There was one year that my sole resolution was to work on self-love. I know that even now there are many times that I am too hard on myself or have insecurities. However, I realized that this can be the case for many people, whether they love themselves or not. On the flip side, I practice self-care and put boundaries, which many people fail to do for themselves. So how can you tell whether you love yourself or hate yourself? I realized one very simple answer for this: you try to be better.
Some people may be confused by that. They may ask, “But if you’re always trying to be better, doesn’t that mean you don’t like who you are right now? If you think there’s room for improvement, you don’t like where you are.” But actually, I discovered that if you think there’s room for improvement, you see potential in yourself. You know you can do better. You trust that you can get to a higher state. You treat yourself with respect. Self-improvement is therefore an act of self-love.
On the contrary, there are people who have forsaken themselves. They’ve grown despondent. They may even be sulking in this belief that they can’t do anything, that no matter what, they’re not going to be “amazing,” so why make any effort? This is true self-loathing. They have essentially given up on themselves. And this can be extreme, such as they let themselves spiral into some addiction, or even mild, such as they let their laziness get the better of them and settle for a dissatisfying life. Instead of becoming curious or wanting to get to know themselves, they choose to quiet or drown out their thoughts with pointless distractions all the time.
Of course it’s natural for people to occasionally fall into a rut like this, when they feel so inspired, lost, and hopeless. You may feel in that moment that you hate yourself. There is no shame in this. But how badly do you want to come out of this rut versus how comfortably do you let yourself settle into it? Are you genuinely frustrated or are you milking these negative feelings for what they’re worth?
However, there is one important disclaimer regarding this strive for self-improvement: are you being authentic? Do you strive for improvement by societal standards or your own? And it’s okay if there’s some overlap. For example, society looks for kindness in people, but this isn’t bad. But do you strive to have a fit body because this is what’s beautiful according to society? Or do you strive for a fit body because it makes you feel beautiful and strong by your own standards?
People can strive for improvement from a place of self-loathing. They’re never satisfied with what they accomplish. Their expectations are too high and meaningless. That’s why you have to ask yourself this question of authenticity. Take a close look at these goals. Why are these goals important to you? What is it that you’re trying to accomplish, and why? Will this truly improve you as a person? Do these goals align with who you are?
When you are working on self-improvement for the self, that is how you know that you actually love yourself more than you think. You are giving yourself the chance that you think you deserve. You’re not a lost cause in the least. You’re either seeing what is already good but can be better or you’re seeing your imperfections and willing to work on them.
If you are having a hard time with this, take the reverse approach: just keep trying. Grow frustrated rather than complacent by the ruts and the self-doubt. Energize yourself. Keep trying to improve and learn as a person overall, not some identity that stands as a place card for you in the world or a smaller community, whether it’s “entrepreneur” or “parent.” Then, as you come to truly know yourself, how you tackle challenges, and how you navigate all the good and bad, you will come to love yourself instead of hate yourself.
You will be okay with the failures or mediocrity because you love yourself too much to let it strike you down—you know with hard work, you can get better and the results will become less important. It’s like a relationship that you’re having with yourself; it takes work, communication, and adjustment.
Do you love or hate yourself? Let me know below and why you think so.