Over the past year, I’ve learned to love myself. I’ve always loved my life, and I’m so fortunate for it. I’m deeply grateful for my mental and physical health, what I work on each day, my friends and family, and where I live. I confused this idea with loving myself. I now see the difference.

Here’s how a conversation would go between Chase the narrator and Chase the Self:

    Any given day
    Chase: Hey self, you should be more talkative. These are cool people!
    Self: Ok, I’ll try

    After failing
    Chase: Aw, come on Self. You can do it!
    Self: I’ll try harder!

    After failing more
    Chase: It’s ok self, we’ll do better tomorrow
    Self: Ok, I need some rest first. Then I’ll be ready!

This all seems kind, and generally that I have a good relationship with myself. It’s true, but that’s still different from loving myself.

    Every now and then, something like this would happen
    Self: Hey Chase! Do you like me?
    Chase: I love your life!
    Self: Um
    Chase: Yeah, you’re so lucky. There’s not another life I’d want you to have
    Self: Ok

So then, life seemed great, and I didn’t think anything of these interactions. This is how I expected to feel forever, until Netta (my girlfriend) entered, stage left. Only then did I see that I was being harsh to myself. What changed my thinking was having her love me for who I was, and not who I was acting or trying to be. This shook everything for me. I didn’t know it until then - I was afraid people loved me for the actions I took. After all, what else is observable but my actions? Oddly, I think it’s the opposite. I’m not a brilliant actor, and seeing through the facade is pretty simple, it turns out. Netta was the person to care about it, and broke down my barriers I didn’t think I’d ever pull down. She liked all of me, not just the acting me. And she had to keep reminding me again and again.

It was hard to break this wall down because I didn’t even know it was there (as I’d learned so well to live with it), and there were many layers. It tooks me months to even say (and learn) that I was scared of what she would think of the “true” me. The Chase that wasn’t acting. I personally was scared of learning who that person was, too. Perhaps the “true” Chase was lazy, self serving, and boring. That would be terrifying for me to learn. It’s something I might never “unlearn” and I’d be stuck with being a terrible person. Additionally, the thought of loving myself seemed to equate to settling for less than I could be. After all, the theme of my life is trying hard to become a better person, and having it work. I’ve changed into a highly energetic person – something that wasn’t as pronounced in my life before. And I love that I’m more energetic, and I know other people love it as well. So I felt like I should continue to work on becoming better, all the time. I felt that if I loved myself, that meant that I would stop working to improve who I was.

At Netta’s insistence though, I let myself take a breath, and observe who I was and not who I wanted to be. I found a person whom I could love. And I now realize that appreciating who I am is not settling. It can instead be compared to the act of sleeping: it’s not really efficient to sleep. Dreams aren’t really worth it, and cozying up under some blankets doesn’t solve any of the world problems. But, being a human, I need it. I need sleep. And similarly, my Self needs love. Beating it to a pulp is doable, as is sleeping little, but I wouldn’t say it’s healthy.

In contrast, I’ve learned loving my Self is very healthy. I’m less stressed, and able to be more genuine with people. I’m more confident in myself and compare myself with others less. And overall, I feel like I have more of an ability to achieve my goals. Because, I’m not worried that my Self is good enough. My Self is not a problem. It’s loved.