When Nicole asked me to submit an article about radical self-love for GenTwenty, two thoughts popped into my head: the first, slightly self-deprecating, had me wondering when and how on Earth I’d become a reference on this incredibly vast, incredibly important topic; the second went something along the lines of, This couldn’t have come at a better time! As some of you may know if you’ve ever come across my Tumblr or my blog, I’ve been writing about radical self-love for quite some time now. While it has been a crucial part of my life ever since I opened my arms to it a couple of years ago, it has taken on a particular significance in this month of February.

Let me explain: sometimes, let’s face it, shit hits the proverbial fan and everything that possibly could go wrong, does. This month, my boyfriend sustained an injury that landed him in hospital, I had my phone stolen from me while visiting family in Wales, I fell off the fitness and healthy living bandwagon in the most spectacular way, and I completely ignored all the things my month-long shopping embargo had taught me, emptying my bank account faster than I ever thought was possible and spending money on things a) I absolutely didn’t need, and b) didn’t even really want. It has been a difficult few weeks and if I’m being completely honest, there were times when I felt really, really down; there’s no denying that the events of the month took their toll on both my physical and mental wellbeing.

However – and this is important, no matter how cheesy it sounds – I got through it and I’m all the stronger for it. It’s in times like these – times when I go through a rough patch, survive it and am able to look at things from “the other side” – that I am made aware of the impact of radical self-love on my life. Would I have made it through this unfortunate series of events without a solid self-love foundation? Probably. Would I have emerged (relatively) unscathed, as I am now? No. Fucking. Way.

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Radical self-love enabled me to get over spending Valentine’s Day on my own. Instead of seething at all the happy couples and crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s – which I indubitably would’ve done a few years ago – I put on my glad-rags and my best face, smiled at people in the street, gave roses to my colleagues and had a fantastic day. I remembered that on this Day of Love, self-love and self-care is just as important as celebrating love as a couple. Radical self-love also enabled me to be kind to myself and forgive myself for not being as gung-ho with exercise and blogging. I usually put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself – pressure to create, pressure to be a role model, pressure to be perfect all the time – but this month, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to live up to my high expectations of myself, so I eased off a bit and as a result, didn’t completely lose my shit. Do I feel 100% comfortable in my own skin after this month of culinary debauchery and, well, laziness? Perhaps not. Did I have a mental breakdown, trying to meet my ridiculously high standards in a time of extreme stress? Definitely not.

Radical self-love helped me soldier on through these tough times. Although I still have to work on it on a daily basis, choosing to regard myself and others with kindness rather than criticism, in the short time I have really committed to practicing it, it has changed my life. It is not only a worthwhile endeavor, it is a vital one: loving yourself and making the conscious decision to choose joy over fear and resentment will not only alter your perception of yourself; it will also spill into how you live your life and, amazingly, will affect how other people react to you, too. It’s honestly a win-win situation. The thing is – and I say this, having experienced it myself – when you come from a place of extreme self-criticism and when you’ve become on your own worst enemy, it can be very hard to embark on this kind of journey. Taking the first step from “Fuck, I’m useless” to “Okay, maybe there’s something to be done, here” takes tremendous courage and effort. Believe me when I say that it’s the most important first step you’ll ever take in your life.

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I wrote about how to get started on your self-love journey on my blog and there’s tons of advice there on how to take that crucial first step; but what I want you to take away from this article, is this:

Self-love takes time. As with most things that are Big and Worthwhile, you can’t just wave a wand and magically get the results you want (although, wouldn’t that be grand?). Falling in love with yourself and keeping that love going is a life-long adventure, made with lots of little steps, taken over time. Please don’t get frustrated when you try a bunch of different things and don’t feel like you’ve been touched by the magical unicorn of self-love overnight. Make a conscious effort to keep trying, changing your habits and your perception of yourself, others and life, little by little. One day, and maybe sooner than you think, something will click, and that will be the beginning of something beautiful.

Self-love is hard. With all the conflicting and/or negative messages we’re bombarded with all day long, it can be tough to keep your head above the water and to remind yourself that despite what other people say or think, you are more than ever worthy of your own love and that of others. When the going gets tough, go back to basics: crack open your gratitude journal and jot down a few things that made you smile. Run yourself a bubble bath and shower your body with love and attention. Pamper yourself. Spend time with someone you love, who mirrors that love right back at you. Remind yourself that you’ve got this. It will get better.

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Self-love is worth it. This has been my overarching message throughout this article (which is getting a tad long, sorry about that – I do tend to get a bit carried away when I’m talking about things I’m passionate about) but I want to take this opportunity to really drill it in: self-love is VITALLY IMPORTANT and SO, SO REWARDING. It will get you through tough times. It will make you so much happier, because if other people let you down, you’ll have your own, glorious self to fall back on. Plus, when you love yourself and radiate that love, you will receive even more love and joy from others. Trust me. It works.

That’s it from me today, folks! I hope this was helpful in some way. Thank you for reading and remember: you are so very, fucking worth it. 

Jessica Johansen
Jessica Johansen is the author of Fierce in the City, your one-stop shop for learning how to juggle a happy, healthy life with a hectic schedule – all the while loving yourself fiercely! Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr for more on radical self-love, fitness, sexy food, and of course, her fabulous life in Paris.