Leadership and Self-Love

July 30, 2018 | Taryn Stejskal | HCI
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What if, instead of fixating on the things we don’t like about ourselves, we obsessed about the things we love about ourselves?

As head of global leadership development, I spend a lot of time developing our company’s leaders. I put a great deal of energy and love into supporting our people so they can be their very best, each and every day.

It is easy for me to give so much care to the people with whom I work, yet I often fail to offer the same magnitude of love to myself.

As leaders, and in life, the most courageous act of goodwill we can each offer the planet starts with the measure of love we are able to offer ourselves.

In order to step forward into leadership, we first have to love ourselves enough to believe we have something to offer to our team, company, and the world.

Leadership requires that we believe in ourselves enough to value our unique capabilities, skills, and talents.

It’s impossible to live on this earth and not make an impact. Imagine what would happen if we were all casting off our negative self-talk, and strengthening the tender places of thin self-confidence while pursuing growth, our highest selves, and loving the people we are?

The opposite of self-love is not being enough. Believing we are lacking or unfit in some way. There is even a word for this: Atelphobia – the fear of not being enough. It’s a thing. It EVEN has a name.

We need a world that offers more love. To others, but especially to ourselves.

Remember that old adage, “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself?” All my life, I’ve been hoping to skip over the self-love part. To gloss over all the aspects of myself that are uncomfortable, quirky, ugly, annoying, imperfect, and unseemly. I had hoped to float over all of that, and instead, focus on loving everyone and everything else around me.

I did this for a long time, because for me, I came to realize, I am the hardest person for me to love.

Also, it’s downright dangerous. When I didn’t love myself, I allowed other people’s ideas and appraisals to matter more than my own. Without self-love, focusing all my love on other people outside of myself, left me open to blindly following the guidance of others. I believed in their opinions more than my own. Most importantly, rather than offering love to myself, acceptance, and appreciation, I allowed others to determine whether or not I was loveable, worthy.


Missing Self-Love Means Missed Opportunities

If I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?

I recently attended a concert. The prior evening, I had spent time with the band members playing onstage. They were lovely. We laughed about online dating experiences, discussed our summer plans, and talked about our families. Now, dancing to their music near the stage, I reveled in being able to experience their musical talent. As the show wound down I thought I saw the lead guitarist make eye contact with me, and motion for me to join them on the stage. Several times, when he played a chord, his hand made a gesture to join them.

“Really?” I thought. “Me on stage?”

As quickly as the thought came to mind, I dismissed it. “Sure, Taryn” I goaded myself sarcastically, “He picked you out of a crowd of 1500, and now he’s inviting you to join them on stage in the middle of a concert. As if!”

After the show, I connected with my new friends from the band and told them how much I enjoyed the show. The lead guitarist said, “Taryn, I saw you in the audience. I kept motioning for you to come on stage. Why didn’t you join us?”

I was completely stunned.


Love Harder

Why is self-love important? Fundamentally, in order to love ourselves, we have to believe we are worthy of love. When we are worthy of love, we also find ourselves being worthy of other aspects of human experience – a promotion, a better life, working conditions that treat us with humility and dignity.

When we love ourselves, we believe we are worthy of more than merely what other people are willing to give.

In college, I can remember trying to determine my interests. Did I like SCUBA diving and Marine Biology? Impressionist art? World travel? Archeology? Ancient Egypt? Neuropsychology? Reading? Cooking? As it turns out, I love all of these things, and more.

Back then, though, I wasn’t so sure. I was concerned that by choosing what I wanted, my interests might be inconvenient to a friendship or love interest. What if these pesky desires of mine kept someone away who would really like, or even love me. I determined it was better to ignore my own desires, and focus on what made other people happy.

I did this for a long time.

I did everything everyone else wanted me to do. I pursued the educational degrees, relationships, career, and experiences I thought other people would want me to have. While much of what I achieved was aligned with my own interests, some of it wasn’t.

Then, one day I woke up. All of this ignoring myself and my own desires meant that I was living a life that didn’t feel like mine. I felt like I ate the tea biscuit in Alice and Wonderland, and nothing fit anymore. I felt a sense of profound exhaustion and a frantic desperation to make a change. As soon as possible.

Now I understand that the journey to love isn’t about finding “the one”, the journey is about becoming “the one”.

The most important love story to pursue is the love story I am writing with myself.

How do we love ourselves better? Love yourself enough to:

  • be enough, worthy
  • succeed, not self-sabotage
  • be seen and known
  • teach others how to love you by setting boundaries. The only people that will be upset when you draw boundaries are those that profit from you not having any.
  • acknowledge your fears, but not allow them to deter you
  • step way outside of your comfort zone – get comfortable getting uncomfortable
  • explore and have your own adventure
  • be alone—yes, be alone. Allow yourself to be enough to be alone with yourself. (see the first bullet)
  • believe you deserve it – you CAN go dance on stage when you’re asked!
  • desire your dream more than you subscribe to your internal drama
  • believe in abundance. Instead of clinging to the notion of scarcity, there is not enough to go around, choose the power of infinite possibility, focus on building a better life for tomorrow
  • make time for the things that matter. I often hear myself saying “I don’t have time to ….” Ask yourself, am I making myself a priority? If you really want to be audacious here, the next time someone asks you to do something, instead of saying you are too busy, say, “It’s not a priority.” See how that feels
  • say “No.” Life is a series of tradeoffs. Saying “No” to one something allows you to say “Yes” to something you love more


Loving ourselves is both powerful and redemptive because, through self-love, we value our gifts, knowledge, strengths, and capabilities that are unique to each of us.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”

By loving ourselves better, we can make our lives, ourselves, and our world a better place.

Just where and how can you start loving yourself more?

A friend recently told me, “Taryn, love yourself the way you love everyone else. Your children. Your friends. Your colleagues. Your family. You deserve to offer yourself the same loved you so freely give to everyone else.”

You might ask, “Why me?” A better question is “Why not me?” Who are you to not be deserving of love, admiration, and worthiness? Trust me, there is not good reason why not.

When you love yourself, you glow from within. There is a fire inside that brings out the best in you and attracts the very best of what is around – you attract people who love, respect, and appreciate your energy. It all starts with how we feel about ourselves.

In the words of Tony Gaskins:

Know who you are.

Know what you want.

Know what you deserve.

Don’t settle for [an ounce] less.

If you want to, next time you’re invited by the band, love yourself enough to even go dance on stage.