Self-love is a buzzword that comes up whenever we discuss mental health. The most significant aspect of practicing self-love is self-care. Self-care focuses on addressing your mental, physical and emotional needs, while self-love is about being kind and gracious to yourself. Self-care is often associated with taking long baths, lighting a few candles, and enjoying an indulgent meal.
We have talked about decolonizing self-care. We have spoken about what self-care looks like for millennials and what happens when self-care does more harm than good. But it is now time to talk about awareness and accountability as essential aspects of self-love.
Our understanding of self-love has strayed from Audre Lorde’s revolutionary stance to an excuse to spoil ourselves. I am not one to judge either. I often have that extra glass of wine in the name of self-care. I use self-care as an excuse for not showing up to plans I’ve already committed to.
The only reason I know about awareness and accountability is because my therapist brought me into the light.
Self-awareness is defined as being aware of all parts of yourself: your traits, your behavior, and your feelings. It’s about having an honest and objective view of yourself and your place in the world. The concept is difficult for me because it seems to clash with my high self-esteem.
My ego tells me that I’m perfect. I hold on to those thoughts because that’s the only way I can feel confident. I have come to realize that the desire for perfection is what stops me from loving myself. I have invested a lot of time in appearing perfect, but there is a part of me that keeps reminding me that I am not, therefore making me feel like a fraud.
For me, being self-aware means accepting that I am not perfect and never will be. It means being honest enough to see the times where I have wronged other people. Self-awareness is the first step I took toward loving myself. I love myself despite my imperfections.
I love myself when I don’t wake up to work out as I promised myself I would. I love myself when I forget to journal and then do two entries the next day. I love myself when I lose my 90-day coding streak because I lost interest. Loving myself means being aware enough to know that I am imperfect and working toward being a better person.
I have also learned that self-awareness is not enough. It’s not enough to see how I have wronged other people, but I should also be accountable for my actions.
Accountability is hard. It’s so much easier to say “I’m sorry, but…” than to say “I take responsibility for…and I apologize”. It’s hard enough for me to accept that I was wrong, but the expectation to admit my wrong is even more challenging. Loving myself while remaining accountable means going through the process with kindness and grace.
I finally understand that accountability does not mean being harsh with myself.
My journey with accountability has been worth it. I have realized that taking blame reduces the likelihood of repeating the same mistakes. I can sit down with myself and see how a person hurt me because I disrespected my boundaries. While that moment is painful, it also gives my brain a moment to note what happens when I break my boundaries. The moment will serve as a reminder the next time that I decide to make a wrong decision.
Self-love is about embracing the best of both worlds. It’s about doing the things that make me feel happy and improve my mental well-being. On the other hand, it includes doing the mental heavy lifting.
It means being aware of my strengths and weaknesses. It means holding myself responsible for my actions and accepting the consequences thereof.
Self-love is being kind to myself when it matters the most.
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