I’ve been a romantic at heart for as long as I can remember, relishing in novels like The Notebook, Eleanor and Park, Pride and Prejudice and Me Before You. My love of love and all its facets is a curse, really. I’ve spent so long gorging on novelisations of true love that I’ve become overly optimistic about what relationships are really like. Perhaps many of you are like me, equating movies like ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ to your own lives and believing that any good-looking person who is initially nasty to you will eventually love you for the quirks that they supposedly hated in the beginning.

I fell in love with a guy once just because he texted me daily and called me ‘charming’. Till this day, the fact that he called me charming still lives rent-free in my mind. Later, I fell in love with someone because they told me about their rough childhood and the obstacles they overcame to become successful. In those conversations, I felt like they were opening up to me like Pam opened up to Jim in ‘The Office’…but it wasn’t meant to be. I was just around in the library at the same time they were.

I can think of at least a dozen other examples of times I fell in love with a guy who thought of me as nothing more than a friend, but many of these stories are quite embarrassing, so I’ll spare you guys the gory details. Truthfully speaking though, I don’t think I was truly in love at all any of those times and was merely happy to be acknowledged and appreciated by someone who saw the value in me that I never saw in myself.

What I’ve come to realise in my mid-twenties, is that my obsession with love and being loved is not something that can exclusively be attributed to the books I read and the movies and series’ I watch. There is so much childhood trauma and insecurity attached to my falling in love so dramatically.

When I was at primary school, I was teased for being chubby. In high school, the first crush I ever had, called me ‘weird’. I don’t think I have ever really processed those moments of hurt in my life. Therefore, when a male friend calls me ‘charming’ or pays me any attention, the teenage girl in me relishes the attention and feels validated in some small way, and I confuse that euphoria with ‘love’.

Any time a good-looking male friend takes an interest in me and we hang out or talk often, I start to develop feelings for them. Then they show me pictures of their super-hot girlfriends or tell me they’re into skinny, tall girls and I fall apart, absconding from the friendship in its entirety.

I’m not sure if any of you are also inclined to catch feelings for people too soon, but if you are, don’t beat yourself up about it. As I mentioned before, there may be many underlying issues that cause you to give your heart away too easily.

Recently, I have started trying to practice self-love. I believe it’s important, and I would advise you to do the same. If you fill yourself with love, you’ll be likely to recognise your worth instead of simply falling for someone because they’re ‘nice’ to you or say things to you that you’ve never seen or recognised in yourself.

Below, I have highlighted some of the ways I try and practice self-love. I try to be consistent, but I must admit that when I have work or varsity deadlines, many of these tips and tricks fall by the wayside a bit. Please don’t be too hard on yourself if the same thing happens to you, we’re all just humans with different responsibilities in life that sometimes make it challenging to be mindful.

1) I wrote down the story of my life

I found this really challenging initially, not only because I was lazy to journal about the various aspects and stages of my life in their entirety, but also because I really needed to dig deep and find the courage to write openly about parts of my life I tried to forget.

Journaling, as I’ve mentioned in a few other blogs, can be extremely therapeutic. As you write about your life and its diverse highs and lows, you may initially stumble, cringe, or even cry about your experiences. This is just part of the process – push through it. This is your life and your unique story. Be proud of it.

Whilst writing your story, you may start to see recurring themes, maybe times when you felt let down by friends, family, or even yourself. These are important patterns to pay attention to because they may provide important insights about why you seek validation through the affection of others.

2) I developed my hobby

If you love cycling, why not try and ride a kilometre or two more every day? Enjoy sketching? Practice your craft and enter some cool competitions. Love writing? Work on it daily. Have a look at the Fundza data-free site for some exercises that will help you improve your skillset and send some pieces through to be edited and published online. The feedback you get from the Fundza team will help you identify areas of improvement and you’ll feel amazing when you see a blog, story, essay or poem you wrote, published on the site.

My point is, if you have a hobby, instead of simply treating it as a way of passing time, why don’t you try your best to perfect the craft? This is a great way to build your confidence. You’ll see yourself go from novice to expert in due time. This is another great way to feel validated – not because of what someone else said or did for you, but because of how you made yourself feel.

This is a fabulous way to take your power back. I tried it with writing. Even though I have been a journalist for a few years now, I still feel so proud of myself for having developed my craft, little by little.

3) I try to make myself a priority

In the hurly burly of life, we often forget to prioritise our own needs. We are so busy meeting deadlines and satisfying the needs of everyone around us that we forget who we are and what we need.

I recently asked my mom what kind of fast food she would prefer, since I would be spoiling the family with a little treat. All she said was, ‘whatever you and your siblings want is fine with me.’ Later that day, she confessed to my family and I that she doesn’t even remember what her favourite fast food is, because she spent so many years accommodating my siblings and I and our needs. I love my mom to bits and pieces but hate that she lost her sense of self in the years she spent rearing our family.

Knowing who you are and prioritising your needs and wants is so important. Forget about the characteristics and habits that would make you attractive or sexy to a potential partner and just be yourself and love who you are.

There’s nothing wrong with falling in love. Love is beautiful. But, if you, like me, have a pattern of falling in love too quickly with people who may or may not deserve your affections, you may want to consider working on your self-image and filling yourself with love, gratitude and appreciation before stepping into your next relationship. Remember that you are amazing and deserve to be loved unabashedly, so why not start with unashamedly loving yourself?

Read about one writer’s addition to love here

Tell us: How do you practice self-love?