Today is a good day. I’ve been feeling proud of myself over the past several months. Not all day, every day, but frequently. It’s a feeling I’m consciously exploring. Pursuing even.

One of my biggest hurts comes from being disappointed by others, yet I used to never really give disappointing myself much thought. I’m sure there were times that I was oblivious even to the reality that I was letting myself down. So I’ve put a stop to it. After all, letting yourself down is like tackling yourself and then dog-piling on your own back and administering a few cheap jabs to your defenseless body while you’re at it.

Ummm. No thank you. Not anymore. I do not choose to be a victim. Especially a victim of my own self.

For me, self-compassion—self-love—is acknowledging my truths…be it my strengths, weaknesses, needs, thoughts, wrongs and rights. Owning all of it, all of me. Not being ashamed of me. And being OK that who I am doesn’t have to match who you are or want me to be. Or, even more importantly, who I am doesn’t have to be understood or accepted or even celebrated by you.

I am responsible for knowing me best, endorsing my me-ness and throwing my own parade. Sure, it would be nice if a few people along the way tuck me into their heart, like me for me and cheer lead my life moments, but all that really bears weight is that I show up for myself to do these things.

Throughout my get-healthier-and-happier journey, I’ve put forth the introspective effort to place my finger on the exact feelings I’m having and to explore and understand what gives breath to those emotions. Of late, I’ve opened myself up to all that even more by really trying to practice living in the gift of each moment, speaking up when I need to share my thoughts, endeavoring to release my often-difficult-to-let-go-of expectations of others and striving to step up and be accountable to myself first.

Sometimes I find my stride with it all. And, still, I have times when I struggle with it. But I’m sooo over throwing a dark blanket over what feels healthiest for me just so everything else and everyone else SEEM fine or aren’t inconvenienced by me. That’s a big area where I’ve let myself down in the past. And it’s not healthy.

I know what hiding from yourself does. And I know what letting yourself down feels like. I know how ignoring your truth eats away at you. For a time, alcohol and drugs were my dark blanket. That hasn’t been the case for 18 years, but the reminder is always present. After addiction, I covered up with humor sometimes, distance other times and outright avoidance when it served best. But those tactics were inadequate. They didn’t help in the ultimate pursuit of feeling good about myself, proud of myself.

So for as long as I can remember now, I’ve been trying to take the right steps down the right path for myself, putting myself out there and all the while being mindful not to step on anyone else’s toes. Sometimes I’m successful. Actually, most times I am. Occasionally, I’m not. But it’s important that I try and keep trying. And I can be proud that I don’t think I have ever once stomped on anyone’s toes just because I could.

This past year, I’ve taken my quest for authentic living to a new level after releasing myself of my smoking addiction. It’s been freeing and exciting. Yet I didn’t anticipate that my new-found me could confound others. Maybe it’s just that people get confused about the difference between being selfish and practicing self-love. To me the distinction is simple.

If I run down MY path, a tornado of flinging elbows and stomping on lots of sets of toes and my focus is me, Me, ME at the expense of you and you and you, I’m selfish. But if I stride down the trail, purposefully side stepping here and high stepping there in effort to stay true to my path, which means that I occasionally stub toes with you, I’ll own that. I’ll share my true feelings so that you’re knowing the true me. I’ll try not to feed negativity because it breeds infectiously. I’ll apologize when I’ve wronged. I’ll draw the lessons I was meant to learn from each experience so I grow. That’s self-love.

It’s how I nurture me and love me. And I can only make my choices, speak my mind and control my actions. I can only do me; you have to do you.

And one thing I can be certain of—now that I’ve tasted the pureness of conscious, daily self-love and have become so fundamentally nourished by its essentiality—is that I will never settle for anything less than living a proud, healthy life. Don’t you settle either.

Kisses for me. Kisses for you.