Learning to Love Yourself

There’s that old saying, that you’ve got to love yourself before you can love anybody else. I always kinda thought was a load of tosh, but really, it makes a lot of sense to me now.

To be happy in yourself, to feel whole and human, is to love yourself. Without that feeling of completeness, it’s impossible to be in a totally healthy relationship. Dependency is one of those things that creeps up on you. I read a great article which summed it up pretty well over on Elite Daily.

My point is that it’s never too late to love yourself. It’s the best thing you can do, whether you’re single or in a relationship. You’ve got to come to terms with who you are and convincing yourself that you’ve got nothing to worry about is not enough to reach that point. You have every chance of being your best self, if you only give it that chance.

The road to loving yourself is tough. I’m on that road now, struggling through most of the time. And as I’m not an expert in the area, I spoke to a few people who have it a bit more sussed out…it’s a bit of a long post, but I promise it’s all totally worth reading!

Lauren & Maddy

Our journey to self love started when we heard about a book called The Goddess Revolution by Mel Wells. We heard so many amazing reviews about it, we thought we would give it a read. It was the best thing we could have ever done. It showed us we didn’t have to keep striving to look a certain way and to just be happy and comfortable in our authentic selves, to love who we are. It helped us improve ourselves mentally and made us understand our bodies better. We now embrace who we are and we can honestly say we love ourselves 100% and it’s the best feeling.

Lauren & Maddy with Mel Wells herself!

Esther Nagle

I spent most of my adult life feeling quite unworthy of love. Queen of self sabotage, I was hell bent on self destruction, destroying myself slowly with drugs, alcohol, disastrous relationships and an inner monologue that never once acknowledged anything worth loving about myself.

This all changed when a breakdown led me to yoga teacher training. Through this life changing year I learned to let go of decades of self loathing, and learn to truly value myself. Learning to breathe properly, to relax, to sit with my emotions instead of needing to numb them, and uncovering a skill for writing I had never allowed myself to explore fully gave me the opportunity to really dig deep into myself and find self acceptance. Yoga provided me with a framework for living that allowed me to step gently through life, to treat myself and others with compassion and to look for the good in any situation instead of immediately assuming the worst.

Three powerful rules I was given are the bedrock of my self love practice, and were profoundly important through my recovery and growth….don’t judge, don’t compare, don’t beat yourself up. If you can make these your daily affirmation, and act according to them, then self love will come naturally. It won’t come easy, at first you will notice how much you do those things, but the more you try to stop, the more love and compassion you will feel.

Life with Han

self love
Han looking beautiful!

Self-love, a hard thing for anyone to do, but something that is so important, we all need to know our worth, cliché as it sounds, learn to love ourselves before someone else does.

From as young as 7 I remember picking out my ‘flaws’, and like most people, have a had a bit of a battle at learning to accept them. I’ve suffered with my mental health for a long time now, predominantly anxiety and depression, so learning to love myself was a bigger battle than I ever imagined, while I’m still not completely there yet, I’m slowly learning, and here’s how I’m doing it.

The biggest thing that I think has helped me learn to accept my flaws, is to not care so much about what other people think. I’m guilty of always worrying that everyone is laughing at my flaws, judging me for them, but in reality, they aren’t, they don’t even care. Once I realised this, I became a lot happier, also it allowed me to stop picking out every little flaw in myself, and start looking at the good things within me. I promise you, that as soon as you stop caring about other people’s opinions of yourself, you will feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Alongside this, I have also found becoming a lot more active in my lifestyle was a massive help. I’m a competitive runner, and also do a lot of strength training, when I took this up about 2 years ago, I was very unhappy with my body, but 2 years down the line, I’ve worked damn hard, and I’m finally happy with the way my body looks, and learning to love it more and more everyday. Exercise is also a great way to free your mind if like me you suffer with your mental health.

Self love is something that I will always struggle with, I’ll admit that. Despite this, I’m learning, slowly but surely.

All my love,

Han xx

Find Han on YouTube!

Lottie Atkin

I still can’t put my finger on the precise moment that I as a teenage girl started to become body conscious. It’s like flipping a switch. One day you don’t even notice your weight or your appearance, and the next it’s all you can think about. When I was nineteen I left school and went to live in India for a year to Volunteer in a blind school. Amidst the excitement and nerves of leaving home for the first time and being able to travel the world, there was another thought pushed to the back of mind: ‘I’m going to come back so skinny! Everyone’s going to be so shocked when I walk through the gates of Heathrow one year later!’

And I did. And they were.

I contracted various forms of food poisoning throughout my year in India, but most of the time I was stuffed full to the brim with delicious curries and sweet treats lovingly made by my host family. My biggest regret of my year in India was worrying about my weight throughout the year. I wish I would’ve just let myself enjoy it, realising that the size 14 figure that I went out with was lovely and curvy and healthy, and that all the foods I was eating were me experiencing a new culture. I wish that I didn’t write up all these crazy exercise routines to do in my bedroom after dinner or politely decline more food at dinner time (a massive offense in India). I wish I wasn’t constantly taking recent photos of myself and editing them with photos of myself before I left to see how much weight I’d lost. I wish I wasn’t constantly picturing myself walking through the arrival gates of Heathrow as a new shimmery size 8 me, complimenting me on how much weight I’d lost and looking quite shocked at the noticeable difference.

