Learning How to Love Yourself

By Melissa BolesAugust 31, 2015

When you’re a kid, you learn a lot of things. You learn how to dress yourself and how to tie your shoes. You’re taught how to speak and read and write. Your first 18 years are filled with brand new experiences, each one supposedly teaching you how to be an adult.

I started reading at the ripe old age of three. I learned how to tie my shoes and ride a bike. I started to write, and I practiced my handwriting so it would be neater. I got older, and I learned algebra and history. I learned how to drive a car. I conducted research and wrote academically. I gained work skills, and eventually I even learned how to teach others.

I’m 26. I’m an adult now, and I’ve learned a lot of things over the years. One thing I haven’t learned, however, is how to love myself.

Doesn’t that seem ridiculous? I learned how to tie my shoes and ride a bike and conduct academic research, but I didn’t learn how to love myself.

I don’t want you to think that I’m blaming anyone for this. My parents and teachers and mentors have taught me a lot. They prepared me well. I think I wasn’t taught to love myself because it doesn’t seem like something that has to be taught, at least not to most people.

When you are diagnosed with a depressive disorder, it can manifest itself in a lot of ways. With mine, when I’m struggling to be positive or am feeling exceptionally sad, I stop caring for or about myself. This is because, deep down, there is a still a part of me that doesn’t love myself.

So how do you love yourself? Where’s the magic switch that makes it easier to love yourself when some days you don’t even like yourself?

There isn’t one. It’s difficult. It isn’t pretty. And it’s hard work. And there isn’t anything I can say to change that.

I will tell you this: When I have moments where I love myself, I say them out loud. If I look in the mirror and think I look pretty or sexy, I say that out loud.

“Damn girl, you look good.”

If I really like something I’ve written, I tell myself.

If someone says something nice to or about me, I write it down.

I’m not always good at following my own advice, though. I have a thousand tips and tricks and powerful quotes, but some days that doesn’t make anything any easier. I’ve learned a lot in 26 years, but I also still have a lot to learn. And some days, that includes loving myself.

On those days, I turn to the “smile files” on my phone and in my email. I picked this idea up from a friend and mentor, and I use these “smile files” to hold on to emails, text messages, tweets, etc. that have made me smile. These memories give me things to hold on to when it’s hard to remember why I should love myself.

If you’re still learning to love yourself, it’s OK. There are lots of people still learning to love themselves, so I hope you don’t ever think you’re alone.

It’s not easy. It’s maybe the most difficult thing you’ll ever do. But you’re learning. I’m learning. The people around us are learning. And we will get there. Together.

Melissa Boles is a Student Affairs professional based out of Vancouver, Washington, who believes in love letters, coffee dates, and magic. She is learning to cook, to keep a plant alive, and how to love herself and others. She is available on her blog {melissaboles.com}, twitter {twitter.com/_mboles}, and via email at [email protected]. She would love to hear from you.

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Comments (19)

  1. Charlotte

    Thank You! <3

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  2. Sherry

    I am 57 and in the same boat. I was sexually abused by my father for 9 years, then jumped into an oppressive marriage for 29 years where my personality was ground to dust. I am just now, 8 years out of that marriage, learning about self-care like sleeping and eating and brushing my teeth and taking my meds. My faith and my friends kept me alive so far. I am very glad to hear that you are learning these things so young.

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  3. Aly

    This actually hit me really hard. Thank you for posting this. I needed it.

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  4. Vanessa

    I needed this! Till this day now the ripe age of 23 I’m still struggling to self love.

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  5. Megan

    It’s so crazy that as so many of us grow up we’re taught to be kind to others and how to be hospitable to guests, but not given space or language to learn how to love ourselves. Whenever I get the chance while working with kids, whether it’s babysitting or in the classroom, I always try to pass along the importance of treating yourself well just to keep paying forward what I’ve begun to discover through twloha.

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  6. Wendy

    Wow…I’m still trying to love myself, but I don’t think I will ever get there. I am glad that u are making it work….thank you for this…I have hope!

