. It’s not about caring about you and only you. It’s about reminding yourself that no matter how busy or difficult life gets, that the love you have for yourself will give you strength no matter the challenge. That the ability to care for your own needs, to see your own worth, to take time out for yourself, will benefit who you are and those around you. By loving yourself, you are better able to make the best possible difference in this world.