Self-love is probably the most important part of living a life full of joy and fulfillment, yet I feel it can be so underrated. Self-love is the beginning of everything wonderful in life. Your relationships, goals, dreams, accomplishments, and general attitude about the world all start with self-love. It took me over three decades to realize this, but I am glad I finally did.

During the early years of my life, I felt that I was less worthy than others. I was constantly dwelling on the fact that my friends were smarter, more talented, more popular, and more beautiful than myself. My friends excelled at everything they tried and were well regarded by everyone. They always had the best boyfriends and got plenty of male attention. This was not the case for me.

From a young age, I was bullied for being the fat kid. Pair that with having a very strong personality and, boom, recipe for disaster. Because I felt like I was worthless compared to my peers, I was constantly seeking attention. I could tend to be loud and boisterous, which got me attention but not that kind I was craving. All I wanted was to feel like I fit in, but I never quite got there.

There feelings of worthlessness continued from my childhood, through my teens and twenties. Over time they got progressively worse, frequently getting to the point where I would go into a deep depression. How was everyone else living these amazing lives? Why was I never good enough? What did I need to change about myself to finally feel like I fit in or to become desirable to a partner? These thoughts constantly swirled through my head. They led to poor decision making and far too much alcohol consumption.

I spent most of my life allowing my perception of other people’s thoughts of me to dictate my thoughts and behavior. The comparison game was one of my favorites, which become more amplified as social media further developed. Scrolling and scrolling on Facebook and Instagram was almost like a drug. I would pick up my phone for a five-minute break and go down a 30-minute hole admiring the lives of all the people I followed.

Every time I did this, I felt my life paled in comparison. It was such an unhealthy way to live. As I entered into adulthood, friends began telling me that I needed to love myself before anyone else could love me. I thought it was such a cliché, stupid saying and hated any time someone said it to me. I new friends who were just as insecure as I was, so how were they able to thrive while I wasn’t?! I basically thought life was not fair and if I changed enough about myself that I would finally feel good about myself and be desirable to the world.

It took my first panic attack, a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, and years in therapy to finally start to see my friends were right all along. After years of my therapist hammering into my head the importance of self-love, I finally started listening to her. Instead of picking myself apart and tearing myself down while comparing myself to others, I started to think about the special qualities I possessed. My therapist led me through exercises that forced me to think about and write down my talents and strengths. If I am being honest, I hated it, and it still makes me uncomfortable.

When you are used to dissecting and criticizing every part of yourself, it feels wrong to focus on all the positive traits you possess. I personally found it difficult to call to mind even the simplest things that made me proud of myself. I would frequently default to “I am a good cat mom,” because I felt confident that was at least true. However, saying I am a good cat mom does not say much about my contributions to the world.

Slowly, but surely, I started to list off more and more tiny traits that I thought made me a good person. I still felt unworthy, unlovable, and like a burden on friends and family, but the work in and outside of therapy was starting to help. It took months of practice, but my confidence was starting to build, and it felt foreign but amazing. I was starting to see how a little bit of self-love could create great change in my life and wanted to share a few of the benefits.

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Heals Your Soul

Self-love helps to heal your soul. After years of feeling unworthy and unlovable, I became so depressed. It made me impatient, mean, jealous, wild and led to quite a few questionable decisions. At points, I hated myself and the person I was becoming. I was hurting family and friends because of the way I felt about myself, and it was not fair.

Once I started to love parts of myself, I became a more joyous and positive person. Instead of constantly wearing this mask of happiness, I was emitting real sunshine from inside my soul. My jealously and envy became replaced with feelings of love and appreciation. I was calmer, more patient, made better decisions, and my low periods became further and further between. It was the beginning of a beautiful transformation.

Be Vulnerable

Self-love allows you to be vulnerable without fear. When you love yourself fully for who you are, you are more willing and able to share candidly. By sharing your truths with others, you can build a greater sense of trust and understanding in your relationships. The connections you have with family and friends become more genuine because being vulnerable gives the other person permission to do the same.

When I started to discuss my struggles with anxiety and the ways I had felt about myself in the past, my friends started to share some of their demons as well. All along I thought I was completely alone on this journey called life, but really, I had plenty of kindred spirits by my side the entire time. Through these heart-to-heart conversations, friends have become more like family and family more like friends. It has made my heart so full.

