A journey of self-love and acceptance begins with understanding that you are enough.

Learning to Love Myself

I am enough.

In all of my forms–daughter, sister, friend, writer, traveler, lover.

I am good enough.  I am talented enough.  I am confident.  I am kind.

I seek knowledge.  I show compassion.

I fail.  I get back up.  I am perfectly imperfect.

I know who I am and what I stand for.  I know what I need to change.

I don’t know it all.  I can never know it all.  I admit when I don’t know.

I know how to forgive.  I forgive myself.

I am enough.

Learning to Love Myself

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  -Mahatma Gandhi

Inspired by a book I bought for $0.99 earlier this summer, I decided it was time to start loving myself.

And not just in the superficial sense of self-love, like exercising regularly and watching less TV.  It was time to really, fully and wholly love myself–top to bottom, inside and out.

To love myself to the point of waking up every morning with a heart overflowing with gratitude for all I was blessed with in life.  To love myself unconditionally–quirks, flaws, occasional potty mouth and all.  To love myself the way I hoped for someone else to one day love me.  Fiercely, and unafraid to show it.

But this story didn’t start this summer; it’s been a long time in the making.

Well before I stumbled upon this little $0.99 book, maybe a year and a half prior, another pivotal moment in my self-love journey had taken place on a beach on the coast of Spain.  A moment whose weight I didn’t fully comprehend until much later.

It was a brisk summer night and the sand was cold; I was in the midst of a heart-to-heart with someone I’d only known a few days, as tends to happen when you travel.  We passed a small bottle of booze back and forth in an attempt to keep us warm.  Or numb.  Or both.

I don’t quite remember how it escalated to this, but I distinctly remember crying as I looked out over the inky black sea.

We were talking about relationships and why mine–past and present–never seemed to go so well.  I had trust issues, compounded by the fact that I had a proclivity for attracting the untrustworthy types.

And then a rather unexpected question was posed to me, a question that left me speechless for all the wrong reasons.  Again, my memory of this night is a bit fuzzy after all this time, but the question was something along the lines of:

“Are you happy with who you are?”

I couldn’t find the words to respond.  Not because I didn’t know the answer, but rather because I knew it instantly.

After a few suffocating moments of silence, the best I could do was shake my head “no” as more tears, now double the size, rolled down my face.

I didn’t like who I was or who I had been.  I most certainly didn’t love myself.  And it was in that moment I came to the crushing realization that it was all my fault.

It wasn’t for lack of trying.  I wanted to love myself–desperately, even.  But what I eventually came to understand was this:

When you’re making poor choices, choices that defy what you know in your heart to be right, you never will know self-love.

The months leading up to that moment in Spain had been particularly difficult for me.  I reached a truly low point in terms of my self-esteem, and it was all because of a series of choices I’d made–choices that I was not proud of, and did not reflect the kind of person I wanted to be.

And in that moment, those poor choices came rushing back to me all at once, swallowing me up in a tidal wave of shame and regret.  Sure, I might have cried first for my failed and failing relationships that night, but in the end, I cried hardest for the person I never allowed myself to become.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but a series of subconscious choices had just been made.

To start living up to my own potential.  To start making myself proud.  To start living my truth.

First Came Choices

Every day, we are choosing.  We may not choose our circumstances, but we choose how we react.  In fact, the only thing truly within our control is ourselves and our choices.  It’s all we have.

So even when other people hurt us, when our pain is the direct result of someone else’s choices, the choice is still ours whether we let that pain suffocate us, or if we let it go.  Move on.  Forgive.

For far too long, I felt the pain and emotional bruising from distant moments I should have long-since forgiven as sharply as if they had just happened yesterday.  For far too long, I held onto resentment, blaming others for my choices.

The choice to numb the pain with too much alcohol too often.  The choice to keep traveling when my body screamed to slow down.  The choice to spend undue time and emotional energy on relationships that weren’t meant for me.

I was all too aware of my faults, and for far too long, I had done nothing to correct them.  I was avoiding responsibility for the shitty outcomes of my poor choices which, as one of my favorite authors points out, wasn’t doing me any favors.

We all love to take responsibility for success and happiness…But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where real learning comes from.  That’s where real-life improvement comes from.  To simply blame others is only to hurt yourself.  -Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

That summer, a few months after that rude awakening on that beach on the coast of Spain, I knew my business needed to start supporting me financially or I would be up a shit creek (probably somewhere in the Serbian countryside) without a paddle.

And so I made the choice, over and over again, to put my work ahead of my own pleasure.

