five questions you CAN ask YOURSELF RIGHT NOW to GAUGE your self-love
“Forgive me hands,
for I have held everyone but myself”
~ Janne Robinson
Everyone under the sun seems to be bragging about how much they love themselves these days. Just search #selflove on Instagram and you’ll get a plethora of gym selfies with colorful captions plastered under them by well-meaning individuals. It’s a collective movement, one I’m grateful to both observe and be apart of. But like any idea that is rapidly popularized, I find myself breaking it apart in an attempt to understand what loving oneself actually looks like in action.
Moreover, why is it important to love yourself? Can’t you just fake it till you make it and hope other people don’t catch on?
“Here’s the ugly truth: when you don’t love yourself, you’re easier to manipulate and abuse.”
I know that’s not an easy pill to swallow, and perhaps not always the case. But when we give away our power in relationships, it’s usually because we haven’t practiced loving ourselves enough to realize what’s actually happening.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I had a drink with someone who openly admitted they enjoyed giving their power away. Yet, we see it all the time. The friend who keeps taking back the guy who cheated on her, or the colleague who chases the girl who’s dangled him by a string for months. We wonder how our friends can tolerate supervisors who walk all over them, and coworkers who never get the promotions they apply for. We watch otherwise decently intelligent people take less than they deserve and wonder what keeps them from snapping out of it.
What we don’t examine as closely however, is their relationship with themselves and how that affects how they navigate life. We have to love and respect ourselves first to show other people how to do it.
A relationship with self is no different than a relationship with another person. Before you can decide whether you love yourself, you have to know if you like yourself first. To do that, you need to examine who you are when no one else is watching, because ultimately that’s when we’re the realest. Do you like you? Do your core values align with your actions? We like people who are congruent...those who fulfill their promises and whose lives amount to something we aspire to. In fact, that’s the basis for most of the friendships we choose.
“Before you can love yourself, you have to decide if you like yourself first.”
The problem with trying to love yourself before you like yourself, is that it skips a crucial step. We end up feeling frustrated and defeated because this ‘love yourself’ idea begins to taste a lot like other bullshit we’ve been prescribed by self-help fads.
I’ve come up with five questions you can use to gage your self-likeability. It’s important to be honest as you move through them. It’s likely that some judgment might arise. When it does, kindly dismiss it and focus on answering the question. We sabotage ourselves without meaning to, but the more often we check in and take note of it, the more progress we can continue to make. “Name it to tame it,” as they say.
1. Do you enjoy your own company?
Most people are terrified of their own company. The silence is too much bear, or worse, they claim boredom overcomes them when they’re alone. Is there a hobby that used to take up your interest that’s been pushed aside in recent years? Hanging out alone (and enjoying it), is one of the best ways to learn how to like yourself. We decide we like other people when we hang out them. By that logic you’d need to have quality time with yourself to see if you enjoy your own company. Being around others can be fun and motivating. If you’re a socialite like me, then you feed off the energy of other humans. But external validation is like filling a cup with water. Without the cup, there is nothing to hold the water. You are that cup—and if you don’t maintain the integrity of its shape, soon everything you fill it with will leak. And you’ll find yourself feeling emptier each time as a result.
Learn how to relish your own company. There are things we do better in the company of ourselves, like reading a book, writing, or simply enjoying our favorite music. It’s not always easy to hang out alone, and sometimes you must be more intentional about it than others. When you’re in a relationship, it can be tempting to blame your partner for a lack of alone time. But you have to cultivate that space for yourself if you care about it, and you should. Remember, you are the cup, and other people are the water. Without the cup, there is nothing to hold the water.
2. Do you keep the promises you make to yourself?
Most of us would agree we’re not a fan of people who break their word. But how often are we accountable to the vows we make to ourselves? It feels productive to write down goals and to-do lists, but if we’re not actively crossing things off of those lists then they’re pointless.
It’s easier to break promises you make to yourself because the only person holding you accountable is you. But here’s the thing: we can’t like a person we don’t respect. So if you’re actively failing to accomplish what you set out to, and you’re doing nothing to change that, then you clearly lack self-respect.
If you find yourself consistently putting off certain tasks, it could be good ole’ fear. Often, we don’t feel capable of achieving certain goals…and usually it’s the goals we care about most that fall into this category. We might be waiting for that sweet moment when “it makes more sense.” But if your mind can conceive of a goal, then it can surely conceive of the action needed to make it happen. Practice leaving your comfort zone at least once every day, and over time you’ll accumulate the courage you need to go after what you want.
Another reason you may be pushing off your goals is that they’re too broad. You might need to break them down into smaller tangible steps.
Finally, it could be an issue of logistics. Take a step back and assess whether some of these tasks can realistically fit into your current schedule. If not, the loving thing to do is allowing yourself space to come back to these goals when you have less on your plate.
But if you’ve examined each of these possibilities honestly, and have come to terms with the harsh truth that it’s an issue of procrastination and/or careless time management, then you need to become more cognizant about how you prioritize. You have one life, one. In the words of Seth Godin, “There’s no prince coming for you. You have to save you.”
