Self Care

How I Finally Achieved Radical Self-Love, and You Can Too

Source: @arieloznyc
Source: @arieloznyc

Apologies in advance, but I’m going to start things off on a cynical note. I’ve always been suspicious of self-love as a concept—not just because it’s felt elusive for most of my life, but more so as a result of the role it’s taken on in our wellness-obsessed culture. With guided journals, aestheticized card decks, and beauty bundles marketed as tools for self-love, we’ve reached an oversaturation of self-love monetization.

I’m not surprised. It’s the fate for just about every wellness buzzword out there. For me, to actually experience the confidence, acceptance, and self-actualization that self-love promises, it took stepping away from the glitz and glam of the internet’s interpretation. I had to actually understand what self-love looked like and meant for me. 

I believe self-love ebbs and flows. It’s a deeply personal exploration of learning to appreciate all that you bring into the world. Read on for the steps I took to go from a woman prone to self-critique to a woman who leans into radical self-love every day. This is how I made my new reality. And it’s a reminder that you have the ability, strength, and power to do exactly the same.

“To actually experience the confidence, acceptance, and self-actualization that self-love promises, it took stepping away from the glitz and glam of the internet’s interpretation.”

Remember that self-love isn’t a destination

Spoiler: Self-love isn’t miraculously waking up one day to discover that all the conflicts and struggles in your life have magically sorted themselves out. Experiencing self-love doesn’t take the right workout, the perfect relationship, a rigid diet, or devoted meditation practiceFor me to experience self-love, I had to embrace the epiphany that I can practice right now. Self-love isn’t conditional. Everything in our lives doesn’t have to be perfectly sorted out to get there. (Newsflash: Life is, and will forever be, messy.)

As someone in recovery from an eating disorder, I’m familiar with the culture-driven belief that my body had to look a certain way before I could love it. But in treatment, I was challenged to change my language from critical to accepting. Suddenly, the arms I had thought were too big became the strong, loving vehicles that allowed me to wrap my nearest and dearest in a hug. And the weight I had gained around my tummy transformed into a protective, comforting shelter. Radical self-love takes a shift in perspective and choosing to show up each day with this curiosity, appreciation, and commitment to your whole self.

Identify and stand up for your needs

Radical self-love stems from concrete, intentional actions that support all areas of your well-being, happiness, and growth. Self-love requires a certain level of self-respect. And to achieve self-respect, we have to be mindful of the boundaries we set with others. Last week, I was chatting with my therapist about a relationship that was troubling me. I loved and cared for this person, but the effort and energy I put in left me feeling drained. She shared a revelatory phrase that I’ve since posted on my desk: “I can’t help them if it’s hurting me.”

As women, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we have to put others’ needs first—always. But a crucial part of self-love is believing that your needs matter just as much as anyone else’s. Trust in your inherent worth and never sacrifice your well-being. While the nuances of our personal definitions of self-respect vary, this framework is important for shaping our relationship with ourselves. Spend time reflecting on what needs and boundaries look like for you. What practices, rituals, and routines will help you experience self-love each day? Write those down and take action to follow through.

“A crucial part of self-love is believing that your needs matter just as much as anyone else’s.

Bring more of your qualities into the world

I was at dinner a few nights ago, and toward the end of the evening, we broke out a conversation card deck. It asked us to name a quality we want to bring more of into the world. I thought for a moment and realized that I’d been hiding my penchant for silliness and humor for too long. It took asking myself that question to truly realize that I’d been letting this part of myself lie dormant. I love to laugh, and there’s little else that brings me more joy than to see someone crack a smile because of something I said. 

Unfortunately, up until this point, I had been harboring a long-held belief that I was supposed to be quiet, serious, and reserved to be taken seriously. But self-love told me to meet myself exactly where I was, exactly as I am. So ask yourself: Is there a truth about yourself that you’re keeping hidden to please others? Reflect on the ease and freedom you would feel to experience every day as your most authentic self. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Be open to the new realizations that come with self-love

Stepping into self-love comes with a healthy dose of vulnerability and the courage to be wholly, authentically you. That will likely bring a lot of changes into your life. While we might default to resisting the discomfort of change, let it flow through you. It can be hard to shift the way you’ve always done things, but allowing these new rhythms into your life can help you experience more self-love each day.

I track these changes in my journal and take note of when I’m tempted to resist this growth. Also, my partner is my accountability buddy when I’m tempted to choose critique if self-love feels like a challenge. It can be hard to slip into my workout gear when I’m having a bad body image day. But sharing how aligned and connected my body and mind feel post-workout helps me keep this habit. And when I’m not hungry but know that I need a nutrient-dense dinner, journaling about this conflict has helped me view cooking as a nourishing, loving act.

Commit to the practice of self-love

Self-love doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t something that we can wait to start practicing when our lives are perfect. The best time to begin your self-love journey is today. Right now. So let these tips guide your way. Some days may be easier than others, but know that you’re always on the path of growing into a more loving and forgiving version of yourself. Self-love is a commitment. It’s something you can return to any time you feel you’ve forgotten these tips. So start today, and embrace the inevitable twists and turns toward a kinder, gentler state of inner peace.