In hostels, I sat hunched over my laptop, surrounded by travelers hell bent on distracting me.  Other times, I purposely isolated myself.  I sat alone in the corner, or alone in my dorm room, or alone at the dining table in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else was out enjoying the beach.

Funnily enough, I still found plenty of time to enjoy myself, too.  But the best part of it all was the sense of pride that arose from finally making choices that aligned with what I wanted in my heart–for this thing called blogging to be my ticket to the life I’d been chasing for two years now, a life of freedom and being my own boss.

When I finally began making choices that I respected, my “luck” began to change.  Seemingly all at once, I signed four new client contracts.  For a brief moment, I could breathe again–I wouldn’t have to go crawling back to a “real” job just yet.

The positive changes that came out of that summer were all the reassurance I needed to know that I was on the right path, that I was inching ever closer to living my truth, to knowing myself, and ultimately loving myself.

Then Came Growth

As time wore on, personal development became my addiction.  I dedicated late nights and early mornings to my work.  In my leisure time, I read self-help books.

Much like the early lessons, the new lessons I was learning didn’t always register right away.  I had to chew on them for awhile to release the subtleties, the nuances, the complexities.

But all the while, I could feel myself changing.  I could feel myself growing more aware of who I was, how I acted, even what my heart wanted (some might call that “intuition”)–and that awareness allowed me to make better choices and know when to alter my course.

This summer, I bought that little $0.99 book.  I bought the Kindle version, except I don’t actually have a Kindle, so I read it on my phone using the Kindle app.  I read it every night as I laid in bed, this time on a Spanish island.

That book was called Choose Yourself, and it was written by a man named James Altucher.

You may not have heard of ol’ James, but he has founded many companies and made millions.  Some self-help guru, right?

But of course, as it always goes, there’s much more to this story.  James also lost millions.  Sunk businesses.  Destroyed relationships.  Lost his home.  Went through a divorce.

Of the 20 companies he founded, 18 of them were failures.  In 2008, at his lowest of lows and in the midst of the worst economic depression since the 1930s–with no job, no friends, and no money–he nearly lost the will to live.

His life insurance policy worth $4 million suddenly seemed like the best chance for his kids to have a decent life.

“There is no way out.  There is no way out.  I kept repeating it in my head.  I felt like I could will myself to death with those words.  But I couldn’t.  I had kids.  I had to get better.  I had to.”  -James Altucher, Choose Yourself

Feeling someone else’s pain, even through the vast distances of space and time, always helps put our own pain into perspective.  It doesn’t diminish it or make it any less real, but it helps us to realize that if someone can be pushed to such extremes and still find the power to choose themselves, well, so can we.

James developed what he referred to as “The Daily Practice” which centered around taking care of himself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  He was putting himself first, choosing himself in every way.

That month I spent living in a shared apartment on a Spanish island became my dedicated month of self-care.  I took James’s words to heart and began choosing myself in every way.

I curbed my wine consumption.  I put myself to bed early and woke up early.  I reintroduced regular exercise into my routine.  I practiced gratitude daily.

I found my way back to yoga, which has been perhaps the most transformative practice of all.

The very first intention I set on that very first day was the very thing that drew me back to the mat in the first place: to know myself.

One major difference between this new undertaking and my casual yoga habit of days past is that I no longer regarded it as a fitness tool.  Breaking free from that old assumption (and the desire to look good in yoga pants) allowed me to see yoga for what it really was: a powerful vehicle for self-exploration.

For me, it is the ultimate display of self-love, showing up on my mat for a moment of mindfulness.  A great butt and toned tummy–should they appear one day–would simply be a side effect of choosing myself.

And my god, it felt so good to choose myself for once.  And that month of self-care?  It’s been extended indefinitely.

Good choices beget good choices, as it turns out, and what started as a painful personal challenge on a beach on the coast of Spain has now become something of a habit.

That’s not to say that life is fine and dandy as a result or that I don’t still experience deep pain.  I endure bouts of crushing self-doubt on a near-daily basis.  I torment myself with “what ifs” that have no right to take up headspace.  I still sometimes wonder–and maybe I always will–what if this all comes crashing down tomorrow?

But self-love is a process, one that will never be truly complete.  There will always be more I could improve, more I can learn, more kindness I can show to myself and others.

And in the vein of extending that kindness to myself, I constantly need reminding that yes, I am deeply flawed in many ways, but that is what makes me human, and I deserve love anyway.

I am still on the path to loving myself and to knowing and living my truth.  I can say in all honesty that I love myself now more than ever, and I know I will come to love myself more deeply in the future.

What’s most important, however, no matter where I am in the process of self-love is to remember…

I am enough.