3. Are you cool with your inner critic?
We all have an inner dialogue that goes on pretty much for the duration of our waking lives. Usually, it’s a combination of things we heard our parents say about us early in life infused with a self-image we’ve developed over time. Suffice to say, whether you’ve become acquainted with it or not, you have an inner critic that helps you judge your self-worth everyday. This is a voice none of us can silence or kill, so it’s best to find ways to befriend it instead.
But how can I become friends with someone who criticizes me, you say. Think about it: you don’t just unfriend people because they challenge you, right? If you do, then you’re missing out on serious growth opportunities. Similarly, with practice you can learn to take your self-criticism with a grain of salt. We all make mistakes. Exercising personal responsibility can help us avoid those mistakes in the future and approach similar situations more wisely. However, if we’re constantly fixated on what we do wrong without celebrating what we do right, then it’s time to have a serious sit-down with our inner voices.
My high school volleyball coach had a saying when we made mistakes on court: “Shake it off. Make it up.” Even though I loathed competitive sports as a child (and still do), that saying stuck with me and served me in many other areas of my life. There’s always a different lens to look at your fuckups through. Learn to use a lens that serves you in the future, because what’s done is done, but you always have some control over what happens next.
4. Do you know how to say no?
The first chapter of my book, Eliminate, Meditate, Create is called “The Art of Saying No.” In it, I explore different ways we can eliminate the unnecessary by effectively saying no to the tedious parts and people of our lives. How many of us have agreed to a plan we intuitively knew we’d want to cancel on? How many of us still go despite wanting to cancel? Of course, sometimes forcing ourselves to go out can be a good thing. I’ve had amazing and unexpected memories on days I pushed myself out the door. But there are other situations in which saying no would’ve been the more appropriate and dignified response. Failing to say no in our personal and professional lives leaves us feeling depleted and defeated. One of the toughest areas I had to learn this in was at work. I found myself constantly taking on more projects I wasn’t excited about without being adequately paid because I wasn’t confident enough to speak up to clients. The day I decided to negotiate my workload and prices better, my job and life transformed. Suddenly, I was being paid what I wanted for work I actually cared about.
Often, the people in our lives push us over the edge with their expectations. It can feel offensive to turn someone down for a favor, whether it’s a customer, a friend, or even a partner. But if we wish to maximize our finite energy and time, we have to learn how to say no. While it may feel uncomfortable or even dangerous in the moment, it will free us up to work on the things we’re passionate about and will instill a sense of self-worth.
5. Are you too concerned with what other people think?
If I had a dime for every time I worried about what other people thought of me, I’d be a retired millionaire on a sunny coast somewhere. But the truth is, like many people, I care a lot about how I’m perceived, and I’ve had to train myself to let go of that over the years. In grade school, I dreamt of being popular. I would marvel at the girls with silky hair and somehow perfect teeth and skin, and imagine what it felt like to be them. To have every boy in class at your beck and call. I was a chubby kid with frizzy hair, an unforgiving unibrow, and a gap between my front teeth teeth. I did everything in my power to be liked, yet always found myself at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
Luckily, puberty came in for the rescue, and my reluctant parents finally agreed to get me braces. I also developed a fascination (which I now might call an obsession) with nutrition and calories and eventually lost my baby fat. I also started modeling which had always felt like a far-fetched childhood dream. But becoming more attractive and dating guys I liked didn’t solve my self-worth issues. The problem is when you constantly wait for feedback from other people as means to determine your worth, it never ends. There’s always another opinion that doesn’t vibe with what you want to hear. We are biologically wired to pay attention to criticism because historically, people’s perception of us and our survival were directly correlated. All it takes is one bad comment to ruin a streak of self-worth if you allow your value to be judged by other people. That doesn’t mean you should just be an asshole and burn every bridge you cross for the fuck of it. We’re relational creatures who depend on connecting with each other for well-being. However, allowing other people to tell us who we are is a set-up for failure. It’s also feeding grounds for narcissists and manipulative people to use our vulnerability against us. Be true to yourself, and decide who you are before anyone else has a chance to tell you. It’s only when you’ve come in touch with your truth that you can have a backbone against people who want to knock you down. And if you’re creating a life of worth, trust me, you will encounter such people.
In conclusion, loving yourself shouldn’t just be a trendy attitude; it’s a way of life. When we tell someone we love them, it’s one word we use to encompass the quality of the relationship we’re co-creating. So when you say you love yourself, it should also be the result of a high quality relationship co-created within you. Everything you do from the time you spend alone to work on your projects, to keeping the promises you make yourself, managing your inner critic, saying no when it serves you, and detaching from the opinions of other people, are solid examples of putting self-love into action. If we succeed at doing these things consistently, we’ll find that living a life we’re proud of and feeling good about ourselves becomes second nature. Consequently, we’ll position ourselves to receive the blessings we deserve, and we’ll set the standard for how we want to be treated. Remember, you are the cup that holds all the experiences and people that life has to offer. So respect the integrity of your cup by embracing self-love not just in how you think, but in all that you do.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!