The Essential Journey of Self-Love

Deryka Nairne, Residential Life Coordinator at Goucher College in Maryland, was a graduate student at the University of Vermont's (UVM 2015). During her practicum, Deryka worked with Holly Wilkinson in the UVM Career Center to bring Courage work to college students. They recently co-authored an article, "What's Love Got to Do with It?" for The Vermont Connection Journal (2018) about the importance of the inner journey of self-love in the academy.

Photo: Holly's Courage mentor, Debbie Stanley, and Holly's graduate school mentee: Deryka Nairne, at Holly's first Circle of Trust, Spring 2015. Living wholeheartedly is part of the gifts of these two women.  

Here's part of Deryka's journey to self-love:

I began dating at 14. At the time, I strongly believed my boyfriend would one day be my husband. It was your typical first big love. Then, my first big love cheated on me. I really didn’t think about what self-love was at the time but looking back, I know that was when I stopped loving myself. It was also the first time I lost my ability to see my worth. This inability to see my own worthiness stopped me from growing my self-love. It marks my winding path to self-love and wholehearted living.

Excerpt from the journal article: "What's Love Got To Do With It:"

"By the time I reached Holly's office, I was in need. Years and years of unaddressed issues (mostly my lack of self-love) manifested in ways that stopped me from thriving. I was exhausted from always questioning my worth. What little self-love I had was not allowing me to fully enjoy my graduate school experience. I would find tidbits of information on social media and get advice from friends but I needed more. I did not know at the time but I needed someone I could trust to help me start. It was not until my practicum with Holly Wilkinson that I was encouraged to dive into my story and intentionally reflect on growing my self-love. Through our meetings, the importance of crafting strategies to pair with my desire to nurture self-love revealed itself. It taught me to pause and ponder. It taught me to ask myself questions. The opportunity to have a supervisor who cared about me wholly and went deeper than surface interaction completely changed my professional perspective.

At the end of my second year as a professional, I received a beautiful gift. It was a compilation of handwritten signs from my students thanking me for my impact on their lives. The sign that stood out said, “thank you for helping me realize my worth” and, in that moment, everything clicked. I realized how simply living my self-loving truth led to deeper, more impactful conversations."


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My journey of self-love is filled with phases of healing, learning, and re-learning. As I grow older, I settle into this person a little more. It also wasn’t until I learned to be comfortable with letting my heart shine that I was able to love myself wholeheartedly. It is the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Brené Brown (one of my favorite people and the inspiration behind two of my tattoos) says, “only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” When I look at my journey to wholeheartedness, I see the times I explored the darkness and dug deep. I see the times I celebrated my triumphant light. Embracing both parts of my story is how I self-love.

The following is what I have learned and what I hold to be true in this journey:

  • Creating love for myself is necessary, beautiful work.

  • I cannot find self-love from or within other people, but, I can accept support and lean on them.

  • When I’m at my best, I do better.

  • My darkness, my hurt – they are parts of my story I must embrace.

  • I was created in the image of love as God IS love.

My faith has been extremely helpful and recently pivoted me towards my self-love. I was created to be love in this world. How could I not start with myself?

Self-Love, by Nayyirah Waheed is one of Deryka's tatoos that serves as reminder and inspiration.

Self-Love, by Nayyirah Waheed is one of Deryka's tatoos that serves as reminder and inspiration.