Put aside what others think of you. Love yourself for who you are.
We hear these words all the time, from self-help articles to your parents, from motivational posters to celebrity Instagrammers as they publish yet another picture of their boobs spilling out of tiny tops.
As I’ve been struggling with some insecurities lately, I tried to put that piece of advice into practice. I chant to myself silently every day to love myself, to stop comparing myself to others, and to stop being so hard on myself. As days passed, my mind became a psychotic up and down of ‘yes! I am the master of my own destiny and well, screw everyone’ to ‘who am I trying to kid? I’m nothing compared to x, y and z and I hate myself’.
It’s becoming increasingly evident to me just how unhealthy this is. I find myself setting ridiculous goals in every aspect of life – to be a multi-millionaire, look like a model, write like Oscar Wilde, and cook like a domestic goddess among many others.
A healthy person (mentally and emotionally) strives to be a little better in some way every day, focusing on the lessons learnt from the process more than the goal. An unhealthy person focuses more on the goal and feels self-hatred for not being there, which more often than not casts a shadow over the learning process.
I’m not a psychologist or qualified counsellor, but I would still like to share with you what has worked for me.
And here it is.
Surround yourself with people who love you, and self-love will follow naturally.
After all, we are social beings who live, work, play and die within communities. It’s literally impossible “not to care” about what others think of you, unless you’re a psychopath or a liar. If everyone around you hated you, it’s unlikely that you could ever come to love yourself no matter how hard you try.
There are always standards that we set for ourselves, which we feel the need to live up to. This human need to conform, please, achieve and flaunt is something that we can’t change. What we can change, however, is who sets these standards for us.
You can surround yourself with people you respect and care about, who still want you to be the best you can be but love you for who you are. They will support you through the process, compliment you on your progress, and reprimand you if you’re doing something that is harmful to yourself. At the end of the day, even if you are bankrupt, or have put on 20 pounds, they will still hug you and laugh with you without caring about your empty wallet or double chin.
As a result, you will be a happier person, because despite the tough times you would inevitably have to go through, the things that matter will still stick around. Friends, family, love, support and acceptance.
On the flip side, you can surround yourself with people who don’t really give a crap about you. It can go two ways. 1) you find yourself in a new community that’s obsessed with being millionaires, so you feel the pressure to set the same goal for yourself, or 2), you already established this goal, so you tell yourself, I’m going to hang around these people who all want to millionaires, because that’s what I want. When you fall behind, they look at you with disdain and secretly (or not so secretly) celebrate being one step ahead of you. When you fail, they abandon you because you’re no longer of use to them or make them look bad. They won’t remind you to stick to the right path if you attempt something dodgy with taxes, as long as the monetary rewards are great. It becomes all about the goal, and you can’t love yourself till you’re there. The point is, they just don’t care about you and you wouldn’t have the things that matter. Friends, family, love, support and acceptance.
So the point here is really to figure out who the people that matter to you in life are, and to whom you matter in return.
Then stick to them like chewing gum in hair.
It’s not just about what you can gain from them. You have to return the favor as well. Motivate them to reach their goals, hug them when they run into a roadblock, and still love them every day for being exactly who they are.