You can't love your life until you love yourself.

It's true. I can tell you that from experience. 

Most of us have our visions of an ideal life and what success means to us. I guarantee many of these visions involve love from an external source, acceptance, and financial health that will allow us to access material goods, like, say, a nice car.

That's fair. There's nothing wrong with that, except if these ideas of success are coming from a lack of internal peace and love.

I'm not afraid to get cheesy with this: you will not be happy until you know how to love and accept yourself. You will not be able to give yourself over to the life that will bring you the most amount of happiness until you center that life around your own sense of inner balance and wealth.

Self-love is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. I consider the following quote to be one of the best I've ever read on self-love:

I do question if society’s obsession with matching people up in neat pairs is misguided, and even potentially dangerous. I think equal encouragement should be placed on finding your soulmate and finding your soul.

We exist only for a short while, and though it is beautiful to love and give yourself to another, it is important to love and give to yourself.
— emma campbell, finer minds

When I set out to write this post, I was a bit terrified.

I'm a little antsy about talking about the not-so-good in my life, but I promised I was going to be honest in this post. So here goes: I used to hate myself. Sometimes, on rare days, I still struggle with this.

I have experienced bullying since I was small, have had complicated relationships with friends who wanted me around when it was convenient, and saw every romantic relationship I had as a disappointment.

These experiences have led me to struggle for a long, long time with feelings of inadequacy. It crept into my work and my personal values, until I found myself seeking validation wherever I could. I followed a career path I wasn't passionate about, I collected clothes and accessories and all sorts of junk to make myself feel like I mattered.

It took my a long time to not only realize these destructive patterns of behavior, but to also realize that it came from a lack of inner generosity and kindness.  

They say as you get older you get wiser, and this is more true now than I ever thought.

At one point I had to take a step back and look at my life.

What had I done to deserve this treatment? What was wrong with me? How could I make it so that I would be loved, to feel that someone gave a damn about me?

But there's where I was wrong. I was looking out. I was trying to see what I could do to make people like me, how I could change to fit what the world wanted of me.

I now work on self-love everyday, but I put off this type of post for a long time because I felt I hadn't solved all of my problems. As the years went by and I did get stronger, I realized something that surprised but also relieved me: there is no end point.

There is no point where we cross the finish line and say done, I'm strong now, and I'll never need to work on self-love again.

Self-love is continuous work, but that's a good thing. It's an avenue of self-exploration and growth, of honoring who you are everyday. It's building a reserve of strength and love to be resilient in hard times.

Here's the thing: no will love you as much as you will. 

It's impossible. No one will ever know you as much as you do, and it's your job and your duty to take care of yourself. It is your right, not something granted to a select few, but your right, to love yourself.

It's up to you. You need to love yourself to survive. You need to love yourself because you deserve it. You need to love yourself because you will never reach the full height of your dreams until you do.

The beautiful thing about self-love is embracing the fact that you deserve to be you no matter what the world thinks.

Self-love is accepting yourself despite the fact that other people can and will do what they can to make you feel like shit. Self-love is not fitting into a box: it's standing up and saying I am who I am, and I will not change to please you.

Self-love is knowing that a lot of times life will not turn out the way you dreamed it to be. Sometimes it will break your heart, but you stand, and you rise, because you know that you are worth it, that you already have everything to be the best person you can be.

Okay, semi-rant over.

Now let's look at five ways self-love should replace some mindsets you may or may not have:

1. love yourself before a friend

Friends, just like lovers, come and go. I went through a string of friends who only wanted me around when they needed to be listened to. When it came time for my feelings, they laughed.

This is toxic. This is bad for your soul. Know this: friendship is mutual. Friendship sits on a foundation of love and respect. Where it is lacking, do not follow. If you can't recall moments where your friends were there when you really needed them, it's time to leave.

2. love yourself before a partner

I have known so many women who have struggled with this, myself included. I've always been a bit of a romantic, but my experiences have been less than stellar. 

I'm ashamed to say that I have allowed myself to be treated less than I should because I wanted a boyfriend. I wanted to feel loved.

A romantic partner does not define you, nor does it define any woman. Romantic love should be introduced after you've come to terms with who you are and what you need.

You should be comfortable seeking exactly what you want in a partner because you are strong enough to know that if you don't find it, it doesn't make you any less of a human being. Self-love gives you the courage to love freely and honestly, and self-love helps you navigate the adversities of love that doesn't work out.

3. love yourself before a job

The career is important, yes, but you're only as successful as you think you are. Self-love looks at a job in terms of inner achievement and goals, not outer success and validation.

What is you want really out of a career? Try not to see it in terms of material goods and fame, but as a journey towards your self-discovery and inner happiness.

4. love yourself before money

I think this one has been said before. Money does not equal happiness. Financial health contributes to stability, and stability contributes to happiness, but money itself is not the end-goal. 

When pursuing an income, check in with yourself: what kind of life will make you the most happy? What kind of life will fulfill you, outside of anyone else's opinions or visions of success? These answers should help guide you to just how much money you really need, and how to get it.

5. love yourself before validation

I have a hard time with this one. I perceive praise and validation as forms of love, and sometimes I can get caught up in needing someone's approval to feel all right.

You don't need anyone to tell you you're great, because you already are. I know: it can feel impossible to get to that state of mind sometimes, but let me tell you, once you do, everything changes.

I stopped waiting for someone to tell me it was okay to write. I stopped waiting for someone to tell me it's okay to go after everything I want. I'm going to fucking do it, because I can, and I will.

This goes for anything: looks, smarts, talent. No one has the right or the power to make you something if you don't already believe it yourself. You already have your power. It's inside of you.

Let me end this post this way- 

No matter what life throws at you, no matter what kind of hell you may have gone through, there are things you need to remember, things that are true no matter what.

Here they are: You deserve to be loved. You are loved. You are perfect.

As long as you know it, no one can take it away from you.

How do you practice self love?