the cycle of self-love
Self-love is a common theme in our society today. Along with self-care, self-growth, self-development, self-confidence, self-assurance, self-actualization, self-something. Many would say that we have a generation full of self-centered individuals and while that's not entirely wrong, I think that many of us have just begun the journey toward honing our emotional intelligence, and we're all still trying to navigate our way through it.
According to HelpGuide.org, emotional intelligence (EQ) is, "the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict" (2019). It is commonly defined by four attributes: Self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management. EQ affects your performance at school or work, your physical health, your mental health, your relationships, and your social intelligence. So how do you increase your emotional intelligence?
It all starts with self-love. Giving yourself the time and energy to step back, evaluate, and work towards becoming better than the person you were yesterday. Reframing the way you think about yourself by changing the way you talk to yourself. Recognizing how to better manage your emotions and acknowledging areas of improvement. When you choose to love yourself, you're choosing to invest in yourself, and that my friend is the greatest thing you can do.
But of course, self-love is anything but an easy feat. It's easy to love the good things about yourself, but the true challenge comes with loving even the ugliest parts. I'm not expert on self-love but I do know a thing or two about how challenging it is to remain consistent because I struggle with it personally.
So the truth about self-love... It's like gardening. It's a process that requires digging, sowing, watering, waiting, maintaining, uprooting, and then beginning all over again.
Okay hear me out:
When it comes to planting a seed, the first thing you want to do is to see if you have good soil. In order to check, you're going to need to test it by digging a hole. If it's too clay-like, you're going to need to figure out a way to make it good soil (one that has high water holding capacity) so that the plant can receive the right amount of nutrients. The last thing you would want is to plant a seed in bad soil and not see it grow like planned -- btw I totally got this from a gardening website because I randomly wanted to get into gardening during quarantine. By the same token, it's important that when you're starting the journey toward self-love, you step back and check to see where you're at physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You need to dig deep into your soul and see what exactly it is you're trying to get out of it. Are you doing it for pride or are you doing it for confidence? Are you doing this for yourself or are you doing it because it's mainstream? What is it that you need to improve on?
Asking yourself these questions will help you get a better sense of direction. It's hard to find the answers the first time but if you continue to work at it, through trial and error, you'll learn more about yourself.
In the fall of 2018, I just transferred back home from my dream college, let's just say that I was going through a lot of changes and it was discouraging. I didn't have a job, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I felt inadequate. I would always tell my friends that I was okay when I really wasn't. I needed to dig deeper and see where the root of my problem was. I was insecure with how I looked, I felt the need for constant validation from others to feel good enough, I didn't value myself. This stemmed from my middle school experiences which haunted me because it was a period of mental and emotional abuse. Let's just say that I went on with life believing that I was never going to be good enough for people, even if they were to tell me otherwise, and I could never amount to anything more. I wanted to get out of this rut.
Thus began the phase where I cut/colored my hair and got tattoos because I believed it could help me feel better/improve my self-esteem. While it did bring me some sort of satisfaction and a confidence boost, I always found myself feeling emptier not too long after. What use was it to try and improve myself on the outside, if I wasn't doing anything to help me on the inside? I realized I needed to take better care of my internal well-being. At the time I was neglecting all of it, trying to find an escape through materialistic things. Rather than changing my physical appearance; I needed to change the way I carried myself. If I didn't dig deeper, I wouldn't have become aware of the fact that I was causing more harm to myself than good. I was sowing in bad soil. I did what I had to do to improve and set better intentions so that I could truly grow.
After making sure you have good soil, the next thing you do is sow. Sowing is equivalent to "doing" a.k.a putting things into action. By simply planting a seed, you are creating a change.
When I consciously started my "self-love" journey mid-2018, I made it a goal to improve physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was just starting to plant my seeds. I put more time into working out, I made the effort to spend time with myself, and I began to serve more at church. When I started these activities, I didn't know what to expect but I was excited to see where these new paths would take me.
At the time I was taking all online classes through Manoa's Outreach Program because I couldn't enroll anywhere else. It was too late. I had the option to take the semester off or go online.
That year, I also applied for Starbucks and thanks to Curtis (big shoutout to him) I got hired in September 2018. The first three months there was truthfully a living hell, I think it would've been worst had I not worked at Jamba Juice prior. But that's another story lol.
At this point I was excited. It was the start of something new (cue HSM). I mean, yes it was uncomfortable the first week or two because my body wasn’t used to this new routine. But I began to embrace life's challenges. By shifting the way I thought about challenges, I learned to find comfort in the fact that the discomfort was helping me to grow.
It can be nerve-wrecking to start something new but trust that things will work out in time. Everything that you’re about to experience in this process is made to build you. Take control of the things you do have control over (your attitude and actions) and let God handle the rest.
Watering, Waiting, and Maintaining
I'll put these three together because I think they go hand-in-hand when it comes to understanding the process. After sowing your seeds, it's vital that you ensure that the seeds you've planted are receiving the nourishment it needs in order to thrive. The growth period varies with each seed, so it's important to be patient with the ones that don't seem to be growing as fast. Regardless, each seed needs proper maintenance.
It's the same with self-love: You need to be patient and be consistent. Things won't change if you don't put the work in... Things won't change if you don't put the work in. This time is the most vital and most challenging part of the journey because it requires discipline.
