Learning How to Love Myself

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.

11 thoughts on “Learning How to Love Myself

    • First of all, I just continue to be thrilled that these boys have given you so many words that you get to hold on to and take comfort in. They’re very good at it and this song in particular is so good and I don’t know why I had been sleeping on it for so long.

      Now I get to tell you nice things! I’m so proud of you. Not just for being able to sit down and write this even though it was hard but for getting to a place where you can start to recognize that all part of you are deserving of love and that you should have that in whatever way feels best to you. Because who you are is pretty incredible. You are one of the most attentive people I have ever met to your friends and family and you do such a good job taking care of me and your sister and your cousin’s kids in a variety of ways, whether that’s making sure they take their cough syrup and are drinking enough water, to giving them snuggles and space to read apart from the rest of the group for a minute, or literally everything you do for me on on a daily basis. You are my solid, steady rock and just knowing you’re here makes everything feel easier even (especially) when things are awful.

      It’s been a rough year and rougher few weeks for you but all these steps your taking to love and accept yourself as you are so good and important. It’s hard and not a linear process and sometimes takes up more space in your brain than you want but the end result is going to be an even better version of yourself, who knows who you are and what you need and can embrace that without the guilt. I love you so much. Thank you for letting me love you and hold your hand through all of this.

    • Sweetie!!!!
      I have what I call a “feel-good file.” It’s where I put the nice comments/feedback that I’ve gotten so that I can refer to them on bad days. (I may have put some of the love posts in there . . .) Our emotions don’t always tell us the truth. Sometimes we have to smack them around a bit. Or, you reach out to folks who will help you smack those self-defeating thoughts around.
      Needing some affirmation isn’t being selfish or needy or an attention whore. *smack* (That’s me smacking the self-defeating thoughts in case anyone missed that.) Are you trying to take attention away from someone else? No — and I know that because I see how you support other folks on social media and highlight their voices. *smack* I see you always seeking to grow as a person and a writer. *smack* I see you sharing your story and struggles so that others feel less alone. *smack* I see you joyful in how you love things. *smack* (I see you trying to get me hooked on ALL THE STREAMING SERVICES AND ALL THE SHOWS.) *smack* I see you embracing kindness. *smack* I see you thougtfully curating a happy space in an increasingly embittered online world. *smack*
      I see you being your beautiful Katie self. 🙂

    • How is it that I have been mentally prepping for this for pretty much an entire day and am still completely unsure where to start?

      Answer: It’s because I love everything about you. Everything. Even the things that frustrate you about yourself or the things that you think are flaws. I said it yesterday, but I’ll say it again because it’s true every day: They’re all part of the package, and the whole package is incredible.

      I love the big things about you—your kindness and generosity and how deeply you care about and want to protect the people you have claimed as yours. I love the details—your laugh, your love for good roasted brussels sprouts, your Hobi-esque tendency to not know when I’m saying nice things about you unless I directly tell you I’m saying nice things about you (I AM SAYING NICE THINGS ABOUT YOU RIGHT NOW), your fic preferences and how often they line up with mine…

      But wrapped around all the things big and small that make you who you are is this warmth that made you someone I wanted to be friends with more than 10 years ago and is still one of my favorite things about you today. It’s there in your airport hugs and your smile and the way you cry at Disney fireworks and laugh about our favorite boys being idiots. It’s the kind of warmth that feels like really good coffee on a really cold morning—it sinks into your bones and makes you feel like things are going to be OK. That’s who you are. You make everything feel like it’s going to be OK. And for some miraculous reason, you and your warmth make my brain believe it. And maybe it’s not miraculous at all—maybe it’s because you have put in the effort to make me believe it in a way no one else ever has. You have used your warmth to continually give me the love I need for more than a decade and to slowly but surely work to make me feel safe enough to believe that I can ask you for what I need and it’ll be OK.

      I love that your warmth is gentle. I am a fire sign—I burn bright and hot but we both know that has its pros and cons. So to have someone like you be gentle and patient with me is honestly the most incredible gift I have ever been given. I love that you listen and never try to rush me through my feelings that always need to be processed externally and exhaustively. I love that you aren’t afraid of my feelings when they get to be too much even for me. You’re gentle with me, but you’re also firm in your reassurance that I don’t have to go through things alone—whether that means telling me that in no uncertain terms when I’m crying across the country or letting me cry into your shoulder and take whatever comfort I needed in one of the most vulnerable moments I have had in a long time. You gently but steadily love me through everything. You know how to ground me and always make me feel safe enough to be my fullest self. Because even if I don’t love everything about her yet, I know you do, and that knowledge gives me the freedom, safety, and space to try to see myself the way you do and to ask for encouragement when it’s hard to do that.

