My Life/Teen Life Love YOU by Stephanie Espinoza Self-love is the best love. That’s it. That’s the blog. OK, obviously that can’t be all of it! I have a few wild ideas to get you to rethink the way you love yourself. Let’s jump right in, shall we? 1. You are good and worthy of love. A huge step toward loving yourself is embracing the love that is freely given to you at this precise point in time. Because you are, at this very moment, so good and so loved. Yes, right now! No, not later, after you’ve lost weight. Not after you make straight A’s. Not when you get your life figured out. Not after you showcase at your school’s art show. Not later once you get the lead in the school play. Not once that cute guy or girl notices you. Not once you make the team. I’m talking about *today* today, right now, at this exact moment. Before any of that stuff happens. Or, perhaps more importantly, even if none of that stuff happens. God is not waiting for some 2.0 version of you to love you. God doesn’t love you because of what you do right now, what you will do in the future, what you should do at any point in between. God loves you for you. You are being held together by love. The fact that you exist is an act of love. There is a loving God who decided the world would be better with you in it, and it is because of this Creator’s deep and personal love for you at every single moment that you can breathe and think and be. 2. You don’t need romantic love to be happy. Another big self-love moment happens when we can accept that a romantic partner is not necessary to validate you as a human being. Like seriously, who said romance was THE thing? Jane Eyre? Norah Ephron? Shakespeare? Sure, these folks wrote compelling stories about romance that have entertained us all. And yes, they capture our imagination and get us thinking about how, well, romantic romance is. But here’s something: Jesus didn’t say “blessed are the married people” or “love God and love your romantic partner as yourself.” And this is because romantic love is not the answer to our desire for happiness. Think about it: yes, we were made for relationship and community, but sometimes we get really narrow about what that means. In both the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and in sharing the Great Commandments (Matthew 22), Jesus proposes a more creative approach to relationships, one that is ordered toward God, others, and ourselves. When thinking about others, He encourages us to be meek and merciful and peacemakers, among other things — all of which can be done beautifully and fully without having to be in a romantic relationship. If you can let Jesus love you, and you can turn to your neighbor — be it a family member, friend, classmate, coworker, teammate, or whoever else — and love them as you love you, you’ll discover loads of goodness and beauty and hope and joy and peace. The love of God leads to self-love, leads to love of neighbor — it’s a love-fest and it’s a good thing, people! 3. You are capable of loving yourself. Growing in self-love is an ongoing practice. It takes effort every day, and different points and life circumstances will affect our ability to do it well, but it is so worth fighting for. And you can definitely do it! I don’t want you to think I am a self-love expert — I have my bad days, too. But I am grateful to be at a place where I can try to do one thing for myself every day to show myself the love that I deserve as a beloved child of God. Here are a few small but actionable things you can do to develop a healthy, authentic, loving relationship with yourself: Write down your top-five favorite qualities about yourself and share them with a family member or close friend. (This doesn’t have to be weird, I promise! Just say, “Hey, I’m trying to grow in self-love, so I came up with five reasons why I think I am awesome. Can I share them with you?” Who will say no to that?!). Hit unfollow on any social media account that makes you feel less than the incredible person you are. Start the day with a smile by shining your pearly whites at yourself in the mirror while you brush your teeth. Set aside time in your week to spend time with yourself — whether it be 15 minutes or 30 minutes, unplug and spend some quiet time praying, thinking, or dreaming just about you! Have a solo dance party to that song you can’t stop listening to in your bedroom. (Step it up and make a whole playlist of feel-good songs and have at it!). Pick your favorite fruit currently found in your kitchen and snack on it while you think about all the sweet things in your life that you love. (Maybe eat some vegetables, too. There’s a lot of love in those nutrients, people!). Take 15-minutes to sit or lie down and think about everything your body is capable of — blinking, breathing, growing, pumping blood, you name it — and pay attention to how cool it is that the Lord gave you such a thing to help you to be you. Take your favorite, inspirational song lyrics, Bible quotes, or saint quotes and make them into artsy posters you can put up in your room to remind you to love yourself. Remember when you used to go outside just to play? Go and do that! Let yourself have fun! Practice some deep breathing. Start by inhaling for four seconds, then holding your breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Repeat at least 5 times. (Bonus points if you can do this while thinking about God’s love for you while you breathe!) Fill up your water bottle and take a big ol’ drink of it. Water is life and life is love, so remember to water yourself! Pick up a book and learn something new from one of the characters. That mind of yours loves to learn, so love it well by stretching your imagination with a good story. Go to bed early tonight. Your whole self will feel SO loved after a good night’s rest. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and underline the characteristics of love that you need to work on toward yourself (i.e. Do you need to be more patient with yourself? Are you kind to yourself?) Hold a baby. (Ask the baby’s parents for permission first, though — nobody likes a weirdo stealing babies!) Think about how much that baby’s parents love that baby and think how much more God loves you. Wherever you find yourself on the journey toward self-love, I hope you can do even one of these little things today and recognize just how completely loveable you are! Go, you!