Self love is a complicated thing. For me I thought it was not just "I love myself!" but "I love EVERY part of myself." EVERY part... that's pretty hard. Even in trying to love myself, I hold myself up to nearly unobtainable standards.
Just admitting to pride is hard for me. There's this constant fear of "do I deserve to be proud?" and "am I good enough?" Since age 8 I have been a dancer, taking classes in any form of dance I can get into. It was obvious to those around me that not only did I learn dance very quickly, but I was good at explaining and teaching others. Twenty years later and I STILL have a hard time admitting, yes I am good at dance. I can look back at recitals I have done and spend hours focusing on all the little things that could have been better. Instead of learning to take pride in my work, I learned that there is always room for improvement. What a quaint little way to squash a child's self esteem.
As it stands, I am learning that it's okay to be proud of an accomplishment. Ironically, Twitter has played a large part in teaching me this. No longer do I blush when I see someone retweeting or commenting on a post I have put up. I also no longer hesitate to tweet about my blog. I spent a lot of time watching others' tweets and realizing that it's okay to self-promote, to a certain extent. So now I confidently post my latest blog links, preparing myself for the worst (no one retweets), yet hoping for the best (a few retweets and comments).
Then there are the parts of me that I'm ashamed of. Learning to be OK with these parts is a Mount Everest sized task. I've started to work with it practically: revealing what I am horribly ashamed of to my therapist and seeing how she reacts. There was shame even in the way I presented these things. I emailed her because I was afraid I would chicken out if I waited until our session to bring them up. The next session we started right off on my email. I shouldn't be surprised that she is less than concerned about most of my "shameful" acts, but I was. I often wait for me to say something and have her respond with "that's not really my expertise, I would recommend you continuing with another therapist." Ten years of waiting and you think I would get the hint.
Part of me was angry that she didn't see just how horrible these things were. Another part of me wanted to cry because she cared enough to tell me that I'm not a horrible person. The entire process was overwhelming and frustrating. And after a session of attempting to explain why I thought these acts were so shameful and trying to figure out why I came to believe this, she asks me to do something. She wants me to rephrase one portion of the email in a more non-judgemental way. She gives me the option to pick the portion, size, and how I will go about re-framing it.
I, always the over-achiever, rewrote the whole email, emailed the rewrite to her, and am prepared to go over it tonight. I realized something, though: I feel a little softer towards myself over some of the "horrible" things I have done. I've stopped beating myself up over being 28 years old and not having everything worked out. I've even realized that it was hard for me to admit to these things and doing that kind of work is really an accomplishment.
So maybe self love isn't something that is going to happen overnight, but at least now I know it's possible to work towards it. You don't have to love every little bit of yourself to love yourself, you just have to be willing to accept that you're a work in progress.