Almost 7 years ago I was a newly separated girl trying to find her way after being sprung from the domesticated apron springs of a 15 year union. The girl who was seeking love without ever realizing that the love first had to start from within. The girl who was looking for her better half because she wasn’t yet whole.

And although I didn’t fully realize this at the time I did know that self love was important. It was an area of my life that I made a conscious effort. I read the daily affirmations, did the self talk and stuck post it notes around the house “you are awesome”, “you are beautiful”.

I looked in the mirror everyday and told myself I loved me.

I told myself I loved me and then allowed people into my life who didn’t represent love.

I told myself I loved me and then treated my body in a way that was contradictory.

I told myself I loved me and then ignored my inner voice telling me something needed to change.

I was living a life so toxic that I am certain that if I had stayed it would have killed me physically, emotionally and spiritually – it already was.

And one day frustrated and broken I found myself in a crumpled up mess on the floor. Crying and praying for God to send me someone amazing, to love me, to care for me – someone awesome to come into my life.

“Lord I am ready for them…I really am. Please send me someone”. Asking God to send someone to love me when I didn’t even love myself.

I was somehow missing the mark on this self love thing and then one day I came across the most impactful statement I had ever read on the subject. It was my “aha” moment – the one I had been waiting for.

“Self -love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us.”

It suddenly made sense – I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. None of the actions in my life supported the idea that I loved and cared about myself. I was living a lie.

And how many of us do this. We say the words but our actions aren’t in alignment.

We mistreat our bodies. We stay in bad relationships. We don’t make time to nurture and care for ourselves.

We say yes when we really need to say no. We try to be everything to everyone yet we aren’t being true to ourselves.

And so the work began, writing down rituals and practices of what loving myself would look like. I started with the basics – getting the proper amount of sleep, nutrition, drinking more water and exercising. I made time for prayer, reading, mindfulness and fun. I evaluated relationships in my life – letting go of the ones that were not adding to it and investing in the ones that were.

And then the hardest but most necessary part – I took the time to look into the mirror and acknowledge who I really was. Not just the great things but my weaknesses and limitations. This has been one of the toughest things that I have ever done. Being authentic takes courage and observing the things about ourselves which we may not like is painful.

And it has only been through all of these practices that I have come to a place of knowing that I was searching for something that I first needed to find within.

The truth is until we can cultivate real love for our own self, our own being, to love ourselves fully with our combinations of strengths and flaws we will never be able to love someone else.

This is a lifelong process – we are always growing and changing – discovering new strengths and limitations. We are all perfectly imperfect – it is the human condition. Embrace it.

It has taken a lot of hard work but I have found my way to a place of being whole and happy on my own. And now I am certain that it when it happens it will be the best damn love story ever written – because I took the time to start with myself.