What’s The Protocol For Loving Yourself?

“You need to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else.”
I’ve read this quote in books, I’ve seen it in movies, and I’ve heard it from all kinds of people. When a nearly 3 year-long on-and-off saga ended in a d-bag brutally breaking my heart, friends and family alike told me that to find the right guy, I’d need to start loving myself. “Sure, sure” is my go-to response to that.
But I’m a liar. And a bad one, at that. Because, you see, I have absolutely no idea what “love yourself” means.

The phrase is so simple, and yet so convoluted. Wtf does one have to do to love herself? Treat herself to a manicure every week? Chop off all her hair? Sometimes, when I’m sitting in a Starbucks, I wanna dip my bagel all up in my butter and stuff it in my face (this is not sexual innuendo) instead of take baby bites in the name of politeness. I consider that a sign I love myself. Is loving yourself going for that second pint of Ben and Jerry’s because you just don’t give a damn, or is it putting it down for your waist’s sake? (Carbs, man. Tricky stuff). There’s a fine line between self-love and self-sabotage, and TBH, I get tired of hearing I don’t know how to love myself.

When I ask my girlfriends what “love yourself” means to them, they say it means having high self-esteem, and knowing what you want. It occurred to me that both of these attributes are, for the most part, acquired, and not innate; they’re goals to be fully aware and work-worthy of, and what you get out of your process is entirely based on what you give. I’ve swallowed my pride, and accepted I have some things to straighten out, and that my perfect man won’t be falling from the sky any time soon. So I did what any single girl who’s trying to find herself/”going through something” would do: yep, I chopped off all my hair.

hair1
long locks

turned into

hair2
the bob

turned into

photo
look, ma, no hair!

Wowee, it feels weird having short hair. But ah, I feel so free. I feel weightless and unburdened and bad-ass and classy all at the same time. When it comes down to it, though, I didn’t chop it for him. I did it for myself. The hair signifies being physically naked (trust me: for any girl who wants to do this, I highly recommend it, but just know your face is full-frontal…ya can’t hide anymore), but emotionally naked, too. It’s refreshing not being able to hide, because loving yourself means learning not to hide from others, nor from yourself. It calls for a new chapter in life – the one between your mid and late 20’s. The kind-of-sorta-figuring-yourself-out-but-you’ve-still-got-a-ways-to-go era that we all know and love so much.

After all, I did it all for the nookie pixie. It’s just hair. It’ll grow back, slowly but surely, the same way my confidence will. To experience change – to really feel it yourself, and not just witness it through the happiness of others – you’ve gotta jump in with both feet.

They say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone new. I call bullsh*t on this one. It’s not about emotionless rebound sex; it’s about making the smallest, most seemingly trivial of connections. The other day, something beautiful happened: I woke up at the ass-crack of dawn – hair in a messy bun, no makeup on – and dragged myself to a free baking class I had signed up for a while ago. When I walked into the class, there he was: a handsome, passionate, clever-as-hell guy. That morning, all I had on my mind was carbs, and yet, I was graced with carbs and a quality dude.

It was requited lust at first sight. I got that same knots-in-your-stomach feeling that I did when I met the d-bag who broke my heart. Guess it’s true, what they say: you meet someone new when you’re least ready for it. We engaged in witty banter, and didn’t exchange numbers, but still – it’s the principle that counts; the idea that at any time, anything – er, anyone – can happen. And just like that, I felt alive again.

I don’t know what “love yourself” means, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’m getting closer to finding out.

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About Sheena Sharma

Indian-American writer in New York. Inherently curryous about first-generation Americans, Gen-Y and love.

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