For the first 18 years of my life, I shielded myself from exposing my deepest fears and anxieties, trying so hard to please others and meet the expectations of those around me. I wanted to break out of the cycle so badly, but in order to do so, I had to do the single most painful and demanding thing I had ever done: learn to accept and love myself for all that I am.
My Journey to Self-Love
I was raised by traditional Vietnamese parents with strongly-held gender views. Within the home, I was constantly reminded that my brother was the smart and honourable child, the one who will lift the family out of poverty. I, too, wanted to be a hero but was always told that I could never be as capable or successful as him. To them, there were things women could do and things they couldn’t. As he went on to receive love and admiration for every single thing he did in life, I disappeared into the shadows with shoes that he had left behind. Shoes that were biologically impossible for me to fill.
My struggle with myself continued outside of the home as I went on to face merciless racism in the schoolyard as one of few Asian people at a primarily Caucasian school. All I wanted was to fit in somewhere. Anywhere. I was plagued by the one reoccurring question throughout my entire adolescence: will I ever be enough?
I found relief from the issues I had with myself after having the opportunity to travel. I worked hard, I travelled early and I travelled often. It opened my eyes to new perspectives and challenged me to rethink everything I had learned and been told growing up. Travel enabled me to reflect on my past, to recognise what was broken and finally make the decision to boldly step into my life and be exactly who I am.
I could share so many different stories of people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had that lead to a turning point in my life, but we’ll have to save that for another post. Today I want to share the things I learned over the years, the choices I’ve made and continue to make every day, that have taught me to love and accept myself more and more each day. Although your insecurities may arise from different life experiences than the ones I went through, I hope that what I’ve learned can still be applicable to you.
What My Journey Has Taught Me About “Loving Yourself”
Loving yourself is realising that external approval and validation feel great, but should not be your main source of motivation, inspiration or drive. We must let go of the standards of success that our parents, culture and society have placed on us, and define it by our own terms. Making yourself proud, above all else, should be your first priority.
Loving yourself is recognising that what other people prefer or reject—your gender, your race, your appearance—has nothing to do with you. Just because someone doesn’t approve of you doesn’t make you any less worthy of love and compassion.
Loving yourself is making your needs a priority, even if it means you will disappoint others. You simply can’t please everyone and the people who really care about you will always come around.
Loving yourself is saying farewell to all the things that aren’t good for you. Others’ expectations of you. Those friends that seem nice but are somehow making you feel guilty. The job that might pay well but is making you truly unhappy. It’s saying goodbye to the things that should feed you, but are instead, holding you back.
Loving yourself is choosing to stop indulging in self-destructive activities. It means to stop engaging in negative self-talk, group gossip, and comparing yourself to others—no matter how addictive it can be.
Loving yourself is understanding that everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. She may be a great athlete but I have business acumen. He may be absolutely hilarious but I am artistically talented. We all fail in some areas of our lives but we also succeed in many others.
Loving yourself is understanding that outer beauty isn’t everything. The best way to build self-esteem is by working on being interesting, kind, compelling and compassionate. To leave a positive mark on the world.
Loving yourself is choosing a life partner who never fails to show up for you and follows through on everything they say they’re going to do. A partner who believes in an equal relationship and supports you in all the things that are important to you.
Loving yourself is getting out of your comfort zone. To not be afraid of taking risks and making mistakes. Failing doesn’t mean you should feel any less proud of yourself, it only means you’re growing. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Loving yourself is reflecting on the challenges you’ve been through and embracing the amazing place you are in right now. To recognise that the grass is truly greenest right underneath your feet.
Loving yourself is forgiving yourself and those who have hurt you.
And most importantly, loving yourself is accepting that you truly are enough, and always will be.
An On-Going Journey
I have, for the most part, closed all the wounds from childhood a long time ago and feel so unbelievably grateful for how my life turned out despite my upbringing. However, it’s important to understand that suffering is part of the human experience. We will always be going through cycles of ups and downs. It’s normal to feel enthusiastic, empathetic or loving one moment, then insecure, lazy or aggressive the next. It’s what makes us human. The important thing to remember on this journey is to accept yourself as you are.
If you’re having a rough time, be gentle on yourself. If everything is going your way, embrace the great times while they last.
When I chose to treat myself with compassion, an abundance of love, happiness and opportunities flowed into my life. I was able to break away from my insecurities and truly appreciate the unique value I bring. I’ve come out of it more powerful than ever, and I’ve become a better service to this world and to the people I love.
Now I’m sharing my journey to help you do the same.
Love yourself a little and you will see the world will burn brighter for you. You will sparkle. You will shine ✨