Committing to self-love whispered quietly in your mind is all you need to ground yourself in the work.

Self-love is a term that’s honestly gotten a bad rep. Maybe it’s from buzzing around social media for so long without committing to the work of unpacking what it really means, but there’s a lot of confusion on the role that self-love plays in our lives. It’s more than a fun buzzword — it’s the starting point for all of the love that we feel and connect with others in our lives. It all begins with self-love. 

So what exactly is self-love? At its simplest terms, self-love is, well, love that you have for yourself. But where most people go awry with this is seeing self-love as a destination that they need to reach. Creating conditionals for yourself — if I lose weight or finish this class or change whatever it is about myself that is holding me back — isn’t the way to build a strong self-love. The love that we all desire and crave already exists in ourselves, no conditions necessary.

As corny as it may sound, the following is the trust statement we could learn about self-love: self-love isn’t a destination, it’s a journey that we embark on, and every day we make the choice to take another step.

Even in romantic relationships, making time to center self-love is important. Too often we can lose ourselves, our identities, the core of who we are in exchange for how good it feels to be part of a partnership. But who does it serve if we create a hierarchy of importance between our identities as self-loving individuals and loving romantic partners? Both are important. If we want to incorporate more love into our relationships, no matter what form they take, we have to start with a strong foundation of self-love. There’s no other way around it.

Related: TAKING SELF-CARE BEYOND ITS COMMERCIALIZED VERSION

The beauty of self-love is that its importance never goes away, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves. Whether we’re partnered, looking, in the transition from relationships, or enjoying our solitude, self-love is there because it creates the foundation to what you feel about yourself, in that moment, in this space that you’re in.

We get swept up in cultural narratives and (others’ expectations) dictating what love should look like. But self-love re-centers that, pulling us back to center. Self-love asks us, What does love look like for you and how are you willing to get there every day? The bravery that it takes to address this question head-on can’t be understated.

There are days that the bravery required to answer these questions head-on just don’t exist. Life happens — we get tired, angry, worn down from the world around us telling us message after message that we aren’t enough or simply not worth it. Marginalized people know this all too well; we’re constantly bombarded with this messaging. But realize that the act of rising beyond that and reclaiming how we embody what is considered valuable (aka US) is self-love in motion.

Take a breath, and realize that self-love in action doesn’t have to be the grand performative gesture for the world. Committing to self-love whispered quietly in your mind is all you need to ground yourself in the work. After all, you’re the only you that you have.

What brings you pleasure? Maybe it’s spending time checking in with a loved one, telling each other about your day and validating the role that you play in each other’s lives. Maybe it’s having a moment to shake off the hardness of the day’s events, having a moment to relax into your own breath and recenter on what really matters. It’s not about the activity or the physical things involved — if you need a book, or a face mask, or lighting your favorite candle to get you into the mindset of focusing on self-love, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it comes down to committing to the action, each day that you can.

Related: WE ARE PRIORITIZING SELF CARE AND SELF-LOVE DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Repeat this to yourself as many times as you need to: Self-love is about the journey, not the destination. Here’s hoping that that journey leads you to exactly where you want to be.