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By Rachael Ward

It seems fitting to reach into the spirit of my heart to write about something I find, to myself at least, truly important to explore.

I can remember the first time I wanted to know love – truly know love.
It was when I came out and knew my heart for the first time. I was 21. For the next two years of my life I floated through relationships and watched scarring over scarring collect on my heart. I yearned for love, yet I did not understand how it deserved to be treated.

A common mistake, I think, is to force squeeze an emotion out of ourselves before we are truly in understanding of how delicate and precisely what it is we are wishing to experience.

So, it took a good amount of hurt to carve out what I needed most – self-love.
We are told – often – “Love yourself.” “Take care of yourself.” We are given a million different ways by society to do this – lots are inaccurate.

What does self-care look like? What is self-love?

It wasn’t until I decided to choose love every day for myself that I began to fill a completeness that allowed me to give my heart to another human being.
It consisted of admitting my wrong, loving myself through those wrongs and continuing to explore the growth of my mind, spirit and soul. And, it’s work – daily work.

There are days when I just don’t want to love myself as much as I did the day before. Maybe I feel fat or feel uncomfortable with appearance that day. Or, maybe hurt by those around me (i.e. parents, friends, co-workers) that I cave in and feel “If that’s their mentality – maybe it should be mine?”

The mind is a powerful thing and identity is bound by our mind. How we identify ourselves maintains how we treat ourselves.

I desire for my identity to be rooted in love. So, my choice is to wake everyday and strive to first and foremost love myself and then give that love to those around me without option of return. No expectations, just love.

Do I succeed? Sometimes, yes. And, sometimes, no. But I try and stay trying.
Love isn’t perfect, nor are we as humans, but if we keep ourselves from love – out of fear or hate toward our own being – we are missing the single most beautiful connector of our world.

So, today and every day, I challenge you to choose love. Love yourself, your neighbor, and your partner and strive to view the world in wonderment.

It is, after all, what you see and make of it.

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