by Graciious Tapfuma

“One day, our Mothers may ask ‘Who do you love completely?’ and we may grow to respond ‘Ourselves. Ourselves. Our lovely selves.'”
Upile Chisala

Thirty-three days before my 23rd birthday, I started what I now see as a life-transforming journey. Until that moment, I didn’t realise there was something I was missing: self-love. By no means am I an advocate for narcissism, addiction to self, or selfishness. No! However, I am an advocate of possessing a healthy love for oneself.

I don’t believe you can truly love anyone, or accept love from another person if you don’t first love yourself. I had to learn this the hard way. Trust me. Guarding your heart, living in tranquillity, being the best version of yourself and loving yourself so you can love others is fundamental. This is the self-love I stand for.

Before we go any further, let us eliminate any misconceptions about what self-love truly means. Is self-love about being prideful, ignorant or egotistical? NO! Is self-love about thinking you are better than everyone else? NO! Is it about always putting yourself first at the expense of others, or about always getting your way? NO!

Becoming someone who truly loves yourself can be very challenging. For me, it wasn’t that I saw myself with hatred, but rather intense feelings of inadequacy. For so long, I struggled with the notion that I have never been fully chosen. Eventually, it hit me that I felt this way because I have never really chosen myself or committed fully to who I am.

I don’t believe you can truly love anyone, or accept love from another person if you don’t first love yourself.

I came to realise that no one could do this for me, but me. My biggest fears and insecurities were because I felt unlovable and that no one would ever want to befriend me, work with me, or spend the rest of their life with me. I simply felt I wasn’t good enough. As a result, I wanted to attain perfection so I could be loved without any flaws. I didn’t want to face my weaknesses or the struggles in my life. As a result, I attracted people in my life who didn’t really want me. I attracted those who never fully chose me. I didn’t realise that in all of this, I was inviting rejection in my life.

Nothing extraordinary had ever happened to me to undermine my self-esteem. Instead, it was just normal little things in my everyday life. The person I liked chose my best friend over me. I was the weakest link in a class project. These things took a hold in my heart and almost settled in a permanent place. These small rejections weren’t dealt with and in the end, they affected the adult I became. They became the stories I repeated to myself and became familiar thought patterns. I started to think things like “I didn’t get picked because I wasn’t good enough.”

I frequently felt left out. As a Christian woman, God is the centre of my life, yet even when it came to Him, I felt like He couldn’t truly love me. I felt like He loved me out of obligation because of who He is… because of His character and that it is what He was meant to do.

There was so much brokenness inside me that came with constant rejection. When I began learning to love myself, it helped me heal in many places. I started digging deep within and facing my fears because my happiness and wholeness depended on this move. I also began to learn all the exciting things God and I love about myself. This is when my life truly started to change. I started making daily intentional efforts on this journey. Now I hope the lessons I have learnt might help others. Here are a few of the most important steps I took:

  • Looking at everything about myself and being completely okay with it.
  • Facing my truth without shying away.
  • Redefining love and what it truly means to me.
  • Recognising the love around me, such as who genuinely loves me without conditions and how they show this to me.
  • Allow myself to feel.
  • Being intentional about wanting to change my life by writing down my progress.

I am still on this journey. I am by no means perfect, and I’m certainly not there yet. However, I am sure of where I used to be. There was no way I could ever be loved or love anyone if I had not extended that love to myself. I now have a healthy love for myself and for those around me.

“Fear cannot isolate you if you allow love to surround you.”
Sarah Jakes Roberts