Who do you love? That is an interesting question. Who do you love? Before you start listing family members, pets, friends... where do YOU fall into that list? Are you at the top? The bottom? Or are you absent from that list altogether?
I realized over the course of the last few months that I was not including myself on that list AT ALL. I’ve got a few close friends and I’m fortunate enough to have family in my life, plus I’ve got some fur babies many of you know I am in love with. I’ve been sort of raised to think of others before myself. That is good, because it’s good to think of others and be selfless a lot of the time. But there is a difference between being selfless and neglecting one’s self. Taking care of yourself is not being selfish, it is necessary.
My personality is a bit martyresque. I get satisfaction from sacrificing for my family and friends. We even hear about doing things for others and how it helps us in return. True enough, but what happens when we run out of steam at the end of the day and there is nothing left over with which to nurture our own minds and bodies? I’ll tell you what can happen- depression, poor health, a constant lack of energy and a poor attitude.
The last couple months I’ve really tried to think about this from many different angles. Especially as a mother, I am not used to putting myself first. I struggled with the fine line of putting myself first and the fear of being the narcissistic person I used to be in my 20’s. I wish I knew then what I know now. So begins my journey.
I had to ask some real questions, because when you think of being good to yourself, there is such a large pool of instances that involves. What does it mean to be “good to yourself?” For me, it meant so many things. The short answer is that I had to start reprogramming my thought pattern for just about everything. It seemed so overwhelming, and I was quite alarmed to see the many ways in which I was hurting myself whether I was aware of it or not! When I looked at it as a whole, I didn’t know how I could change so many things! Then I took a deep breath, and I knew for me, I would have to do things one by one and it was going to be a long healing process. You cannot keep damaging yourself for years and expect to heal in a matter of days or months. I accepted the fact that this would take years, but wouldn’t years of being kind to me feel good?
Social media is such a part of what I am doing and the things I am trying to accomplish. It can be a necessary evil. Social media can sometimes make us feel less worthy. We see photos of physically beautiful people every day. I just don’t know how DNA lines up the way it does for some people. I swear. You know what I’m talking about. I’ve never seen so many experts at makeup, hair, outfits, exercise as I do on Instagram! People seem to have their stuff together! Here I sit blogging in my worn pajama lounge pants, a sweatshirt with a broken zipper, and a tee that needs to go in the washer. I will have to shower, slap on some make up and wear real clothes before I can upload myself to the world. Or do I. Sometimes this is me. Sometimes I have a greasy T-zone. I’ve got those grays going through my dark hair now. The picture I am at my table this morning just cannot compete with so many of the people I see in my social media feed. I’m aware they didn’t roll out of bed that way. Logically I know this. But because I’ve neglected myself enough to not have a confidence in me as I am, this can wreak havoc on the struggle to love me. And furthermore, why do I need to compete?
The first thing I am trying to do is love me this way. As I am. If we gain our confidence with the number of “likes” our photos get, we’ll never be happy, because someone else will ALWAYS have more. The inner confidence for ME has to come first. If I like the me in my loungy pants, it is only then that the outer adornments will just add to that. Yes, it does feel good to be presenting yourself outwardly in your best, it’s a confidence booster. But what happens when that goes away and you’re left with just you? How can I start loving my own physical imperfections when for so long I’ve always tried to put my best foot forward and have only shown that to the world? That leads me to my first step: learn to embrace my body, my mind and my personality.
I figure loving yourself is like learning to walk for the first time. Babies generally don’t go from tummy time to a full sprint. It’s the same with the process of learning to love yourself. One simply cannot go from self-battery to self-love with one good day of enlightenment. You gotta take the steps to build a good foundation with which to build off of, or you’re a house of cards. One set back can bring the whole thing down. What makes a solid foundation? Attention to detail, taking care of the smallest things, and good quality time spent with one’s self.