Boosts Confidence

Self-love gives you the confidence to go for your wildest goals and dreams. If you asked me five years ago if I ever thought I would write a book and share my deepest, darkest secrets, I would have called you insane. When I moved from Columbus, OH to Charlotte, NC, I thought “what luck, I can start a whole new life where no one knows anything about me,” and I kept a lot of my story very private.

In particular, I did not want anyone to know I had ever suffered with my weight or that I had basically never had a boyfriend other than some short relationships in high school. I was so afraid of being judged that I kept it to myself. As I gained confidence and comfortability with certain people, I allowed them to learn my story. Ten years later, I decided to put all that and then some into a book for the entire world to see.

I decided to love myself enough to go for the dream. I wanted to write a book to help others like myself feel like they had a place to belong. I wanted to share my story to show others that it is ok to openly discuss the trials and tribulations of life without fear of being judged, because no matter what has happened to you, you are still an incredible and worthy being with an important story to tell.

I wanted to advocate tirelessly for mental health awareness and support for those who live with a mental health condition. Through my writing I hoped to offer some healing words and hope for those out there fighting the good fight through recovery. Without some confidence and self-love, I would have never written the first page, let alone published a book on Amazon.

Helps Process Emotions

Self-love allows you to process your emotions more easily. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you are more in touch with your emotions and more willing to express them openly. This is huge for your mental health. Bottling everything up inside inevitably leads to disaster and can worsen mental health conditions.

When you operate from a space of self-love, you allow your emotions to flow. Because you are more in touch with your emotions, you can anticipate the ways in which you need to care for yourself at certain times. You find healthy outlets to express them through crying, journaling, therapy, reading, etc. You make self-care a priority and take pride in your emotional, mental, and physical health. Operating in this manner helps improve stress levels and anxiety, aiding in the holistic treatment of your mental health.

Establish a Healthier Lifestyle

Self-love encourages you to make better decisions. For me, self-love has led to a much healthier lifestyle. I used to want to go out, party, and drink almost every night, and on the nights I did not feel like going out, I wanted to sit at home on the couch and drink a bottle (or two) of wine. Drinking was my way of escaping reality and had begun a terrible habit.

At the time, I thought I was just a normal 20-some year old who wanted to drink and have a good time, little did I know I was just avoiding all the unpleasant parts of my existence. I thought the alcohol was giving me confidence and making me happy, but really it was just lowering my inhibitions and leading to bad choices. After years of the behavior, it started severely impacting my mental health. I was having panic attacks in the middle of the night and was not wanting to get out of bed in the morning.

I was making poor nutrition decisions and over-exercising to make up for the extra calories. Both of those things were unhealthy and destroying my body. I also believed I could not possibly have a good time without some drinks, which was insane. I was a mess, and my anxiety was out of control.

After I started focusing on self-love, I chose to implement more positive habits. I drastically cut back the amount of alcohol I was consuming. That alone was a life changing decision. I slept better, did not have night-time panic attacks anymore, woke up feeling refreshed and energized, and saved a ridiculous amount of cash. I stopped drinking caffeine, which helped with my generalized anxiety disorder, helped me feel less on edge during the workday and helped me sleep more peacefully at night. I was eating healthier and working out for an hour or less a day. I was not blowing hundreds of dollars a week of drunk, late-night online shopping either. All around, my life was improving for the better.

If I did not begin to love and respect myself, I probably would have never made these decisions. I would have continued believing I needed outside influence to make myself feel good and never would have found the peace I have on the side. Self-love got me to this place of contentment.

Nothing can replace the feelings of self-love, self-confidence, and self-satisfaction. I used to rely entirely on the opinions of others, but now, I try to focus more on my opinion of myself, how I feel, and why I feel it. Self-love has transformed the way I view myself and the world and has allowed me to grow closer to the woman I want to be.

I challenge you to take a look on the inside and start to celebrate all the weird and wonderful things that make you uniquely you because there is a special place for you on this earth and only you can fill it.

Share in the comments: What’s something you love about yourself?