The books I have linked to in this post are affiliate links.  They have empowered me in ways I never thought possible, and I hope you find them as valuable on your journey of self-love as I have.  Thank you for reading.

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  • Reply Eva Casey October 23, 2016 at 6:26 am

    Thank you for writing this post!! I seriously relate to so much of it! Sometimes (or more realistically, all the time) it can be so much easier to look at other people and blame them as to why we aren’t where we’d like to be. It’s only when we focus on ourselves that the real change happens! I’m definitely in the process of learning to love myself, too. I’m still struggling with choosing the right things for me, like self care and exercise. But I keep trying to remind myself that it’s not about being perfect! 🙂
    Eva Casey recently posted…The Baltics Photo Diary: Vilnius, Riga & TallinnMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis October 23, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Exactly, it’s not about being perfect, but rather accepting ourselves in our imperfection! We are so quick to love other people regardless of their flaws and so slow to show that same love to ourselves. I really feel we should treat ourselves as kindly as we would our best friend.

  • Reply Laura October 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Leah, this is so, just, wow. It really struck a cord with me. I recently started trying to work on a daily practice that includes everything that I love (reading, writing for something other than my blog, studying Spanish, exercising). I have been SO hard on myself about my blog and where it’s all going, that I sort of forgot why I got into it in the first place (so I could have more time to dedicate to all the things that make me happy). Funnily enough, doing those things more has actually made me even more focused when I sit down at my computer, grateful for the fact that I can work a few hours a day and fill the rest of my time with things I enjoy. Good luck on the journey 😉
    Laura recently posted…How I Save At Least $10,000 Every Year to TravelMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis October 25, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      Aw I’m so glad you are finding time to do things that make you genuinely happy, and I totally relate. Making time for the things I know are important for my mental health (yoga being a big one) makes me more focused once I get back to those “must dos” also. And it really does allow me the space to step back and think “it’s all going to be okay.” Best of luck to you on your journey as well–I’m always here for support if you need it! x

  • Reply Glo October 24, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    I’m loving so much of who you’re becoming and who you’re helping others become, because of it. XOXO

    • Reply Jackie October 25, 2016 at 5:25 am

      Completely agree with Glo, love it Leah, keep it coming. xx

    • Reply Leah Davis October 25, 2016 at 10:19 pm

      You girls are so sweet for saying that!! So much love to you both xxx

  • Reply Lavina October 25, 2016 at 2:30 am

    When we’re trying to break free to discover a new version of ourselves, it can be pretty alienating as not many around us have the courage to do it nor are there many who we can turn for guidance (This is what I feel about my current situation)

    But the best bit about our online travel community is everything you’ve put in this post!
    In between all the travel guides there are some who discuss bits that happen in between, that’s worth much more!

    Loved every word of it Leah! 🙂
    Lavina recently posted…Mykonos in a nutshell with photos to make you go ‘WOW’My Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis October 25, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks so much Lavina. I do try to break the ‘travel blogger’ mold with posts like these, as I believe they are important conversations to have. And I’m always so pleased with how they are received! I definitely know what you mean about feeling alienated when you’re trying to grow and change and others around you simply are not, and oftentimes aren’t even receptive to the fact that YOU are. Can be so frustrating. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Reply Bianca @itsallbee October 25, 2016 at 2:50 am

    I love this. In the industry of blog whatever form, it’s almost as if we are just gloss over the fact that there is so much behind the shiny and glossy blog posts. I love how this posts paints a picture of a real person which in a way sometimes gets lost in all the pictures, Instagrams… I love the honesty of it. We all have these things we need to work through but I guess we have done a great job of pretending it’s all fine and just moving along, that in turn is more damaging like you said. I wish you all the success in working through that as its almost a lifetime job that we have to make sure we continue to keep an eye on and re-assess periodically
    Bianca @itsallbee recently posted…Snapshots From Warsaw | A city That Should Be On Your RadarMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis October 25, 2016 at 10:27 pm

      So true Bianca, it really is a lifelong process and we are never truly “done” growing and evolving. I’m so grateful for people like you who appreciate honesty in blogging over the picture perfect Instagrams with no substance behind them. I don’t want to pretend to be anything but authentically, imperfectly me 🙂

  • Reply Ella October 25, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Wow! This was probably one of the most beautiful, honest and real posts that I’ve ever read and about a topic that is super important! I can to relate to so many aspects of this; I’m also in the process of learning how to self-love, I have also listened to my heart to start yoga (which has already proved to be very healing and transformative) and have also battled with bad self-esteem as a result of choices that weren’t in alignment with what or who I wanted to be. It’s so comforting to know that you’re not the only one going through this journey. I really appreciate you sharing this with us and I wish you so much love & light on your journey 🙂 <3 xxx
    Ella recently posted…The Courage To Travel Again After A Traumatic TripMy Profile