There were times when I found myself getting complacent, lazy, discouraged, and hopeless because I didn't get the results that I wanted, when I wanted. I was really stubborn and impatient. It took a lot of reminders for me to wrap my head around the fact that not everything was in my control, most especially time. The only thing that is in my control is what I do with my time and how I manage my attitude. I could complain all I want about not seeing results, or I can suck it up and continue to work toward my goals. I chose the second latter.
Eventually I got to see the seeds I've planted begin to flourish. It was satisfying to finally see results: I reached new personal records in powerlifting, I became comfortable with being alone, I was on back on track with my college credits, I got better at my job, most importantly, I felt God's presence more in my life. Don't get me wrong though, this didn't happen within a matter of weeks. It took MONTHS for me to even begin seeing growth. I've made a lot of mistakes along the way. In the waiting, I've gotten better at practicing gratitude, and that my friend, is what kept me going despite feeling like I was failing. Gratitude helped me find hope in the chaos of my life. Gratitude helped me to keep on going.
Weathering the Storms or Not
There are different types of weather conditions that trees face on a daily basis. Some can withstand the greatest storms, the driest seasons, and the craziest inundations; others may find itself unsuccessful. I don't know how nature scientifically works in order to survive crazy weather conditions, but I do know that they rely on their foundation to get through it.
In the same way, when you face those days/nights where it's hardest to love yourself, it's important to remember why you started in the first place and where you're headed. That is the foundation of your journey. Ask yourself if your foundation is solid enough to withstand the storms you face. It's okay if it's not as strong as you want it to be. Relax, refocus, reprioritize, and refine. If you need to rebuild your foundation, that's totally okay! It's never too late to begin again. If you need to make changes to how you take care of yourself and show love to yourself, that's totally normal. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Even God said it was going to be a tough battle. Continue to fight the good fight and make changes as you see fit.
There will be occasions when your fears, doubts, and insecurities catch up to you. It could be triggered just by seeing some post on social media. Other times it just randomly pops up in your head. You are your own worst critic. But on the bright side, over time it gets easier to navigate your way through these moments. Like I said in the beginning, when you practice self-love you're already increasing your emotional intelligence because you're allowing yourself to be vulnerable and you're actively learning how to manage your emotions day by day.
I just wanna reassure you that it's okay if you find yourself stuck in a rut again because of the overwhelmingness of life. What's not okay is if you allow it to consume you for longer than you should and enter into an attitude of self-pity. Please don't fall into that trap. Re-build your foundation. Read books. Talk to friends. Take personality tests. Pray to God. Read the Bible. Do what you need to do to address the issues that you're in and heal from it. You need to be courageous.
There's this song called "Cycles" by Jonathan McReynolds (ft. DOE) that has been on repeat lately. The song tells the narrative of the never-ending battle between following God and following the world. Despite experiencing cycles of feeling close to God and far from God, the singer continues to actively choose to follow God because she knows that is what is truly good for her. She understands that following the world only brings temporary happiness, whereas following God brings eternal glory.
While self-love isn't necessarily a religious journey, nonetheless, it is a spiritual journey. One that encourages you to practice mindfulness and gratitude, in order to find fulfillment in every stage of the process. There will always be new seeds that you will plant in your life; financial seeds, career seeds, creative seeds, etc. It is the beginning of a new cycle and I just hope that you remember to continue to actively choose yourself. Take care of yourself. Be patient with yourself. Learn about yourself. Believe in yourself. Develop yourself.
Honestly, I don't know where I'd be today if I didn't make that decision back in 2018. Though I'm not where I want to be, I'm grateful for where I'm at. I'm content but I won't be complacent. Over time I realized that in order fill up the cups of others, I'm going to need to fill myself up first, then let the overflow fill the rest. Recently, I've been needing to fill up my own cup after letting it run nearly empty. I thought I was filling up my cup, but I didn't realize that there was a hole at the bottom.
I'm going to end this post with a scripture that's been in my heart these last couple of days:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 New International Version (NIV)
A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Whatever season you're in right now, I pray that you find peace, comfort, and healing. I hope that you love yourself a little bit more everyday. I believe in you. Take care ♥
If you're interested in reading more books or wanna have more motivational quotes on your feed, here are a few (maybe a lot of) recommendations. These resources have helped me gain a better understanding of myself and how to go about life a bit more sane :)
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck - Mark Manson
Make Today Count - John C. Maxwell
15 Invaluable Laws of Growth - John C. Maxwell
How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
Resisting Happiness - Matthew Kelly
Beautiful Hope - Matthew Kelly
Rediscover the Saints - Matthew Kelly
Rediscover Jesus - Matthew Kelly
Holiness - Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Books That I Plan on Reading in the Future
Next Generation Leader - Andy Stanley
Anonymous - Alicia Britt Chole
40 Days of Decrease - Alicia Britt Chole
The Price and Power of Revival - Duncan Campbell
Poetry (for them sadboi nights)
Lullabies - Lang Leav
2:59 AM - Dyllan Mamasig
She Felt Like Feeling Nothing - R.H Sin
The Dark Between The Stars - Atticus
Instagram Accounts I Follow