What “Loving Yourself” Means to Me

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 ✨

Comments

  1. It was so inspiring 😍.When I was reading, I thought how I could bring more self-love into my life. It’s important as your writing was so tangible. Keep writing it’s so nice 💓💓

  2. So many people speak about loving yourself but never go on to speak about what that means. Thank you for sharing this. Your lessons have been applicable to me and I’m sure many others will feel the same way xx

    • I’m happy you were able to gain something from this! So much can come from just loving yourself a little more x

  3. Thank you so much for being open, honest, and real!

    I’ve struggled with self love my entire life. It’s so hard to be honest with yourself and admit that you have flaws you need to work on.

    I’m super grateful for your writing. You constantly inspire me with how well you connect with your words.

    • Yes the beginning of the journey really is the worst part! But as you keep doing you, you’ll get more confident, and then doing you becomes second nature 🙂

  4. Thank you Sarah for this inspiring article. Indeed, if we want to have more positive changes in our lives and grow to become better is to start within us, start by truly loving ourselves. Once again, thank you Sarah for reminding us that the best thing we can do to our lives is to love ourselves.

    • You’re welcome, Bren! Yes, it all begins with love for ourselves 🙂 Once you start loving yourself, your whole life improves in every single way. ❤️

  5. This came at exactly the right time. I’m one year into a degree I never wanted to do because I didn’t have the courage do what I really wanted. My relationship problems also stem from a lack of self-love and after reading your post, I really want to commit to giving myself what I need to be happy. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

    • You’re welcome, Sammie 🙂 Wishing you all the best on your journey! It’s going to be tough, but it will be the most rewarding thing you can ever do for yourself <3

  6. This was so inspiring, it really made me open my eyes and remember what’s really important in life. Thanks for sharing your story, sending love from Argentina 💕

  7. So inspiring Sarah, you are such a good writer. Right now I’m feeling the exact same way as your previous experience. I grew up in a ‘hard and tough’ family, does not mean I am not loved, but I remember I rarely got the hugs and attention of my parents when i was little. In the environment in which I live and my family culture, kids are required to be smart and get good grades in schools, if not parents will compare their kid with other. All of those things made me a perfectionist and a bad temperament girl (sensitive and easy to be annoyed). When entering the university, I had to be forced to choose the major that is assured to a good and sustainable career in the future. But I did not like the major at all. Then, because I have always accustomed to the flow and meet the demands and obligations, I became lost. I do not know what to do in my life. I often blame my past for not choosing well, i hate myself sometimes because i feel useless, and in turn I became jealous of the successful people I idolized. I am now finishing my thesis for a bachelor’s degree in my university and at the same time I keep thinking and thinking after this, what should i do next? I am afraid to go out of my comfort zone. I am afraid that i might take the wrong steps. I am afraid to do what i’m passionate about and leave what I have and start all over. I’m afraid that i maybe too late to live my dream. And the worst of all I am afraid before I even start anything. After reading your post, I feel I must rise up and start my way of life by loving myself first.
    Thank you for sharing your journey, it is really motivating me each and every line.

    love,
    Melledrinsa

    • Aw thank you sweetie! It’s really tough growing up with a background like that. It’s not too late to change your path in life. I know you think it is, and that all those years were wasted but that’s just not true. It’s ok to pivot and do something else. If what you’re doing isn’t making you happy, continuing it isn’t going to change anything. Doing what you love might mean you have to start from the bottom, but it’s a sacrifice that will lead to life that you actually want. I hope you find the courage to do just that ❤️

  8. Your post was so inspiring to read. I try everyday to love myself but sometimes it’s a struggle when you absolutely have nothing to think of about what you actually love about yourself. I’m going to try even harder to find that whether I’m here or somewhere else. I’ve been thinking of something like this post for a couple of years and you just made me more happier to love myself more and more. Thank you Sarah!

    • I know its so hard in the beginning! I felt the exact same way. But I knew I just felt bad about myself because of how I was brought up, but you need to understand that what you are taught about life is not always the truth. It’s a lot of work to figure out what’s right for you but I wish you all the best on your journey ❤️

  9. You are having an effect on others as I knew you could. Proud grandpa…
    Life is too short to muck up by with having our priorities mixed. We’re only here once.

    • That’s exactly right! I’m very grateful I was able to prioritise myself while I was still relatively young. Gotta make the most of my time on this planet. Life is really too short!

  10. Thank you Sarah for another inspiring post! Loving myself is something that I’ve been struggling to do for years and reading this post has helped and motivated me 🙂 It has definitely made a positive difference to my day

    • Aww I’m so happy to hear that it made a positive difference to your day. This is truly the reason why I wrote this post 🙂 All the best on your journey babe! I’m here if you need a chat x

  11. You’re really inspire me, dear Sarah! You’re a one of a kind role model for me. I think about my life purpose, but you help me understand me better. Thank You so much, beauty! Life is a journey, and we take one step to our new goals everyday. We need to be shining stars everyday. Thank You for your light! ✨You are beautiful inside and outside.
    P.S. I have an elder sister and I thought about her success, I thought I couldn’t be a success her bigger than her. But I believe in me now.

    • I’m so happy I could inspire you in some way. It is the best gift you can give me. Thank you, thank you <3

  12. Never heard of you but great words.
    Still somehow I hate this “self-love”-Movement
    Nowadays and in particulary western cultures “Loving youself” is the easiest way of live and everybody is living it.
    Nobody cares whether other are loved or not. In the first place it’s just about yourself and your own well-being.
    A whole generation trained to love themselves. Loving yourself becomes a mantra of a new age religion. It’s everywhere.
    Sure, from your point of view and with your background it is different. As a german-born vietnamese eldest son I understand your words very well.

    Most people forgot about how important it is to give love, to find happiness by giving happiness. We all have a deep a desire to love and take care of others.
    But how can you know, when everybody tells you to love yourself first.

    Dont get me wrong, your words are true. I just think the world needs more of

    “Give love everyday , be a light so the world burn brighter for the one you love. Sparkle and shine, to lead your people out of darkness”

    • Hi Huy,

      Thank you for the thought-provoking comment.

      I care a lot about those around me, and hope that they feel good and have their needs met – this includes the need to be loved. It is the whole reason why I wrote this post in the first place. It comes from a very vulnerable place in my heart and wasn’t easy to share but I hope that maybe it will help others who can relate in some way.

      I think giving love and making others happy isn’t possible if you don’t love and respect yourself first. People who lack self-love can behave in negative ways towards others due to feelings such as jealously or hopelessness. When one feels inadequate, they pass on these negative feelings to those around them. I believe that through teaching others to love themselves (like actually deeply accept themselves, not just go to the spa and buying new clothes as some other blogs will suggest), they will become a better service to the people around them 🙂

      I really love your quote, and agree that we should give love every day and help those we love out of darkness. But how can you give love everyday when you don’t really know what love is? I had no idea what love was growing up so my relationships were dysfunctional. Then I learned to love myself and now I have endless amounts of healthy love to share with my family, my partner, my friends and my fans.

      Hope this helps you understand my point a bit better! <3

  13. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us to love and care for ourselves. ❤ You’re a wonderful and inspirational human being! ❤ I love the positivity that you spread!

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