Because that’s exactly what happened – and it wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. In my last few months in India I contracted a pretty vicious form of salmonella while travelling through the Himalayas. I was in and out of different hospitals, vomiting at the side of the road, ringing my parents in floods of tears in the middle of the night because the pain was so bad. I lost roughly two stone in a week. I didn’t eat a solid meal for fourteen days – but who cared? I was finally skinny! It was painful but it was worth it. I would get up to go to the loo in the middle of the night to throw up for the umpteenth time and I would still stop to admire my new skeletal figure in the mirror. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that this was bad – all I could think about was that I’d lost weight – and I didn’t even need to put in the hard work! How lucky was I?

Of course, after I’d recovered and returned back to the UK, it was inevitable that I was going to gain the weight back again. For the first four weeks back at home I was glowing with all of the compliments of my weight loss, smugly shrugging my shoulders when they asked how I did it instead of confessing that it was actually due to vomiting half my body weight out during the year away. I was convinced that this was the new me, and as I stroked my newly visible rib cages, I was absolutely certain that I would never let myself go back to ‘my old self’ ever again.

But there was nothing wrong with my old self. This is something I’ve come to learn now. And I have gained back the weight since – I’ve been back in the UK for over a year now and I’m back to my size 12-14 curves. And I couldn’t be happier. Eight months ago I moved to a remote island in the Inner Hebrides to start working for the charity that sent me to India, and by this time I had well and truly gained back all the weight . At the time I didn’t know that this was the best decision I could have ever made. In my first couple of weeks I joined my new housemates on a community walk, where the organiser of the local half marathon that took place on the island every summer convinced me into entering it. Afraid of offending the locals, I optimistically, with never having run for more than two minutes without crying in my life, agreed. She even persuaded me to join her in the Great Scottish Swim a week after the half marathon, where we would swim a mile in Loch Lomond.

The start of my running and swimming journey was the start of my journey to self love. It was a struggle in the beginning as it always is for most people starting running for the first time, but about three months in to my training I was amazed at the physical changes in my body. My stomach was starting to become harder and my thighs were growing rapidly – but this didn’t even bother me. I was able to go from barely managing a 1K without becoming breathless to easily managing the 8K run home from work, pushing myself harder to run the extra mile on my long runs at the weekend. Now the half marathon is seventeen days away – and I love my body. I love it for letting me run. I love it for letting me do things that a lot of people in the world are too ill to do. I love it for letting me jump in the cold Hebridean sea at the weekend. I love it for letting me dance the traditional Scottish ceilidh dances at the local village parties. My body has for the past 21 years allowed me to do all of this – and I’m only just learning to appreciate it. So here it is – I love my body. I love my curves, lumps, bumps, cellulite, muscles, scars and marks. It is healthy and it is happy. It is strong and it can push itself further than I ever imagined it could do. Of course I still have days where I’m having a bad self love day – I can’t possibly imagine any man or woman on this planet that doesn’t have those days – but a few months ago I had a ‘fuck it’ moment. Because fuck it. Why should I care what it looks like? As long as my body lets me keep on running and swimming and dancing and going to work and loving every day then I’m happy.

self love
Left: Lottie with salmonella and right: Lottie looking much healthier, having done 8 months of swimming and running!

Rachel Foster

What have you done to overcome/learn self-love?

Positive thinking helps a lot. Accepting yourself & being kind to others. Not being bitter & jealous of prettier people as you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Such a good point! I find that so difficult myself, how do you manage to battle those thoughts if they crop up?

I’ve practiced a lot over the years. I’ve had people be nasty in the past. I know how that feels so wouldn’t want anyone to go through that. Also try to have self belief that I will be successful in my own right. And beauty in the eye of beholder- comes from within.

I love that, it makes so much more sense when you stop putting this pressure to be something you’re not. Especially with social media having such a presence in people’s lives now. Do you ever kind of ‘cleanse’ and shut off for a few days or have you managed to not let it affect you?

Yes I agree it’s a lot of pressure. Everyone has something positive to offer. Often pics are photoshopped. I tend to think they might be unhappy inside or have terrible problems. I don’t cleanse but if I felt down or zonked by social media I would 🙂

Fair enough! Anything else you’d like to add that people would find useful to know when learning self love?

Good to get to know yourself. Could ask friends or family what they think your strengths are.

Massive thank you to all of those who volunteered to share their stories with me. Apologies for such a long post but I think you’ll agree it’s incredibly useful! Please do leave a comment if you’d like to add anything!

Lilly x

3 Replies to “Learning to Love Yourself”

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