Self-love…it can be so elusive, right? One day we’re our own biggest fan, the next we’re bashing ourselves for missing the mark. One minute we’re flying high, the next we’re buried in a pile of shoulds and doubts and unread text messages and half-eaten bags of kettle corn (no? just me?).
The thing about self-love is that no matter how much of it we’ve got, its external manifestation doesn’t always reflect the truth. Our lives, relationships, and bodies are constantly in flux – and sometimes we forget that the emotions that fester as a consequence of the situation are NOT the reality of the situation itself.
Even so, it’s a lot easier to berate ourselves for not thinking enough, doing enough, BEING enough than it is to dive in, dig deep, and really get to the bottom of whatever’s really going on. Doesn’t help that we don’t live in a culture that encourages otherwise: quick fixes are the solution de jour, and we’re taught that negativity is the easiest route to a bond. So is it any surprise we live our lives starved for a sense of self-love?
We can’t expect to like every aspect of ourselves 24/7 – but true, lasting self-love IS possible. And we all need to start somewhere. Your moment might be right around the corner.
Here are 17 badass WANT Women, from activists and actresses to business owners and body-pos powerhouses, on their “self-love” turning point – the moment they started to really love themselves, inside and out:
Jessica Murnane, author + plant-based pioneer, JessicaMurnane.com + host of the One Part Podcast: Wow. I think it’s always a work in progress. There are certain days that I need to work harder on loving myself. But I’ve come so far that even my “off” days are pretty great compared to the way I used to feel.
I suffered pretty severely from body dysmorphic disorder – brushing my teeth in the dark, avoiding mirrors, but then the next day obsessing over my reflection, wearing crazy makeup and clothes to draw attention away from my face, and just straight up not wanting to leave the house. It’s crazy, because I’ve always been a really social person and was always surrounded by people – but no one ever knew my secret.
As I got older and found a therapist I loved, things began to get a lot better in my late 20s. But I truly feel that my “turning point” to loving and accepting myself more came when I changed to a plant-based diet. Everything changed. Feeding my belly with good things made my brain feel better too. It’s weird how it’s all connected – but I truly believe it is. I am happiest I’ve ever been, and even if I don’t have perfect love-yourself days…I have come such a long way that I feel proud.
Katie H. Willcox, model, CEO/founder of Healthy Is The New Skinny + Natural Model Management: I began to love myself when I learned how to live a balanced lifestyle. I started focusing on being the healthiest version of myself in my mid-twenties, and I believe that was my self-love turning point. When I met my husband Bradford, he saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself and I realized that I didn’t need to fit a certain physical mold in order to be deemed lovable.
Erin Bagwell, director of Dream, Girl: I’m constantly discovering and exploring self-love. I make it a practice to try to find things that inspire and keep me passionate, which gravitates me towards a lot of love.
Angela Leigh, fitness + wellness coach, PureLeighLiving: Sure do! Three years ago I made a choice to put and end to my eating disorder. I was binging & purging for twelve years. I was sitting on my couch, crying, thinking to myself, is this going to be my life? Am I going to be imprisoned by food, my lack of love of myself and my fear of letting go…? It was an ugly cry. I emailed my coach at the time (who is an angel and love of my life) and shared with him my struggle. We met for coffee the next day, I cried it out some more. He promised to take my hand and help me through the transition. And he did. He will tell you, it was me who did the work – but his support was paramount for my recovery.
I tried the group therapy thing, it did not fly, so I started my personal journey back to loving me. And I am still on it. Some paths are brighter than others and some days are just straight up brutal. The battle against negative self talk combined with a severe eating disorder is horrific. The voices never shut off. I am not kidding: you know how people say you think about sex X many times a day? That’s nothing compared to the constant stress of thinking about what I was going to eat, how I was going to get rid of it, and so forth.
