Photo by Anna Sastre
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Pronounce the I.

Thesaurus.com and I were on good terms, until I plunked “self-love” in its search bar and it retorted with “narcissism” and “vainglory.” Then we broke up.

In an attempt to avoid mercilessly repeating myself, I sought a worthy substitute, like “-care” or “-respect.” I should’ve known better. It’s not the thesaurus’ fault—it’s the result of a damaged culture. If I love myself, I’m a narcissist. If I don’t, well, I’m no different than the self-loathing masses.

The saddest truth is, at 25 years old (or any age), self-acceptance is a rare achievement. Because the world prepares us to fail. ‘I love me’ should not be harder than ‘I love you.’ With either, one must first pronounce the ‘I.’

As a person, society teaches me to suppress my individuality.

Society teaches me to feel embarrassed about my choices. Society teaches me to associate my weight with my worth. Society teaches me to question my intelligence. Society teaches me to adhere to gender roles. Society teaches me to feel inferior to others. Society teaches me to downplay my success. Society teaches me to lower my standards.

Society teaches me to be ashamed of myself.

Um. No.

Long ago, and despite all of it, I cultivated a relentless self-love that couldn’t dissipate if the cosmos willed it. And I’m proud of it. Loving myself is my greatest accomplishment, and an unapologetic middle finger to the powers that be.

But I don’t know how I did it—I don’t know how I combatted the onslaught of negativity and social pressure. The ‘when’ is equally puzzling. Truthfully, I can’t recall a moment of my life when I felt uncomfortable in my skin. The ease with which I accepted myself seems incomprehensible. And quite frankly, a little unfair.

Perhaps it had everything to do with my natural inclination towards loving, and my person was no exception. Perhaps my desire to knock the system was enough motivation to rise above the bullshit. Regardless, it happened. I am grateful for this gift—by loving myself wholly, I gave myself freedom.

I want this for everyone, if only for the selfish reason of no longer having to watch my loved ones struggle with themselves while I fail to scream their value above the deafening roar of insecurities, unkindness, and their own self-deprecation. I want to feel confident that a mate as whole as I am exists for me, so I can quiet my fear of settling.

My patience is dwindling. It’s lonely here waiting for everyone to catch up. 

As a fixer, I wish I could solve the world’s problems. I wish I could throw humanity on my back and carry the weight of the world so that no one would have to feel sadness. So that no one would have to feel inadequate. So that everyone could recognize the injustice of allowing another to determine their value. I wish I could single-handedly annihilate the system that makes loving oneself an impossible task.

I’m too much of a realist to think this feasible. I know I can’t, and it’s frustrating.

A friend told me once that I was gifted with the ability to love myself sooner than most to serve as an example for those around me—a sort of inspiration—so that when others embark on their own quest for self-love, I can act as their coach, and their cheerleader.

I cried in the middle of a food court.

Probably because I’d never felt more certain of my purpose in life, or the function of this blog. More likely because I looked like a train wreck, it was a bad day, and the flock of 14-year-olds rummaging through $1 thong bins at Rue21 were witness to my shameless emotional breakdown.

I cannot save the world; I accept this. But I can hope that my daily demonstration of self-love, and self-care, and self-respect will inspire others to accept themselves, and revel in their uniqueness. I can hope that, as a single entity, I can contribute something important.

And while I cannot articulate my exact process for achieving this wholeness, I can share the commandments which guide my practice every single day.

I will acknowledge and accept my weaknesses as I acknowledge and accept my strengths.
I am a single entity composed of both strengths and weaknesses, and without them, I am not myself. Those are the nuances that make me unique, and I choose to embrace them.

I will speak to myself kindly.
I am worthy of an internal dialogue that is nothing less than encouraging, supportive, and kind. I will speak to myself with the same consciousness with which I speak to others.

I will forgive myself.
I am not perfect. How I respond to my failure is more important than the failure itself. I am worthy of compassion and forgiveness.

I will appropriately distribute my fucks.
Mark Manson said it best. In my life I have given a fuck about many people and many things. I have also not given a fuck about many people and many things. And those fucks I have not given have made all the difference.

I will allow myself to be human.
I will make mistakes. I will fall down. I will feel things. I am not weaker for any of it.

I will celebrate my small wins as I celebrate my big wins.
An accomplishment, no matter the size, is an accomplishment. My smallest wins propel me forward, and I recognize them for doing so. I am grateful for both.

I will step outside my comfort zone.
Because it’s important for personal growth, and I am too stubborn to stay.

I will surround myself with those who add value to my life.
I am the sum of those around me, and I wish to be surrounded by love and light. There exists people who will devote their energy to destroying my progress; there is no room for them here.

I will treat others with love and respect.
I will never know the struggles of others as intimately as I know my own, and I have no authority to determine their value. How I treat others is a direct reflection of what lives within me. Everyone is deserving of love and respect.

I will nourish my mind, body, and soul.
I will make an effort to fill myself with food, drink, and knowledge that nourishes me, and makes me thrive. Like chocolate cake, and thoughtful fiction. And I will make an effort to avoid causing harm.

I will turn off and inward.
Life is a relentless storm of to-dos. I am worthy of relaxation. Every day, I will grant myself a moment of peace to transcend the chaos.

I will ask for help.
I am not superwoman.

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