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  7. Samuel

    Just wanted to say that I’m now 25, a bit of an introvert, and also trying to learn this. What I’ve discovered about myself is I’m happiest and most content when I have someone to share my life with. While I would like that to be with a significant other that I can depend on to be there when I’m having those days, I have had a run of terrible luck recently when it comes to girls. That said, I have started to realize that I have to be able to be happy myself and, as bad as this sounds, guard that happiness from significant others until we develop the friendship and trust required so that I don’t end up falling back into the pit of not knowing why I should love myself. It’s hard sometimes to remember who you are and what you really don’t know about yourself yet. While I wish it was easier to deal with, sometimes it is nice to take the time you need for yourself and just have a “self date” with a book or a hobby and just spend time with yourself. The hard part is then spending time with other people and not letting their burdens bring you down. Hopefully I can find enough positive people to surround myself with to ease the journey. Because the other realization I had is that asking a friend to sit with you when you’re struggling to love yourself helps to clear your mind and not feel so alone while you find your happiness again. Hope this insight helps someone out there.

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  8. sarah

    My ridiculous thought is not only do I not knew how to love myself I also don’t know how to eat (I’m struggling with an eating disorder). Thanks for this message because I’m trying to get there but it is very hard and helps to know that others deal with it too

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  9. Lauren

    “These memories give me things to hold on to when it’s hard to remember why I should love myself” – such a powerful line, I keep a private scrapbook of favourite photos of my friends & family, fun memories & my achievements, just as something to look at in those moments. I’m only 19 & I’m always grateful for reading things like this from people who are older and wiser than me, who articulate what I sometimes struggle to admit to myself. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone & it’s ok to keep learning 🙂

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  10. cadillac

    Reading through this piece got me submerged in critical thoughts. I may not I’ve suffered self love consciously, but reading through and thinking, I think at certain instances I’ve hated myself. This hatred follows self loathe, self condemnation and sometimes depression. I just felt self hatred was necessary when you’ve done some really stupid things. As I read through, my mind was open on how I should love myself everytime and all times. Self love can be learnt even if its not always thought. I’d teach myself this. Thanks for bringing hope!! #self love #pamper yourself #shun depression #shun self loathe

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  11. Luciene

    Eu tenho 27 anos e assisti o filme a pouco,me identifiquei com algumas situações e vim na Internet procurar mais sobre a história por trás do filme e encontrei sua mensagem,e gostaria de dizer que você não está sozinha,esses sentimentos que você tem de solidão ou falta de amor,como você colocou,acontece comigo sempre,eu tenho uma vida tranquila mas não me amo o suficiente para me sentir Feliz ou completa. Estou cercada por muitas pessoas mais estou sempre com a sensação de estar sozinha. E eu peço que não desista de compartilhar sua motivação e não deixe de acreditar que isso um dia vai mudar porque assim eu também acredito. Vamos juntas nessa caminhada,um dia de cada vez,ok. Bjs

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  12. Stefane

    Muito obrigado….vou me amar mais e tenho,tambem que aprender a cada dia..Mas vou segui o que disse vou me olhar no espelho e me elogiar …e nos dias mais dificeis ver minhas fotos nos momentos felizes..

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  13. Melanie

    Thank you for the courage you displayed in sharing very intimate details of your life. I am inspired by your strength & perseverance. May you find peace and know fully your value and your potential. May you always know you are cherished by those whose life you touch & may you keep hope strong in your heart.

    Reply  |  
  14. Pingback: Don’t Worry. Be Happy :) | thejoychannel

  15. Maya Vi

    Well expressed, Melissa. I am 46 and have never liked myself. But I have never found anyone else I would rather be. I like your idea of the Smiles Album. I will practice it too. It’s not humanly possible to love yourself or another person 100% of the time, except as a mother I suppose. But I aim to be neutral when I am having that time, not beat myself up. Like you said, it’s lifelong learning. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. april vallee

    thanks for sharing .hope to here from you

    Reply  |  
  17. Dina

    Hey Melissa thanks for a great article about how to love yourself.
    Much love. http://love-me.org/

    Reply  |  
  18. david agor

    Learning to love yourself may sound minuscule to many people; in reality it can be harder than any college physics class. It a very slow and gradual process, with many bumps on the road. I think that the most important thing is to keep hope alive.

    Reply  |  
  19. Lisa

    This tip of saying compliments about yourself outloud will help me! Thank you so much! (i have depression/anxiety and have had it over 10 years- thankful for therapy)

    Reply  |  
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