The ability to temper these thoughts and then turn them into loving thoughts is a marathon of the mind. But I am not giving up. I have no desire to go back to the dark side. I am stepping up and showing up for myself. I love that I had the courage to stop the madness and I love that I am still working for my peace of mind. I love that that I am willing to open up to the world in the industry we are in and say, I AM NOT PERFECT! I am a beautiful mess, but this beautiful mess has some rich experiences to draw from and share with everyone to inspire them that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.
Liz Brinson, Swirl Girl Army: My mom instilled independence and self love in me very early but then my impressionable self endured high school and was highly influenced by mainstream media’s standards of beauty and optimal weight. I was definitely impacted by that in terms of setting unrealistic weight goals for myself. I would say my second turning point was probably when I met my fiancé, D.A. It’s really powerful having someone else in the real world reminding you how awesome you are every day.
Sascha Alexander, actress + activist: I started to love myself in dance class, the second I saw what was really inside me. Or to be specific, the second the other women in my class started to tell me what they saw inside me, that I was too trapped and afraid to see myself. I believe above ALL, in the power of loving communities, and people who have the courage to be clear mirrors for one another, which is such a big and scary thing to do in a world that is caught up in scarcity. It takes massive self-esteem to show up in honest praise of another person, especially a person who is shining brightly. I think there are so few of these communities available to us, right now. S-Factor was a paradigm shift for me. The more I let myself be seen there, the more I was praised and told I was “beautiful”…. which I literally couldn’t believe at first because I felt so mediocre at the time – so middle of the road, so… nothing special. Oof! It hurts me to even write those things. I was so confused!
There were so many incredible moments that first year at S-Factor, but the one that stands out right now is lying on my mat in a sideways leg lift and realizing how unbelievably strong and powerful my legs were and my stomach was, and how on fire I was in that moment, just spiritually, and emotionally and physically. I had so goddamn much to say – it was living inside me. Mine. Already within my grip. Fierce and alive and perfect. Later in class, we began moving to a really emotional beautiful ballad and my teacher screamed “No more armor!” at us and I just let myself tumble and express and yearn and I was suddenly like, divinely, aware of how deeply beautiful I was because of what I held inside me ….which was TRUTH.
Women are truth-tellers. We are so often just NOT GIVEN permission to be that big and that important. I could never have imagined how much I had to contribute just with my honesty. I realized my importance, my depth, and my fierce beauty in that moment. That was the spark that I have been fanning into a self-esteem flame throughout my 20s.
Jacki Carr, goal coach, Rock Your Bliss: Wow, brilliant question. I had a best friend in high school, Zoe who taught me about self love. Probably Junior year, so age 17. We both were uber-athletes; she played soccer and I play volleyball and softball. She was more in the cool crowd and I was figuring it all out with puberty, ego, etc while juggling sports and family. We both had a muscular builds – like, cereal-box type bodies (and yes, I am talking square shape and pretty flat. Late bloomers. Really late) – with really muscular thighs, and I will be real: we could eat a lot of food. Like, an embarrassing amount. Considering we were both doing two-a-day workouts, we were burning calories like whoa.
When we became best friends that year – you know that moment, like in Step Brothers, ‘Did we just become best friends?’, yes that moment – we named ourselves Team Hauss. Keep in mind, this was way before CrossFit came around with their tagline, ‘Strong is the new skinny’ – we were WAY out of the norm from the ’90s string-bean model ideals. And for me, there was a moment there of radiant acceptance of myself, my body shape, my actions, my ability to eat a lot of food and not feel bad about it, and my athleticism in that connection. Though we looked different than the magazine and a lot of our friends, we were ourselves. I am so grateful to have been a member of Team Hauss, it was a gamechanger for me.
Mary Beth LaRue, yoga teacher, Rock Your Bliss: The summer I moved to NYC to work at JANE Magazine. I’d struggled with body image and eating disorders for years and that summer I gave myself permission to fall in love with life, and in turn myself, again. Rather than restricting and beating myself up I allowed myself whatever I wanted and however much I wanted. Some days it was a big crunchy salad and a green juice and other days a grilled cheese and a beer. As I explored the city I found some many new facets to myself and started to really truly grow into the woman I am today.
