And why you must, if you want to experience real joy.
If you could trade places with anyone else in the world, would you do it? For a long time, I wished I were someone more athletic, more outgoing, better looking, and taller.
Today, I wouldn’t change places with anyone. That’s what happens when you fall in love with yourself. And until you do, you can never achieve sustained contentment.
Falling in love with yourself does not make you arrogant, vain, or narcissistic. It means you harbor deep self-respect. But more than that, you own your perceived flaws and possess self-confidence tempered with humility. You live with the certainty that you wouldn’t change places with anyone, even if you could.
It took me 48 years to reach this point. I hated myself in adolescence. I refused to believe in myself throughout my twenties. And in my thirties, I had accepted my shortcomings but still wished I could be someone else.
In my early forties, I reached a point of resignation. I stopped lamenting what nature gave me, and vowed to make the best of what I had.
Although I had no organized plan, I made several life changes that allowed me to fall in love with myself. It’s not something you can force or achieve with self-talk; at least I couldn’t. It’s a feeling that results from taking six actions. And once you reach it, you’ll know happiness.
Before you fall in love with yourself, you must give up the desire to become someone else. Stop telling yourself that your life would improve if you only had higher cheekbones, a more gregarious personality, or any other trait you covet.
You must accept who you are. Even if you believe it unfair, there’s nothing you can do about it.
It will feel like a low point. It did for me. But in retrospect, you’ll see it as the beginning of your journey. Once you surrender to reality, you can start on the path to self-love.
Reimagine your flaws
I’ve always been a quiet person. For years, I viewed it as a weakness, a reason to shame myself. After my moment of surrender, I accepted my quiet nature as a limitation I’d have to endure. But today, I see it as a strength. Whether you view a trait as positive or negative depends on the lens through which you view it.
Don’t think of your flaws as weaknesses. Think of them as features, quirks, or hallmarks.
Pick a feature you believe represents a flaw or weakness. How could you look at it through a different lens — one that magnifies its positive traits? If you’re quiet, you’re probably a good listener. If you lack the education of your peers, you rely on your wits to succeed. There’s almost always a positive spin.
As you start to see yourself through this new lens, you’ll discover that your perceived flaws offer unique advantages.
Do something you’re afraid to do
Early in my sales career, a series of rejections paralyzed me with fear. I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone. My manager swooped in to rescue me. He spent an entire day standing over my shoulder, watching me call prospective clients.
With my boss pointing a gun to my head, I had no choice but to follow through. Each call got a little easier, and as the day progressed, the fear of rejection disappeared. It turned into my most successful sales day. I felt like I owned the world.
The most empowering thing you can ever do with your life is to say yes to the things you fear. When you conquer a fear, you can’t help but admire yourself. Pick something you want to do or need to do, but feel afraid to act. Say yes and do it.
One of the most important decisions I made in the last five years was to start a daily journaling habit. It has been my primary tool for self-discovery.
Fifteen minutes a day of reflection will give you a peek under the covers of your consciousness. You’ll expose the fears, worries, and dreams you know exist, but would rather not confront. Your journal becomes the tool through which you conduct difficult conversations with yourself.
Keep the contents of your journal a secret. You’ll be more honest, knowing nobody will ever see what you write. In time, you’ll realize the same thing I discovered. You’re complicated but in an interesting way. You’re quirky but in a compelling way. And you’re imperfect, but in a way that makes you unique.
Emulate the behaviors of people you admire
I admire people who lift up others, people who stay above the fray, and people who pursue their dreams in the face of resistance. I try to emulate those behaviors every day.
Make a list of the people you admire and the specific behaviors that resonate with you. When you finish, consolidate all those behaviors into a vision of the person you’d like to become.
Whittle down your list to a maximum of ten. Picture yourself as that ideal person with those qualities. Then, start acting that way. When you behave like the ideal person you envision, it’s impossible not to fall in love with yourself.
Be clear on what you want out of life and take your shot
From my thirties through early forties, a sense of defeatism possessed me. I had missed my chance to win at life. I had become one of those middle-aged cubicle dwellers, spending eight hours a day watching the clock.
But I got lucky. Discouragement escalated to a point where I had to act. And I did. Yet, many folks learn to live with that disappointment. Don’t be one of them. Let it bother you. Let it enrage you to the point of saying, “Fuck it. I need to try.”
I know many people in their forties already looking forward to retirement, calculating how many years they’ll have to endure the drudgery of their jobs. That saddens me. Yes, we all have bills to pay, but you don’t have to quit your job to take your shot.
Carve out time on the side. You don’t even have to succeed. I barely made $1,000 during my first two years of writing, but I had already felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.
To experience sustained joy, you must fall in love with yourself, but be patient. It’s like developing an acquired taste for a delicacy. You dislike it at first. Then you get used to it. And finally, you love it and wonder how you were once blind to its delight.