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I’ve battled with self-love most of my life. A voice has always been present to pick apart my appearance as I sit in front of the mirror, mocking me continuously. Every time I stand in front of it, I manage to find something new to examine.

I’ve honestly become my biggest critic as I continue to belittle myself, and this exhausting cycle seems impossible to break. In this difficult situation, I imagine what younger me would think about where I am now. Instead of imagining myself as an adult in the mirror, I picture the 10-year-old me who was dealing with her own problems and insecurities. After all these years, how am I still not able to love myself completely?

Though I have made progress since then, it still breaks my heart. As a result, I realize there is no better time than now to start treating myself the way I deserve to be treated.

Self-love is a never-ending journey that cannot be rushed. I’m not going to get there by using cheat codes, shortcuts or any other tricks, but I can make it a little easier by following a few simple practices.

Self-love means putting yourself first. Without it, you can’t achieve change or growth — it’s the beginning of everything. You can’t find true peace in any aspect of your life, whether it’s professional or personal. Unless you change your frame of mind, you will never realize your self-worth. Only with the help of self-love can you make healthy choices in life without compromising your standards, and start seeing the world from an entirely new perspective. A world where you don’t desire anyone’s validation, where those voices are simply lost in the chaos.

You’ll be unable to achieve your goals and dreams if you adhere to this damaging mindset. By disregarding your own qualifications, you’ll be your biggest roadblock. But why spend your life wallowing in self-pity and anger? Give yourself a break — don’t be so miserable.

A lack of self-love leads to grasping at whatever relationships you already have in your life, fooling yourself into believing they are all you are worth — that you’re already lucky enough to have someone in your life, despite how terribly they treat you. But this isn’t fair to anyone; learn to love yourself before you love anyone else. Until you’ve experienced it yourself, you won’t be able to share it with others.

To combat this, focus on ways to improve yourself. If you want to see changes in your life, make them, but don’t forget that you are fine just the way you are. Do these things not because you think they’ll increase your value, but because they’ll make you happier. Self-acceptance is a key component here. If you don’t implement this, it’ll eventually affect your mind, body and soul.

The ability to transform dreams and ambitions into success stories only comes with adequate levels of self-love. It is self-love that builds self-confidence, which propels one forward towards fulfilling their dreams.

So, dabble in some meditation, practise positive affirmations and watch the way you talk to and about yourself. Try to have a more positive outlook and attitude in the way you approach these conversations. Suddenly, you’ll see life from a bright, new perspective, where the possibilities are endless. If you don’t believe in yourself, others can’t either.

Above all, it’s important to remember that self-love is a journey of self-discovery, which takes time. It will be an arduous road, but when you get there, you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been. At least, that’s what I try to remind myself when I’m bombarded by a plague of negative thoughts. I know that self-love is incredibly hard to practise, but I just know it’ll be so worth it once I get the hang of it.

Aishah Ashraf is a third-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University whose hopes to pursue a career as a talk-show host are fuelled by her passion to remedy the absence of female Muslim representation in the entertainment industry. When she isn’t writing, you can find her rambling on about pop culture, searching for new adventures to embark on, or binge-watching programs on Netflix like the television fanatic she is.