    • Reply Leah Davis October 25, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Sounds like we have experienced much of the same for sure. I’m so glad you found some comfort in hearing my story, Ella. I think it’s important for us to realize that many of our experiences are totally normal–they still suck, of course, but there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re the only one struggling. Love and light right back to you, beauty x

  • Reply Cassidy @ Jetplane Jean October 26, 2016 at 9:18 am

    I found myself drawn to clicking on this post as I am also in the middle of realizing I need to learn to love myself once more. After moving to the “city of my dreams” four months ago, thinking it would solve everything, I found that as I left some things behind, all the insecurities and self-doubt apparently ended up in my suitcase without me realizing. It’s inspiring to see someone be so honest about their lower points and wanting to make real changes in their life instead of just complaining about them.

    I hope you don’t take offense to this, but I’m in the middle of reading a book titled, Almost Alcoholic and would definitely recommend taking a look at it. I too have been struggling with how fuzzy my values and worth were becoming due to alcohol (it also didn’t help that as soon as I moved, everyone wants to grab drinks to celebrate one thing or another several times a week.) Looking for a change, I’m finding this book to be great for anyone that’s ever questioned their alcohol consumption and is one of the first I’ve seen that doesn’t just define things in a black and white world. If anything, it’s put some of my drinking habits, which I figured were normal due to my friend circle, into a better light on maybe why I’ve been struggling with self-love for awhile now.

    Again, thank you for this post! 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis October 26, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Hey Cassidy, thanks so much for the thoughtful comment and the book recommendation. Alcoholism actually runs in my family. It’s not something I talk about openly here on the blog (not yet, anyway) but it’s a disease I am intimately familiar with and one of the reasons I knew I needed to reassess my habits was because I was seeing addictive behavior in myself and it was, quite frankly, terrifying. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol this month and it has been a challenging and eye-opening experience–in part because I still find myself craving it and in part because it’s proving so much easier than I thought it would be. Anyway that’s a story for another day, but believe me, it’s one of the things that’s top of mind for me. I’m glad my post resonated with you and I’m hoping you’re finding strength to shed some of your old insecurities–you’re right that changing your location very rarely solves anything, we have to dig deep and make things happen within ourselves. x

  • Reply Culture Passport November 4, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Leah, you are brave to have published this post! I think it’s a huge sign of your confidence that you’re able to write so candidly on the internet and I applaud you! As travelers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of, I’m not feeling great, let me take a trip to feel better – but of course, we know that this never works the way we intend. Thank you for publishing this post, it gives me inspiration to work on my own journey to self-love. xx

    • Reply Leah Davis November 4, 2016 at 11:23 am

      Thank you Victoria, that means a lot to me! I feel like just realizing that I didn’t love myself was the toughest part of this journey. It has still been a struggle since then, but you’re right to say I am more confident now–I wouldn’t have been able to write this 1 year ago. Thank you for reading x

  • Reply Kat November 22, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog and can’t believe I’ve found someone who was able to put into words the exact feelings I’ve been having towards travel and self love so beautifully! Really what I needed today – thank you!

  • Reply Brittany May 25, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Oh my gosh, Leah. I am in near tears here and definitely won’t be able to put into words how much I love this post, but I do. I so, so, love it.
    I’ve been on much the same journey, although mine maybe began without any intention on my part – I thought I was fixing a problem in a family relationship and that the other person was the problem. Oh, to discover all the choice and freedom I had within that that I had never seen before!
    I love your words, girl. Keep being kind to yourself, especially on the tough days.

  • Reply Karina August 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I love this post! I’ve been going through so much doubt and self-confidence issues lately, so this was a big help. Thankfully, I’m confident in myself most times, but when I do go through self-doubt, I come down extremely hard on myself. I’ve been having a tough year (Yes, YEAR!) and I’ve been comparing myself a lot to others the past several weeks. This really helped open my eyes to some steps I can take on a path to self-love!

    I appreciate the posting! It just goes to show that even when traveling the world, a person can still be carrying their burdens with them. Here’s to leaving them behind! XO

    • Reply Leah Davis August 31, 2017 at 9:27 am

      So glad you enjoyed the post and found something useful here, Karina! It’s true, traveling around the world, we just bring all of our burdens with us until we find the courage to face them once and for all. I hope your year turns around from here on out! x

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