Needy. Selfish. Self-centered. Demanding. Attention whore.
These are all words I have used to describe myself—most of them multiple times in the last week alone. Sometimes it’s with more than a little guilt. Sometimes it’s coming from deep in the pit of self-loathing. Often, it’s said with a laugh or in an attempt at self-deprecating humor.
But somewhere along the way, it stopped being funny.
Somewhere along the way, those words became how I defined myself—above other words like passionate or friendly or warm or kind or good.
I take more than I give. I ask for too much. I need too much.
I am too much.
That’s a common refrain for me when I feel myself wanting to ask for help on a bad day, when I feel the gnawing emptiness in my chest that says I’m having a hard time and could use some love, and even when someone who loves me shows me they do and the guilt settles in because I’m not supposed to need that. I’m supposed to be stronger than that.
I’m supposed to love myself enough that I don’t need to ask other people to help me with that.
I’m supposed to get enough satisfaction out of showing other people that I love them that I’m not supposed to need other people to show me they love me too.
But I do need it.
And I need it in different ways than most people I know.
I’m an extrovert who loves words and hugs—whose primary love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. And I am surrounded by a beautiful group of introverts whose primary love language is typically acts of service—and who are very good at never asking for anything in return.
I have spent a long time wishing I was more like them. I know that the ways I most clearly and confidently show love and feel loved are things that make a lot of people uncomfortable to even think about. Not everyone likes cuddles. A lot of people get shy when it comes to compliments. So I have told myself that I should never ask for these things from other people—because that’s the selfless thing to do. But most of the time, I fail. I fish for compliments or ask for reassurance or hug whoever will give me even the tiniest glimpse of not hating the physical contact.
And then the guilt sinks in. And then the words come.
Needy. Selfish. Self-centered. Demanding. Attention whore.
They’re words I would never think about saying to someone I care about if they asked me to do something for them or to spend time with them or if they told me they were feeling bad and needed a little love in any of the ways they believe it most assuredly.
Other people deserve to have their needs met—and to not feel ashamed or afraid or guilty for asking that they be met sometimes in a way that makes them feel happiest. That’s something I believe with every piece of me.
But why is it so hard for me to believe that about myself?
I’ll let the boys of BTS explain it:
Loving myself might be harder
Than loving someone else
Let’s admit it
The standards you made are more strict for yourself…
The first time I saw the lyrics to “Answer: Love Myself,” those were the ones that immediately jumped out at me because they’re so painfully true. Loving other people has always felt easy to me. But loving myself has always been a struggle.
Of course, there are parts of me that I have always found easy (or at least easier) to love. But loving all of me? Even the parts of me that seem to need too much or ask too much of the people around me? Even the parts of me that seem so different from everyone else that it’s hard not to see them as inherently wrong?
That can feel like a daunting task.
But maybe I don’t have to do it alone.
Maybe none of us do.
Maybe the idea that we can’t ask people to help us love ourselves because we’re supposed to do that all on our own is wrong.
And maybe BTS just continues to be right:
You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself…
The chorus of this song feels revolutionary because it doesn’t say that you have to love yourself on your own. It says that other people can show you that you should love yourself—that it’s OK to need reassurance and reminders and to tell other people that their love helps you love yourself more. The path to self-love has often been described as a journey you have to take on your own, but BTS has never framed it that way. They’re open about how the love of their fans and the love they feel from each other—and sometimes openly ask for from each other in the ways that feel most true and real for them—have helped them love themselves more deeply and honestly than if they tried to do it all on their own.
So maybe it’s not selfish to know what might make you feel better on a bad day or during a hard time and to ask for it.
And maybe it’s not attention-seeking behavior to want to know people see and love you for exactly who you are.
And maybe it’s not needy to need to feel loved or taken care of sometimes.
My favorite lyric in “Answer: Love Myself” is a short one that says a lot:
It’s just that loving myself
Doesn’t require anyone else’s permission…
Written in between those words, for me, is the idea that loving yourself is something you get to do without guilt or shame. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s playbook for it or anyone else’s rules for how the journey should go. Even if your journey is different—or if what you need to get there is different from what the people around you need—it’s OK. It’s your journey, and nobody gets to tell you how to take it.
One of the things I’m learning on my journey is that loving myself—my whole, messy self—is hard. So I shouldn’t deny myself the things that make it feel a little easier just because they’re not the things the people around me seem to need.
And one of the things that make it feel a little easier for me are words.
I love words—if you’ve known me for more than 2 seconds or have glanced around this website at all, you know it’s true. But I have spent a very long time trying to downplay how good a kind word or a compliment or an “I love you” makes me feel because I thought it made me sound selfish to admit that I liked hearing nice things as much as I liked saying them to other people. Today, though, I’m done downplaying. It’s been a long year of struggling with self-love, and the last few weeks have felt harder than maybe any other part of this long year in that regard. So I want to set an example of loving yourself in a way that’s scary and vulnerable—and that’s being brave enough to say what you need when you need it.
Which means today we’re doing a Love Post*—and unlike all the previous times when I tried to hide the fact that I hoped people might say nice things about me in the comments, I’m going to say the difficult and slightly embarrassing—but necessary for my self-love journey—thing: I’ve been having a hard time lately, and I could use some kind words right now.
But I also want to give them to all of you too. I know Love Posts aren’t everyone’s favorites because people who are not me tend to shy away from the attention, but if this post can teach you anything, I hope it’s that it’s OK to need love sometimes. So even if you need love tomorrow or a day from now or a year from now, I hope you know that you’re always welcome in this post to leave your username in a comment and let people give you all the love you deserve—for no other reason than just because you’re you.
Every part of you deserves love, even the parts that you wish were different, the parts you call names or make jokes about or try to hide from the world.
And I’m learning to believe the same is true for me.
The me of yesterday, the me of today, the me of tomorrow…
With no exceptions, it’s all me.
That last part sounds scary sometimes. “It’s all me.” There’s a lot about me that I’m still trying to understand, accept, and believe is good exactly as it is. But it’s all me. And even the parts that I feel are too much, too different, or too messy deserve to be seen—because maybe they’re just right for someone else. And maybe with enough time and patience and love, they’ll be just right for me too.
I’m learning how to love myself—and I want to love all of you too.
*For anyone new to a Love Post, here’s how it works: Make a comment on this post with your username (and things like your Twitter or your Tumblr URL if you feel like people might know you better by those identifiers). Then, sit back and let others reply, telling you how much and why they love you. Finally, if you want to, you can share the love! Reply to your friends’ comments on this post and tell them how awesome you think they are.