Self-love, Borderline Personality Disorder & Mending the Divide Between Two (seemingly) Mutually Exclusive Entities

Through all of my years in the public education system, I learned a handful (or hundreds of handfuls) of things —

I learned how to tie my shoe, how to make friends, and how to read a map.

I remember being taught cursive, print, and how to solve for ‘x’.

I composed science experiments about moldy bread, wrote junior high-level play scripts, and developed blueprints for the construction of a Rube Goldberg Machine.

While each of these, and all the other tidbits of knowledge acquired, have had their own level of importance in my life, a crucial lesson was skipped over — a lesson on self-love. I grew up with the notion that it was normal, healthy, and unproblematic to have a consistently subtle flame of self hate. For the majority of my life, the lack of self-love and self-care, was still manageable. I had supportive humans readily available, and a high-school routine that allowed me to maintain a sense of grounding. Though I didn’t always feel wanted or popular, it was okay because I had my place, and I knew where my place fit with regard to my surroundings.

A move to university changed that.

I was no longer okay; it was no longer manageable.

The variable ‘x’ became a symbol for my own existence — an existence that I had no idea how to solve for, no ability to understand.

Self-Identity became a theoretical concept and self-love, a laughable expectation.

Two years post ending my college journey after being consumed by a failing sense of mental stability, I am learning how to practice self-love.

The process of transitioning from hating myself to loving myself has been among the most trying experiences I have encountered.

It is not simple, easy, nor convenient, but rather, complicated, painful, and incredible frustrating.

I don’t have all the answers, tips and tricks; I cannot say that I don’t ever cringe upon looking in the mirror.

My being does not consistently radiate rays of positivity, nor cheer about the extra little rolls my belly makes when I sit down.

I am human and I am imperfect.

I have vowed to learn to love myself, not in spite of imperfection, but simply, because of it.

I decided to compose a list of all the advice I wish I had been given— all the lessons learned from the struggles faced as a human diagnosed with a mental illness, and specifically, those as a human diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

  1. Self-love exists as a process, not a specified end goal at which maximum self-love is reached; we are always changing, and our perception of self will need to adjust, too.
  2. There is a difference between accepting yourself in spite of your flaws, and truly loving yourself BECAUSE of them. It isn’t always easy to distinguish between the two; the latter, of course, is much more difficult to achieve. The good news — you have your whole life to discover new things to love about YOU.
  3. If you have BPD, or even if you don’t, you may have experience with co-dependence; the first step is recognizing it. Once you do that, it is only a matter of time before your worth begins to become your own.
  4. It is difficult to accept compliments & support from other humans (especially if you have co-dependence on a certain human or two). It feels as though all the humans in the world could offer nice words, and loving hearts, but you will still deflect it with every fiber of your being. Start a list — a list of compliments, positive thoughts of self, and moments you felt empowered or maybe, empowering. In the moments that you feel it is truly unfathomable that you have worth, read the list. Use that collection of love and strength to delve within your own existence and find something you that makes you believe (or, at least, come as close as possible), that you are as amazing as you are.
  5. Physically share self-love as you would share love with an important human in your life. How so? Hold your own hand. I am COMPLETELY serious. If someone had told me that grabbing my own hand in moments of intense pain and worthless feelings would actually make a bit of a difference, I would have been annoyed by the fact that I was being given such unrealistic and unhelpful advice. But that is just it, it isn’t unrealistic. The act of grabbing my hand forced me to pause, to think, and to put down the blade before slicing through my skin. It allowed me to feel the touch of someone who truly knew what I was going through, someone who needed no words to be spoken in order for my thoughts to be conveyed — that someone was ME. I mean, think about it — you know you and your experience more than any other human. It only makes sense that your first source of comfort should come from within you. I know this idea sounds a little unlikely, but please, try it. This is one of the most significant and powerful acts of love I have ever given myself.
  6. Look into your eyes; whether they are vibrant blue, heartwarming brown, soothing green, mellow hazel, or any color amongst it. Stare into your own eyes as you’d stare into the eyes of a human you love. YOU DESERVE THAT LOVE TOO. Similar to the holding of hands, I found that pausing and staring into a mirror as my two sea blue eyes sent waves of pain and hurt back in my direction, was one of the most honest, necessary and pure moments I have ever experienced as a human being.
  7. Don’t be afraid to spend time alone. The act of accompanying yourself as you partake in new experiences is just as important as spending time amongst others — probably more important, really. I personally struggled with this for a very long time; I would spend a lot of time alone, but usually it was because I was too anxious or depressed to do something that my friends were doing. I was alone because I was too overwhelmed to have company, not because I was intentionally creating time to spend honoring my own human. I began to take myself on coffee dates, and walks outside with my bunny. Truthfully, this was terrifying. It took a lot of work, practice and patience to get to a place where I felt capable of experiencing new things on my own. It gives me anxiety to walk into a new place without another human with me. BUT IT IS OKAY. It is a feat that you can overcome. For me personally, I was (and sometimes still am) so anxious about walking in somewhere alone and looking silly that I will pull in the parking lot, but leave before getting myself to walk inside — but the thing is, I AM AWKWARD. I could have thirty humans walk in with me, and it will still be perfectly obvious that I am a pun-loving, sarcasm-speaking, little dork. THIS IS WHO I AM. Taking small steps towards accepting, and slowly, embracing this, has truly changed my life. If you can pin-point your fear and your source of self-conscious feelings, you are able to analyze them and consider them from a more realistic perspective — everything feels less overwhelming if you can sorta break it off in chunks like, I don’t know, a cookie, or a piece of a scone. Imagine that as you address the things that scare you. You won’t eat the entire cookie in one bite but rather, you break it off in small sections and nibble at it bit by bit; this seems a much more approachable strategy than trying to shove an entire cookie the size of your palm, directly into your mouth. Sure, you may drop a few crumbs and it may be a little messy either way, but small bits provide a sense of ease that tackling it all at once doesn’t quite offer.

This list certainly doesn’t reach every piece of advice I have to offer as a result of my experience, but that is intentional. You cannot expect to wake up one day & have all the self-hatred dissapear. Just as I mentioned with the cookie metaphor, it is important to be patient and thorough in discovering yourself, and the love within you. You are worth every second of the time it takes for you to begin to feel proud of yourself as a human. Set goals for yourself; remember to verbalize, write, and repeat them in your mind as often as possible. Self-love is not easy, but it is definitely worth it.

You are worth it.