Love doesn’t just happen; it’s an action you take.You cannot sit around and wait to feel good about yourself. You have to do something—to take charge, to embrace yourself. Confidence will not come wrapped in a package, left on your front doorstep.You will need to have the courage to fall in love with yourself—not just the shiny, attractive parts, but also the parts you think aren’t so great.

I’m challenging you to love yourself with at least 50 percent of the acceptance, encouragement, and nurturing attention you show your children or dearest friends or loved ones. And here’s the kicker: you have to learn to do it while you’re not feeling your best. Seems impossible! What difference will it make in your life if you learn to love yourself ? Each of us has a purpose in life that is ours—people we influence, children we raise, contributions to our family and society that come from us alone.

When you are able to love who you are, it is less likely that you will do what others expect of you and more likely that you will do what your heart tells you to do You will be able to stand up for yourself, declare your self-worth, stop giving excuses and explanations to everyone, and be comfortable and unafraid to be yourself.

If you don’t love yourself, then you miss the opportunity to add your unique contribution to the lives of those around you.

In the words of my teenagers, “You become a follower!” Being a follower isn’t so bad unless you are a mother, because mothers have the awesome task of raising children to be independent, self-confident, self-loving adults. If you cannot model to your children what it looks like to love and respect yourself, then they will not learn that important life skill.

Self loving also produces an array of delightful benefits in one’s life: we begin to show loving action toward others, we develop a sense of balance between the family’s needs and our personal needs, and we begin to forgive all that we wish we could have been and start accepting who we are.

It takes more courage to love yourself than it takes to love another person.We are harsher, more judgmental, and less forgiving of ourselves.We easily Love Truth Again see the wonder in others yet focus on the faults within ourselves. As you begin to picture the life you want, discover who you are, and start to examine old patterns that may stand in the way of the relationship you want, you will be left with a clear idea of the woman you are—faults and all. That is the moment when loving yourself becomes the greatest step toward being ready to love someone else.

It makes you human, vulnerable, and open to love in a new way.You settle into yourself as you begin to believe that you are a lovable woman whether or not a man loves you. This is important, for it will allow you to walk away from a relationship, if you have to, as a whole and self-loved woman.

The most important act of loving myself happened the day I decided to leave my husband. I stood back and took a good look at how it felt to be living my life.This time the view was filtered, not through the rosy glow of love, but rather through the gray clouds of depression, exhaustion, and despair.

It was the first time I stood up and declared my own worth.That day the love I found for myself was stronger than my fear. I had gone out to lunch with a few new women friends I’d made in New Zealand, where we were living at the time. We were talking about our lives when I said,“I’m going back to the United States and getting a divorce.”They all stopped eating and stared at me like I had just told them I was dying.

Slowly they asked questions—mostly, why? Many times in the past I’d thought about divorce. I had spent years complaining about our relationship to friends and family moaning really—but I was never willing to do anything about it, to take that final step.This simple declarative sentence, delivered without excuses or apologies, made me feel that for the first time I owned who I was.

In the past I’d always felt I had to explain every choice I made, make sure everyone understood that whatever decision I made was not selfish or self-serving—in other words, make sure that everyone else’s needs were met.

In that moment, I wanted to be me. I could actually stand outside myself and watch what I was doing, and I liked myself. I thought, This must be what it feels like to love myself enough to be unafraid to be myself. I read an interview with Toni Morrison in which she said that she always wanted to be herself.

That sentence alone gave me food for thought for the rest of the day.Today I really like being me, but it hasn’t always been that way. I liked parts of myself during my marriage, but I liked less and less about myself the longer the relationship continued. Toni’s comment caused me to wonder whether, if I had wanted to be me during my marriage and really embraced and loved that person, would things have been different? Now I want to be me, but it took me forty years to get to this place.

I don’t look at magazines or movie stars and wish I looked different. I love Loving Yourself  being a writer. I love being a mother, and I’m really proud of what I have created in my home and in my garden. I wonder what the collective soul of women would have missed if Toni Morrison and hundreds of other women whose ideas have brought life and direction to all of us had decided to go with the popular opinion of who they were instead of embracing and believing in themselves enough to be themselves.