Delia Brown, artist: In high school I remember loving myself somewhat, but still feeling very split: There was the lovable side, but there was also a side that needed to be destroyed (the part that didn’t match what my ego wanted). I still struggle with total self-acceptance, but I can certainly say that the older I get, the more okay I am with all of my parts. When you no longer see yourself as split, when your parts feel truly integrated (when it’s not You Against Your Body, or The Awesome You vs. The Lame You, etc), you stop being such a harsh critic. I’ve had a couple of really wonderful therapists who helped me with that a lot.
Lynn Chen, actress + activist, The Actor’s Diet + Thick Dumpling Skin: It was somewhere in the middle of my eating disorder recovery and while I was trying to have a baby. I think I realized that I had to stop equating my self worth with what my body was able/wasn’t able to do. For so long I thought it would be great to be pregnant, to use that as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. Three years of infertility later, I realized nothing outside of myself was going to make me feel like I was enough. I had to start believing it myself, and made a conscious effort to change the way I was thinking and speaking to myself.
Tricia Huffman, Your Joyologist: When I was fifteen. I had lots of undiagnosed pain and other medical problems and was a freshman in high school and dealing with all of that pettiness and my parents weren’t happy. I felt very alone and unloved and contemplated ending it all. I decided if I was going to end it, I may as well give myself one more chance and live my life MY way, not caring so much about everyone else and choosing to love myself. It didn’t matter what everyone else was doing if I could love myself.
Kit Steinkellner, writer: Oh man, I hate to say “It was a man” because that goes against a lot of what I– whatever, that’s what happened, I met my now-husband and he thought I was so great and I thought he was so smart, and if he was smart and he thought I was great…I just decided to go with the math and start thinking I was great.
Ashlee Piper, eco-lifestyle expert, The Little Foxes: I think this is an ever-evolving process for me (and likely everyone else, too?). I started understanding myself better when I turned 31. I left my 10-year, established career to explore what contributions I could make in the animal rights field, and it was through those challenges of redefining and getting back in touch with who I was and what I stood for that really helped me see and appreciate myself.
Doing television has also been a constantly changing lesson in accepting and loving myself. TV’s not the most forgiving medium and watching my segments has made me more appreciative of myself.
As far as a turning “point” goes – I guess I’ve had none and many, if that makes sense. Every relationship or business dealing where I haven’t felt appreciated or acknowledged has certainly acted as a mini turning point, helping me to get a better sense of what I want and deserve.
Sarah Dubbeldam, editor in chief + founder of Darling Magazine: I’ve always had a positive view of myself for the most part, but it really started to shift from like to love after I’d been doing Darling for a couple of years. It’s amazing how the mentality of this movement of women loving themselves and one another wears off on you in a deep way.
Ziza Bauer, online managing editor, Darling Magazine: I think it’s been more of a slow turn, loving myself in looking back and realizing my mentality at different ages and how quick I’ve been to assume the worst. The more I’ve grown and met different people, different ways of life, the less hard I’ve been on my own journey.
Kyle Wood, media relations, Darling Magazine: In college I lived with a bunch of girls who cared SO MUCH about the way they looked. I started to think like them and pick myself apart from head to toe. I worried about everything I ate, everything I wore, what my hair looked like…everything. I became so critical about my appearance and very self-conscious. Once I moved home from school I realized that this was not how I really felt. I was adapting the mentality of the girls around me and this was very unhealthy. Ever since then I realized that I need to always think for myself – and to surround myself with like-minded people who are comfortable with themselves.
Gigi Yogini, writer + yoga teacher: I’ve had reoccurring awakenings all the time. Sometimes I get into a rut and then do something good for myself (like yoga, dance or take a bubble bath) and think to myself, “Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to love myself.”
When did you start to love yourself – did you have a “self-love” turning point? Tell us below in the comments!