When Diana asked me to share about my self-love journey I didn’t really know where to start. It made me reflect and take note of all the positive changes and transformations that I’ve experienced in the last few years, especially compared to what came before. My twenties were chaotic and self-destructive. Depression and anxiety had been my natural state of being since I was a child. It never dawned on me that lack of self-love was at the root of my struggles until I actually paid attention to my inner voice and realized how harshly I spoke to myself on the daily.

It got me thinking, my self-love journey really started with my business Alice Kass. This month is going to be the four year anniversary since I launched the online lingerie shop in November of 2014. What a journey it’s been! Throughout all the ups and downs, from the intense moments of self-doubt to the exciting milestones reached, I realized that more so than just being my job, Alice Kass has helped me heal my wounds around my femininity, sexuality and sense of self-worth.

Contrary to what most people might expect from a lingerie curator, I wasn’t always into sexy undergarments, the ultimate symbol of femininity and sensuality. I was very tomboyish growing up and incredibly shy (and by incredibly shy I mean I had crippling social anxiety to the point where I couldn’t answer phone calls or go to restaurants alone even if I was on the verge of passing out from hunger). Uncomfortable with my sexuality, literally afraid of humans (especially men), my emotions and my body. I swear, I bought my first thong at the age of 24 after my well-meaning friend teased me about the underwear lines caused by my American Apparel boy shorts.

I saw these women in mainstream lingerie ads, playful, powerful, owning their beauty but also so polished and flawless. So much artifice and so much effort into looking a certain way with the ultimate goal of pleasing a man. I couldn’t relate and something deep inside me was angry, resisting this idea of having to use our sexuality and bodies to appeal to men’s concept of what a desirable woman should look like.

But through Instagram I stumbled upon a world of women creating and wearing lingerie that appealed to them. It didn’t look like a costume, it wasn’t just for men. It pleased them first and foremost, reflected their tastes and fantasies and showed variety. There wasn’t just one way to look. It could be dreamy, feminine, casual, strappy, subtle, sensual. The first time I slipped into lingerie that resonated with me, I had a moment. It ignited something inside me and I couldn’t believe that this was my reflection in the mirror. I felt sexy, powerful and confident in my femininity for the first time. I felt like I unleashed something inside myself.

From then on I was hooked. Wow it really is all about you, I thought! It’s all about loving yourself. That’s what makes you sexy. Not what you’re wearing but how you feel about yourself wearing it. Lingerie carries an erotic charge and has been so transformative because it allowed me to see myself in a different light. As a sexual being, as a woman. Something I had always struggled with and had shame around. I started exploring this concept of self-love and saw how I had been depriving myself of pleasure and joy by putting up walls and a facade, to please others or to avoid getting attention.

So that was the beginning. Through lingerie, developing self-care routines and changing the way I spoke to and viewed myself I was able to re-claim ownership over my image, my body, my sexuality. I learnt how to connect to my body by looking at it, touching it, celebrating all that it allows me to do and feel. Romancing myself and creating an intimate relationship of love and appreciation. Stepping outside my comfort zone and taking up space, being unapologetically myself and releasing fears of not being perfect. I quickly learnt that the more I put myself out there, the more I got back. Vulnerability creates shifts and allows for unblocking. Sharing selfies and my journey via Instagram has allowed me to take up space and use my voice. By sharing my stories through my Sunday night Bed Talks and blog, The Self-Love Project, I stand in my power and can inspire other women to do the same. The more you surround yourself, both physically and psychically, with people that live the way you want to live, the more your subconscious mind believes it’s possible for you to do the same. I’ve been inspired by so many women forging their own path along the way and have grown from connecting and sharing with these inspiring goddesses (Diana being one of them!) . By being open and vulnerable I’ve attracted and created bonds with women that I can learn from and teach simultaneously. The beauty of sisterhood, of giving and receiving.

And one of my most recent lessons has been around boundaries. Saying no. The biggest shift on my self-love journey occurred when I let go of the “shoulds”, the people pleasing and all the other bullshit that makes us put everyone else’s needs and desires above our own. I started saying no to having sex with men that were not what I wanted out of a partner, I started saying no to alcohol as a means of self-medicating and numbing my anxiety, I started saying no to spending time with people that preferred escapism to diving deep. These things were no longer serving me and it was time that I poured love into the most important relationship we’ll ever have in our lives, the one with ourselves.

As soon as I started saying no, opportunities and people that were in line with my values started appearing. I was more confident about my choices and could hear my inner voice. I stopped feeling like if I didn’t say yes to everything I would be missing out. I had faith that the right thing would come along when I was ready, and I didn’t settle for every crumb or misaligned ‘opportunity’. Not to say I don’t slip anymore, it’s a lifelong journey, but I started realizing my worth and really standing in it. Having faith in my value and trusting the universe to deliver when the time is right.

If you’re on the path of authenticity and self-love, it won’t always be easy. I’ve learnt that the key is compassion towards yourself throughout the process. Trusting that if you are living in your worth and authenticity, that all the ups and downs are lessons and opportunities for transformation. I’m so grateful to Diana for asking me to write this because I sometimes forget where I started and how I’ve blossomed since I made that conscious decision to start loving myself. We all often forget to celebrate ourselves or sit down and take inventory. So I’d like return the favour by encouraging you all to sit down and write yourself a thank you note for all the care, love and effort you’ve invested in creating the life you want. Look at how far you’ve come! Every small decision and shift is progress. It’s a lifelong journey and you deserve to enjoy, take pleasure and pride in every step on the way back home to yourself.

Originally published on Ask Diana

Love coach Diana Eskander is generously offering 15% off The Conscious Love Blueprint to anyone who joins via our Alice Kass. Use the code alicekass15 at checkout to take advantage of this offer and to join our closed Conscious Love Blueprint and Self-Love Club on Facebook where she’ll also be giving exclusive live Q&A sessions for all your relationship questions!