On November 15, I spent my hour-long lunch break eating my usual leftovers and doing some introspection. I realized that I was fed up. In my relationships, personal and otherwise, I’ve strived to be consistent and (impossibly) perfectly pleasing. “Show up and do all that you can to prove you’re worthy even if it means sacrificing your joy and well-being.” I ultimately spoke these words to myself with how I lived. My understanding of self-worth was dependent on how I felt others validated my performance.
My story, in this right, is not unique. Perhaps, you, too, have attached 100% value to craving others’ affirmations. Maybe, your track record for committing to people’s needs and wants is impeccable. Yet, your history of committing to self-improvement and spiritual growth isn’t nearly as robust. You are not alone!
In recent months, I’ve spent hours on YouTube watching motivational videos and sermons. I’ve taken multiple, extended breaks from social media. I have cried many tears in private, prayed, and reflected on my years of negative self-talk and endless cravings to be liked and accepted. I decided to take on a new challenge because I hungered for a positive life change.
“60 Days of Self-Love”
I self-consciously jotted these words in bubble letters inside my multi-purpose journal. I anchored this challenge with four goals:
- Cultivate routines and opportunities for self-love as a 24th birthday gift to myself. (My birthday is on January 15 – shout out to MLK Day!)
- Love myself as an indirect gift to others.
- Love myself as a way to glorify God.
- Accept grace on days when it’s difficult to love myself.
Ideally, I would go no longer than two to three days without journaling about my self-love journey.
Since beginning this challenge over a month ago, I’ve learned a few lessons about loving one’s self.
- You Are Loved: God’s precious thoughts about you outweigh the grains of sand. You are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139). He set the stars, moon, and entire universe in place; yet, he cares for you immensely, created you with significance, and crowned you with glory and honor (Psalms 8).
- Your Health Needs Attention: Maintaining awareness of your health is crucial to help you feel your best. For me, learning to better prioritize my physical and mental well-being is especially important. I worked out at the gym for the first time, something I’ve put off for a long time. I try to be more mindful of what foods best nourish me (I still treat myself to ice cream though!). Also, I refuse to let fear, shame, or even my to-do list prevent me from striving toward mental wellness.
- Reflect and Document Your Journey: A good friend gave me this advice early on. Journaling has been my primary method of reflection. Although it’s not always easy to process the challenges that come with learning self-love, it’s ultimately worth it. Writing in my journal has also been an effective way to practice expressing gratitude.
- Try Again: Remember grace and keep going when you inevitably have moments of not thriving with self-love.
- Walk It (Faith) Out: Is DJ Unk’s “Walk it Out” playing in your head too? Or is it just me? Haha, seriously though, take some risks for which faith is vital. Have you been putting off a necessary conversation with a family member or a toxic friend? Is there a new experience you’ve always wanted to try but been too scared to explore? Do you want to try wearing makeup or showing off your natural cosmetic-free face? Are you ready to say “no” or “no longer” to someone or something even though you may no longer be liked? I’ve been thinking about tough questions like these, and attempting to faith life out.
- Have Some Fun: Encourage yourself in the mirror. Dance in your living room to your favorite Michael Jackson videos. Laugh in your signature way. Take a billion selfies and post one or don’t post one. Okay, I’m exposing myself now!
Most of my self-love victories are quiet, behind-the-scenes accomplishments. The outside world can’t hear the prayers that I have with God, my bathroom pep-talks, or even the encouraging thoughts I’m beginning to meditate on in my mind. Yet, those hidden wins matter so much and will, over time, blossom into a Jessica who loves herself wholeheartedly.
This challenge began as a birthday gift to myself. Yet, I’m blessed and excited to also gift others with a reminder that all hope is not lost. Your past battles with low self-esteem do not have to define the course of your now and your future. It’s never too late to begin and re-begin the journey of self-love.