“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~E.E. Cummings

I spent the majority of my 20s being not particularly fond of myself on a deep fundamental level.

I was also entirely unaware of how worthwhile it would be to invest in learning how to like myself, believing that to focus any effort on developing loving feelings for myself would constitute a selfish, narcissistic use of my time and energy.

Time and energy I believed would be better spent caring for and loving other people.

What I failed to realize during this time was just how essential liking myself was in bolstering my capacity to really feel love and affection for those around me.

And in facilitating my ability to make a difference on a larger scale.

I also failed to recognize that berating myself for every supposed shortcoming or flaw was, perhaps, the most self-centered use of my time possible.

And, yes, I realize this idea of needing to love yourself before you can really love another person is completely cliché and frequently repeated these days, but I also know firsthand just how much truth this notion contains.

Because figuring out how to truly like myself – which, for the record, is a constantly evolving process – has changed everything about my life.

It has improved my relationships, my health, my happiness, and my resilience to setbacks and disappointments. It has encouraged me to take more risks, to accept failure without fixating or punishing myself, to forgive myself when I make mistakes or behave imperfectly.

Liking yourself is not selfish. It’s essential.

And most of us could benefit from a little more self-directed compassion and affection.

Or a lot more.

Actively disliking or condemning yourself is exhausting, stifling, and benefits no one. Not you, not your loved ones, not the community at large.

It places you squarely in your own way, situated in opposition to your own dreams and desires, impeding your capacity to affect positive change in the world. When you channel energy into doubting and criticizing and reprimanding yourself, or choosing to focus on the negative instead of celebrating the positive, you rob yourself of the ability to fully embody and express your own inherent awesomeness.

And the world needs you to boldly claim how amazing you are.

Doing so paves the way for genuine selflessness in thought and in action. It makes possible the expression and sharing of love not driven by fear or scarcity or the need for validation. It facilitates authenticity and enables you to really show up, be present, and deeply engage in your interactions with those around you.

It may seem counterintuitive, but liking yourself – loving yourself – allows you to forget yourself in a really wonderful way.

It fosters gratitude, acceptance of what is, and appreciation for the present moment.

It makes space for truly intimate connection, the kind with no room for ego or expectations or hidden agendas, in which we understand that we are, each of us, responsible for our own happiness and fulfillment in this life.

Which is actually an exceedingly remarkable truth.

Because when you love yourself enough to release others from an imposed need to care for your emotional well-being on a daily basis, the results can be pretty profound. And liberating.

Loving yourself is giving the gift of freedom to the people you love the most.

Freedom from clinging, unhealthy attachment and neediness masquerading as affection. Freedom from the unfair burden of providing for you your sense of self-worth and your access to the experience of joy.

Freedom from some sort of imagined sovereignty over how much you value yourself.

The freedom to love you wholeheartedly.

And when you actively cultivate self-love – through an ongoing, conscious effort – you can offer the same in return.

Which is a beautiful thing, indeed.

Wholehearted, selfless, inside-out love lays the foundation for some pretty cool changes to take place.

Compassionate, peaceful, profound changes.

Paradigm-shifting.

Heart-opening.

Earth-shattering.

And so it matters how much you like yourself. It matters a lot.