By Paige Kay
“Life is always working out in your favor.” These words, uttered ages ago by a well-meaning friend, struck me like an open palm to the face. At the time, when I looked at my life, I felt that nothing I achieved had come about favorably, or easily: Everything had come about with grit, after Herculean amounts of hard work, sacrifice and pain.
This feeling of powerlessness led to me constantly overworking, entertaining toxic situations, selling myself short, and listening to the opinions of others over my own intuition. Decisions were made out of fear, and these fear-based choices led to draining, unsatisfying situations. So, after much reflection on these wise words, I realized the issue with my life was not actually my life itself—the issue was my perspective on it, my feelings of powerlessness, and my choices.
My own thinking was betraying me.
There is immense power in decision-making: Our decisions—how and with whom we choose to invest our time—ultimately steer the direction of our lives. If we desire harmonious lives of peace, fulfillment and—the most ethereal, largely unattainable goal of them all—happiness, then we must first focus on growth and self-love.
But what really is self-love? These days, the term has been bastardized and mass-marketed to mean buying expensive products, taking bubble baths, eating chocolate and guzzling down Champagne. It has also been twisted to imply caring for only oneself. I agree with neither concept. If your mind is not in a state of growth, you will continue to make poor decisions that complicate your life and keep you from realizing the dreams your heart longs for.
How do we cultivate self-love? First, we must practice radical honesty. You must ask yourself what it is you truly desire out of life, and reach for it. Work for it. Now, I don’t mean a goal as superficial as “I want 1 million dollars.” You must ask yourself, what does the million dollars represent to you? Security? Stability? The ability to purchase a home you can raise your family in? Not having to worry about paying bills? Well, your true goal, then, is to feel secure, stable and safe, so now it rests within the realm of your ability to create that life for yourself as best you can, barring oppressive systems outside of your control.
Second, you must practice accountability. Identifying your own harmful habits takes work, and can trigger a downward spiral. So while you practice accountability, you must simultaneously exercise self-forgiveness. This is an integral aspect of self-love. Give yourself grace, and to paraphrase Maya Angelou, now that you know better, do better. Seek out people, relationships, work environments, goals and abodes that reflect the values most important to you.
When I look at my life now, it is one filled with purpose, passion, self-forgiveness and growth. My relationships have improved immensely, my goals are within reach, and the sense of peace and surety which pervades my thoughts has never been so strong. Self-love takes work. But as you cultivate it, you also betray yourself less, and your life choices will reflect this. With changed thinking, you will be propelled into the life you have always dreamt of—the life you deserve.