I’m a big advocate for self-care and learning to love yourself. I truly believe that we were all put here to do a specific job that only each of us has the unique skill set to do while we are here on Earth, but I know first hand how hard that is to fulfill when you are filled with self-doubt and even some self-loathing. We can have negative messages that were given to us in childhood playing on a loop in our brains, maybe your in a relationship that your being told you're not up to par, or maybe you so deep into addiction that you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m very open about my past and part of that reason is to let others who are in the shadows, silently suffering, to know that it does get better and you will BE better. But you have to put in the work and it may be some of the hardest work you will ever do. When I first started it seemed overwhelming and I just wanted to quit, so I decided to take one tiny baby step at a time because that felt manageable at the time. And, slowly but surely, I started to love who I was. I want that for everyone because everyone is worth being loved! So here’s a little peek into how I started on my journey of loving myself...
1.) Took a good, hard look at myself... and picked out what I liked
Truth be told, this was a super short list at the time. I’m not even sure I had a maximum of 2 things. That’s how much I wasn’t in love with me. I knew all the stuff I didn’t like and what I was doing wrong, that part was easy to pick out. But what did I like (love was too scary of a word at that point) about myself? Sometimes it was just telling myself that I wanted to be a good mom because at least I had some hope there. Then I went on to figure out what kind of mom did I want to be? I knew the kind of mom I had been up to that point and saw that it went south somewhere. I soon realized, through a lot of guidance and therapy, that in order to be the person I wanted to be (and to love myself for being my unique and beautifully flawed self!) I would have to go further back to see what was stopping me do some relearning.
2.) Where’s your oxygen mask?
How many parents hear the in-flight emergency instructions and think, “If this plane is going down the first thing I’m going to do is help my child! I’m not worried about my oxygen mask!” Yeah, me too. I thought that if I put myself before someone else I was a bad person and deserved to be unhappy. This was one of my biggest pitfalls during my life and it set me up for failure after failure. Then I broke. When I say broke I mean mentally, physically, spiritually....just shattered into a million pieces. Where had I gone wrong? Doing everything for everyone for years on end, being told it was never enough, that I was doing it all wrong, and letting those messages stay stationary in my psyche while I self-medicated was the answer. So my shattering became the foundation that I made sure was solid and started to rebuild, picking out the pieces that I wanted to keep and gluing them back together, and gently burying the pieces that I didn’t want to be part of me anymore. And over time I noticed that the negative messages I was getting were from others who weren’t happy with themselves. It had nothing to do with me, I was merely a screen that I allowed them to project on. Soon I realized I had way more pieces of myself to love than hate.
3.) What was stopping me from loving myself?
“Part of loving yourself is learning to see your own beautiful soul so that you can genuinely value yourself rather than judge yourself. Do you see yourself through the eyes of your ego wounded self, which was programmed by parents, teachers, peers, siblings or religious leaders, or through the eyes of love and truth?” Margaret Paul writes in her blog, “Why loving yourself is vital for wellbeing and loving relationships” (https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog/why-loving-yourself-is-vital-for-wellbeing-and-loving-relationships/). This resonates with me because I had let others claim who I was my whole life, whether good or bad. It’s like I had no foundational understanding of my true self, in part because the first few years of my life seemed like I was in survival mode. This was a theme in my life where I was just on autopilot for years on end and never really feeling anything. I’ve met many people in recovery that said they felt this way as well and was a catalyst for self-medicating. I wanted to see myself as the spiritual being I believed I could be, I just couldn’t figure out how to get from where I was to that person. I learned that loving yourself doesn’t just mean you go for a manicure or a message, there’s so much more. To truly love yourself you have to delve deep in yourself, into all the shadowy corners that are begging you to not see them. Dust off those cobwebs with forgiving eyes. Crouch down and let those corners know they are part of you, not isolated parts to forget. Forgive what needs to be forgiven, then dust it away because it needs to be set free. Trust me, martyrdom is a bad color so let that nonsense go.
4.) Process vs. Being Reactionary
When I first told to “process” my emotions to situations and not react I looked at that person like they had two heads. What do you mean don’t react?! But I’m mad now! If I wait to react I might forget what they did and.....Ohhhhhh....ok I get it. This has been a longggggg process for me but I can truly say I understand it now. When I would be slighted (or perceived I was slighted) I would spend hours hamster wheeling on all the terrible things that person has done to me and what I would say to get back at them. But when I looked at my part in the situation I had to learn some humility, but also see that not all fights are worth the effort. It’s not always black and white and we don’t know what someone else is going through. That’s the part of my process where I learned to throw some grace at others and myself an learn that we are all doing the best we can with the skills we have right now.
5.) Walk the Walk
I dreaded having a daughter, I was literally petrified. I grew up going through a lot of abuse that was centered around me being female. Feeling like I could never protect myself from these abuses I felt completely inept to protect another little girl from it. Growing up I rarely heard women saying anything nice about themselves, nothing that was confidence building. I was under the impression that we shirk off compliments and counteract them with all our faults so people will see just how imperfect we are. I decided to do things differently when I had my daughter and one day I asked her to tell me 5 things she loved about herself. She was silent. I asked again. She just looked down and said, “I don’t know Momma. I don’t really like myself.” At that moment I realized that I had gone to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum in my parenting. True she never heard me talk bad about myself, but she never heard me talk good about myself either. Apparently, I didn’t talk about myself at all and she was following my lead. Slowly I started pointing out things I like about myself or things I did. We would giggle at first because we both knew I was WAY out of my comfort zone here! Eventually, it got to become less of a chore and more of a habit. Now my daughter stands firm in who she is because she has conditioned herself to accept herself for who she is. I had never realized that when I set the fear of feeling like a bad parent aside, I’d actually learn more about myself during my parenthood than before. I do better because I want to be better for myself and her, and I want her to be the best person she can be. I had to model the behavior I wanted to teach her.
6.) Be gentle with yourself
Loving yourself won’t come in a few hours or even a few days. It’s a process of accepting what you felt was unacceptable before, weeding out what and who isn’t serving a positive purpose in your life. This can be very hard. You may walk away from some relationships, or some people may walk away from you. That’s ok. As long as your throwing them love, and yourself, know that you are changing and no everyone signed up for you to change. Some of these people you can love from afar and some might circle back around into your life. Just know that loving yourself means that you stand up for you and all your beautiful, sometimes broken, parts that are the amazing mosaic of you!
The journey to loving yourself is a continuous journey and you have to make the choice daily to love you. Every hour we are bombarded with thousands of messages from all around us that have the ability to stick to our core. What messages are you letting in? I’d love to connect and hear about your journey! Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, of LinkedIn and let’s talk!