      I love that you are the very best of all our boys in the way you put in the work to know what I need to feel loved and to give it to me without ever making me feel like it’s too much. You always know what to say, when to hug, and how to remind me that you still see the best in me even when I struggle to see her. I love how you might not like your own feelings but always want mine, because I hope mine can be a gateway into loving yours someday (because they’re good and necessary and a part of you). I love that we are the best travel partners because we are a perfect mixture of the same in some ways and natural complements in others. I love that I know you are definitely making a whole lot of faces during this, but I know that you believe every word too.

      I love that you’ve got me and that I’ve got you. It’s as simple and as massively meaningful as that. ❤

    • Hi, Heather,
      I love seeing the friendship that you and Katie have. It’s such fun to see pics of your happy face. To see the joy that you bring to Katie and to see the thoughtful gifts you send her. All the little puzzle pieces that make up a beautiful picture of kindness.

  1. In an unsurprising turn of events, you have once again made me full blown sob. Katie, I’m in constant awe of your transparency and the fact that you choose to be vulnerable even though every part of your mind might against you to stop that. Both as a writer and as a friend, you have constantly inspired me to put more of myself into my work because if I could read your stuff and cry, then maybe someone can read mine and feel the same way. I am just as in awe of your work as I was years ago when we first “met” and I followed you because your writing stunned me. I am in awe of how you constantly pour so much of you into these posts because that’s what makes it magic. You are the best parts of Leslie Knope, and Alexis Rose. (I should have just let you write that deep dive because God, I cannot imagine how amazing it would’ve been through your voice.) Introverts want to be extroverts and extroverts want to be introverts. Take that from me, an introvert. (Or ambivert, really). It’s like how straight haired girls want curly hair and vise-versa. It’s part of life and admitting to these things I feel always helps. I’m so glad music and BTS have inspired you and I pray that you constantly find inspiration because your writing is a gift and we need more of it. Thank you for being someone I know I can turn to with all my doubts and who I know will never shame me for any of it. You are amazing, friend. Really and truly and I love you. I’m so happy to know you!

    • Now it’s my turn to say you made me sob. If I could inspire your writing in any way, that’s the most incredible compliment because your writing is beautiful and brilliant and what you’ve been doing for the last year or so especially has been astounding and impresses me constantly. (Also, nope, no way would I ever trade that Alexis deep dive with you—you needed to write it and it’s one of my favorite things you’ve ever written and nothing I could have said would have been better.)

      You’re such an incredible friend and such a genuinely supportive person. I know you are always there if I need to talk through anything or to get advice or to just vent when things aren’t going the way I want them to. I love so many things about you, but your powerful and passionate support of the people in your life is one of the things that makes you shine brightest.

      And you definitely shine. Getting to do those couple of podcasts with you last year was incredible because you energy is infectious and you have such a glowing vibe. It’s everything you are in your writing but even better because you have the most perfectly expressive face and the most open way of making people feel comfortable talking to you.

      I am so glad we keep growing closer. You’re such a genuinely good person, and I will yell it from the rooftops so the whole word knows. I love you and am so lucky to call you my friend.

    • Tempest!!!

      I am so happy to see you here because I always want to send you love all the time. I love that so many years after OUAT ended, you’ve stuck around and have never stopped being this beacon of enthusiasm, good advice, and perfect reminders that this is all supposed to be fun. I love your sense of humor (this place would lose all its fun snark without you and so many of our best inside jokes), your love for stories about identity and self-definition, and your encouragement. You have never asked for me to be anything but myself or for NGN to be anything but a reflection of that self—whether she was happy or sad or whatever weird combination of the two I’ve been for the last 15ish months. Your support and kindness have always been a bright light for me, guiding me back to this place and to the idea that here I just get to be me and that the people who visit will think that’s enough. I cannot even begin to tell you the comfort I have taken in that idea for so many years—that I don’t have to be bright and shiny and perfect to write things people want to read or to be someone people want to be around.

      You’re just the best, and today I raise my Doctoberfest mug to you, the Rose to my Peggy always. ❤

  2. You have every right to ask for love in the ways you need and want it. Childhood learning can often leave scars from experiences that shamed us into not asking for our needs to me met and leave a person believing they are not entitled to the good/love they deserve. These are just stories we make and keep and, though painful and powerful, can be released and new healthy patterns learned. Good for you for asking and expecting love in ways you want and need it. Parents and care providers may not have had the skills to communicate love (Childhood Emotional Neglect) in the ways you needed and now you are doing a brilliant job relearning and reparenting yourself to provide what was deficient. Hug! HUG! Hug! Hug! Hug! you deserve and must have hugs! hugs are life! People learn to exist without them and often inside they are starving for contact and connection.

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