Self Love is a practice. Not a destination.
"You just gotta love yourself” is one the most ineffective things you can tell someone struggling with low self-esteem/self-worth. It comes from a well-meaning place, but self-love requires work.
I like to imagine it’s like having someone who keeps setting your house on fire and somehow you manage to put out the flames, but they keep coming back.
I spent many years “fireproofing” myself to protect my self-esteem. I plastered my walls with visions boards of beautiful, successful Black role models. I filled closets with tons of expensive, respectable clothes. I brought home incompatible yet successful partners I thought would be the “Barack” to my “Michelle”. I found religion, denied my authentic self, and lied to avoid conflict or hurt other people’s feelings.
All of that and I still felt unworthy and unloved. All of that until I was ready to admit a hard truth: The problem wasn’t my inability to be “fireproof”. My problem was not addressing the jerk arsonists who kept coming back with matches. And sometimes that jerk was me.
I needed to be honest with myself about where I acquired beliefs of unworthiness that shaped my sense of self. Part of that honesty was admitting that I live in a society that requires me to be in a constant state of lack, always working/hustling to prove my worth. It’s the precise function of anti-Blackness, racism, capitalism, patriarchy, sexism, transphobia, fatphobia. So, instead of asking, “Am I good enough?”, I now ask, “Who/what benefits or profits from low worth we assign ourselves and others?”
Yes, we are responsible for how much we love ourselves, but we can’t love ourselves and hate/exploit/oppress others. And we can't love ourselves fully in a world that hates us. That's why love is activism. Love is a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, and responsibility for ourselves and for each other. Self-love requires us to practice and develop these qualities within and with others.