It’s hard to love ourselves wholly and completely when we see and obsess over every single flaw.
We romanticize everyone else’s perceived perfections instead, while we do our best to hide every blemish and bruise from others and ourselves.
On top of that, we seek a miracle cure in the if onlys. You know how that conversation goes: If only I had that person's skin, hair, eyes...
But we all know the truth, right? Whether we admit it or not, the only way to be the person we want to be is to love the person we already are—sagging, wrinkling skin and all.
Ready to love your own skin and everything in it? These tips may help.
1. Imagine a kitten
Or a dog, or a fluffy bunny. Imagine any animal other than your human self.
Now, imagine a bunch of them. Baby versions. And you have to adopt one—take her home, and love her forever.
Hard to choose just one? They’re all pretty adorable in their own way, right?
Guess what? You’re a kitten. You’re probably not as fluffy. (And if you’re reading this, you’re probably not eight-weeks old.) But you’re unique and lovely in all the same ways.
This is a great exercise to do when you’re standing in front of the mirror feeling all the doubt and self-loathing creep in. It’s great to do whenever you feel less-than. You’re just a kitten. We’re all just fluffy, goofy kittens deserving of a home.
(Pro-tip: Put a photo of a kitten on your mirror and every time you look at yourself, think of how much you'd love that kitten ... then start to love yourself with the same gentleness and affection.)
2. Find others like you
The grass is always greener on the other side, and so are the cheekbones.
Each of us is truly unique and beautiful in our own ways, and finding role models who amplify our own beauty makes self-love and acceptance all that much easier.
Fortunately, this is easier to do than ever before, thanks to social media. Influencers and experts abound and are more accessible than ever—and you can definitely start to find people online who exude confidence but have similar assets as you: skin color, body size, tattoos, piercings, you name it.
If you can’t see the value and beauty of your own skin, maybe someone else can help you.
3. What do you really want?
Of course, it’s totally normal to want to look a certain way. Maybe you’ve got an overwhelming craving to have pink hair or wear green contact lenses. Maybe you love tattoos or goth eyeliner.
Loving our own skin doesn’t mean modifications are off the table. Quite the opposite—enhance away! But we’ve got to be real with ourselves, too.
What’s the real reason you’re dissatisfied or seeking to change things about yourself?
When we get real and ask ourselves the tough questions, we typically find the answers are much different than the storylines we often run with, as are the choices we make (not to mention the money we spend).
And once we understand what it really is we want, even if that wanting is to cover-up a perceived flaw, it’s much easier to finally let that fear of ourselves go. And when the fear is gone, only love remains.
(Pro-tip: Find a friend or confidante to work these issues through with. Be there for them as they figure out why they're always trying to change, and let them be there for, too.)
4. Lean into self-care
One of the main reasons many of us find it difficult to love ourselves is because we’re not actually taking care of ourselves. It’s easy to say we’re not worthy when we’re not proving our worth to ourselves.
But the more we love and care for our bodies, the more the whole system starts to heal and feel (and give) more love.
What does this mean to you? Is it a massage, a facial?
Maybe it’s a run, or a switch to a plant-based diet.
Maybe it’s a bit of all of these.
When we take the steps to nurture, we inevitably get closer to love, too.
5. Love others’ flaws
Let’s go back to the kittens for a minute. In that pile of fluff, there’s one with a missing leg. Another’s ear is cropped. Another is missing an eye.
But your reaction isn’t one of disgust, is it? It’s likely quite the opposite. You’re perhaps more endeared to their uniqueness. Maybe you even love them more because of these issues.
Whether visible or not, we’ve all got our scars and bruises. That’s not to say we should go out and look for all of them in each other. But when we know they’re there, we can accept that different is not necessarily better (or worse).
It’s just the imperfectly perfect world we live in.
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Jill Ettinger is an LA-based writer and editor focused on vegan and cruelty-free living.