Written by guest blogger Alyssa Strauss

It was always difficult for me to understand the concept. Loving yourself. Caring for yourself. Being able to be free of insecurities. What the hell does that even mean?

I had always struggled with this immensely; buried with so much pain and after being put down so much in life, how couldn’t you hate yourself for everything that’s happened in the past? When you look at all your insecurities, who would want to love someone so damaged?

As I have always been told, your past does not define who you are, and you cannot place value on yourself for what others have done to you. This doesn’t make you any less of a person, damaged, or ruined. You are you for everything you are, everything you’ve overcome, and everything you have yet to be.

We all know, however, all of these sayings we read and quotes we pin to our “inspiration” boards are just empty words that sound pretty, but are far too difficult to comprehend. Truly, how many of us talk about ourselves the way we would about someone we love? Something we’re passionate about? Something we cherish?

Now that I have started to take some time to myself, learn about what I deserve, what I love, and who I am, I am beginning my healing process to love who I am.

Here are some things I’m learning while I start to love myself:

Pieces of yourself that hurt are definitely part of you, but not all of you.

I think it’s easy for us to carry around the idea that we are forever changed from our pain, what we’ve gone through ­ that our mental state of mind and who we are as a person will forever be shaped by these things we have endured. Yes, I will always remember the pain I’ve felt. I will never forget how I was abused when someone yells, how I was raped when I am told to “shut up”, or how I was abandoned when someone’s trust falls through. These parts will live with me everyday, they have become a part of me. More importantly, my strength that got me through these memories is all of me.

Having triggers and bad days doesn’t make you weak.

Hearing a song on the radio that takes you back to a painful time, or makes you feel inadequate, or breaking down over a few short words doesn’t mean you’re weak. Having a bad day and not wanting to move from your bed doesn’t mean you’re failing. It is a good reminder to be kind and patient with ourselves ­ just because we want to be two steps further than where we are doesn’t mean that the half step we took yesterday isn’t worth celebrating. Sometimes we need to congratulate ourselves for making it through another day.

Your relationships change once you value your worth.

As I grow into who I want to be, I surround myself with those who are uplifting, who believe in me, and who value my opinion, time, and love. This healing process has allowed me to see who has been toxic in my life and continue to bring me down. There are still days where I struggle with this, but I try to remember one thing ­ loving yourself requires no explanation. Nobody needs to validate my decisions with my relationships and it is strictly my business. Recognizing your self­worth can feel amazing, but it also brings to light of every relationship that might need changing.

You don’t need a Instagram post to prove you’re happy, but you understand when others post theirs.

This happens so slowly then all at once ­ you begin to realize you don’t need to prove to anyone how you feel. The posts that once seemed to consume your thoughts, “What should I write as a caption? Is this filter too much? How many likes will it get?” ­ none of it seems to matter anymore. There is no need to brag about what clothes you bought, how great your makeup looked like when you saw no one at the mall, or even fight for a spot in a conversation. You start to recognize when people do these things, that they feel the same way you have, and you have empathy for them. You know that a million selfies doesn’t mean someone is striving for attention, and you know a low cut top doesn’t mean someone’s easy. You can see through the pain of others, because you have lived in it yourself.

Once you find what moves you, your self love will grow through your passion.

Being able to feel love and passion through another channel in your life, whether that be a career, a hobby, or a person ­ is wonderful. Caring about a specific thing can be very powerful. Once you find the effect that you have made in a career path, in a specific group/community, or just one single human, you will start to see the impact it has on you. This type of revolving love you find is one of the greatest blessings we find in life ­ the kind that awakens our soul to something we love, so that in return, we can give it back.

Loving yourself is one of the most difficult things in life that can be obtained. Although it’s a long journey, it’s well worth the ride.

Keep striving to learn more.