My perception of love has changed.

I used to think that love meant being happy, feeling good and never feeling alone. This is the storybook kind of love I believed in as a child - the illusion that has been sold to us by mainstream media and society. Yes, love is wonderful and can make us feel these things, but it is so much more than that. The happy, warm fuzzy feelings are great, and they are absolutely a part of the experience, but that is only one layer. Life has taught me that like humans, love contains multitudes.

A large of part of romantic love is chasing a feeling - we love how someone special can make us feel. We have been taught that romantic love is about being intently focused on someone else, but at the root of it, it's really not about how someone else makes you feel or what they can do for you. It's about your relationship with yourself - because how you love yourself is the filter in which you will see and experience the world, but especially your relationships. It will color your perceptions and beliefs about what you are capable of, what you deserve, and what you are willing to put yourself through.

What we seek from another is merely a reflection of what we deeply desire to feel for ourselves. We want to feel seen, heard, valued, and cared for. We outsource this responsibility to others, because it feels easier than showing up for ourselves in this way. But when we give our power away and expect other people to do it for us, we will inevitably feel disappointed, hurt, and sometimes even abandoned.

I've learned that the love I want already exists within me. And that while love is the most beautiful, incredible thing we can experience as humans, it's not always rainbows and butterflies.

Love is about uncovering and embracing truth.

Love illuminates everything - especially the darkest corners of our soul that we have attempted to hide from ourselves and the world. Our sense of identity, our belief systems and ideas about who we are and how we "should" exist are challenged when illuminated by this kind of light. It can feel like our "truth" is being ripped away, leaving us naked and vulnerable - exposed and uncomfortable. It can feel incredibly painful and harsh to be confronted with the truth of who we are in this blinding light.

Love doesn't allow us to run from ourselves any longer - it gives us the opportunity to face ourselves and show us where we need to love ourselves more fiercely.

So what exactly does it mean to love yourself?

This is a question I've been asking myself for the last few years. I think the answer is different for everyone, but there are some basic truths that are at the core of self love. It really comes down to making choices in the present moment that sets your future self up for the life you desire and know you deserve. So what does that look like?

It means honestly asking yourself: what can I do today, in this moment, that will honor my future self?

Often times, that means making a hard decision. It can mean getting off the couch and getting exercise when you don't feel like it. It can mean getting up earlier than you'd like to make time for a morning routine, because you know you'll feel better for it. It can mean moving to a new city, state or country without knowing anyone. It can mean leaving the comfort and stability of a job, a relationship, a home, or a belief because you want better for yourself.

It feels like a huge leap of faith into the unknown, but really it's you paving a new path to your future self. For your future self. And while you can't know how the future will unfold, you can know that investing in yourself is the best bet you'll ever make.

It feels scary and uncomfortable because you've never walked this path before. You feel fear because your brain is trying to protect you, because to the brain, familiarity = safety.

When you're rewiring your neural pathways and actively changing your behavioral patterns, it takes a lot energy and effort. You have to actively and consistently choose what feels unfamiliar. You have to override the feelings of fear and uncertainty, over and over again, until it becomes your new norm.

When you come to a fork in the road and intuitively know that something must change in your life, ask yourself this:

Do you love yourself enough to make a change?

If yes, then:

What are you willing to sacrifice to prove to the universe that you are dedicated to your truest path and highest calling?

Are you willing make that hard decision and commit to it?

Are you willing to sit with uncertainty?

Are you willing to be uncomfortable for a while, perhaps a long while, for the sake of growth and transformation?

Because that's what it takes.

The willingness to get your ass kicked.

To feel uncomfortable; sometimes to feel like absolute shit.

To feel alone.

To feel misunderstood.

To feel extremely vulnerable.

To not have any idea how things will play out, but to follow your heart anyways.

This is what it looks like to be true to yourself.

To trust yourself.

To love yourself.

So, while the path of transformation may feel both painful and uncomfortable, you'll have to discern whether it's worth it for you.

I can say from my own experience that it absolutely is. And while this is a path that only you can choose for yourself and experience, you don't have to go it alone. You shouldn't, because we weren't meant to. Community and safe spaces are imperative in supporting you through these life transitions.

So build your community. Seek out the people and experiences that make you feel safe, seen, and valued. Allow yourself to be authentic and vulnerable and you will be rewarded in ways you never could've imagined.

I promise you - it's worth it.