Eek alert* For me, I started with standing naked in the mirror. I did. I looked at everything I considered to be a flaw. I wrapped my arms around my tummy and allowed myself to feel the extra inches of “me” and instead of looking at myself in shame at what months and months of pizza and wine and cheese and not very much exercise did to me, I allowed myself to instead focus on the way I had curves. I looked at the stretch marks that came from bearing children, and instead of sighing, I looked with a kind of appreciation for all my body has done for me. I looked at the muffin top with a bit of a smile because I did have so much fun engaging in wine nights with the ladies. I saw my derriere, which frustratingly has caused me to struggle with finding jeans, butt (pun intended) then I smirked at the many times it has been admired in all its JLO glory. I saw my arms and the softness there, and instead of being depressed with the lack of time I’ve spent turning them into guns, I thought of the many times I’ve wrapped those arms around my children, my partner, my fur babies and felt love. This body can love. This is the body I own. I need to appreciate this starting point before I go trying to change it out of the need to be what society says is perfection. It was with a sudden realization that I came to the conclusion that changing this body should be because I love it so very much. I love it enough to bring strength to it. I love it enough to care about the inside of my body as much as I worry about the outside. Changing this body should mean changing how I treat it, and if that means I shed weight or tone parts of it, fine. But for me, that is not the goal. The be good to myself part comes with changing it because it’s begging me to be nice, and because I am worthy of goodness, I need to listen to it. *deep breath and wipe away tears* So although I will still live and enjoy good foods, I decided that the balance comes with giving to my body for results that make IT happy, and not my social media feed.
I would like to be clear here in saying that I love makeup. I like when my hair is clean and shiny, and I enjoy slimming clothes. If Sono Bello called me and asked to give me a complimentary day of fat-sucking-outing in all my problem areas, could be that I would move so fast, I’d be a blur. I don’t know. What is my “right” may not work for you and what works for you may be a “wrong” for me as an individual. There is no judgement when it comes to our own journeys. So, if your journey to loving yourself involves these things, that is perfectly ok! There is nothing wrong with any of those things whatsoever. The key is, can we love ourselves when the makeup is removed, when the clothes hit the floor, when the enhancement surgery high has worn off? If we can’t love ourselves for who we are, we will be disappointed in whatever we add as a bonus.
Learning to say “no” without feeling guilty is another thing that for me is difficult. Friends may ask for my help, and usually I say yes right away and do not think anything of it. My daughter may want something from me, and usually I oblige. Even acquaintances will want me to buy this or that from them, and out of guilt I sometimes do it, even if I’m not ready or have no need for whatever they’re selling. If we are saying “yes” to everything that is asked of us, why do we tell ourselves “no” when we need something for healing? Do we have a certain amount of yesses to give during any given day and then run out of them when it counts? I said no to someone I care about deeply over the last months and I had to keep from beating myself up over it. But in this new territory of being ok with setting boundaries for the moments I need to recharge, I had to keep up the inner chant of “it’s ok, you can’t give if you have nothing, and if you try, you’ll resent it.” In as much as we need to set limits for the ways we stretch ourselves thin, the other side to that is if we are the ones asking for something, let us not be offended or take it personally when someone doesn’t or cannot help us in the way we would like them to. We simply do not know the inner struggles or the situation they are finding themselves in that prompted them to have to tell us “no.”
Another thing I had to look at was my pride. I’m not talking about the pride we have in accomplishments or our country or whatever. I’m talking about that ugly pride. Up until now, I’ve had a hard time accepting help or accepting gestures of goodness from others. My partner has been wanting to gift me with a good laptop for years, but I didn’t want him to spend the money, I wanted to keep using an older laptop because “I didn’t really need anything new.” Finally I just let go and accepted the gift of my first new Mac. I admit it was an inner struggle for me personally, but after I just allowed him to do something for me, I have smiled over and over with the joy this outlet has given me. I had to tell myself, “Self, a gift is a gift. You don’t need to feel like you have to earn this. Let the moment of inner joy happen. Feel that.” So I did. Often times we don’t let others be kind to us. Why? Is it because we aren’t comfortable with receiving without having “earned” things? Pride, friends! Pride is not always a good thing. It prevents us from many wonderful experiences! Don’t be too proud to accept gifts from our loved ones or even a stranger- you could make someone’s day by allowing them the inner joy it brings to their lives as well.
If finances allow for extra, I’m pretty happy with not spending any of it on me. I don’t buy new clothes often because I put myself last all of the time. My partner is constantly telling me to get myself some new things. (Upon reflection, lol maybe he’s hinting for a reason!) Anyway, why is it that I’m just fine with new things for the home, new things for my kids, new things for my partner, or tucking money away for a rainy day but I’m not ok with doing something for myself? Last month I finally went and bought a few new things for me. It was not without stress. I’m not a shopper. I’m not stylish nor do I have much patience with trying things on. However, I went against my inner screaming and tried to enjoy this, because it’s OK to treat yourself every now and then! I came away with a few new sweaters, new jeans, new bras and two pairs of new boots. I had to draw on a friend’s Instagram posts to pick out boots that I thought she’d give the thumbs up to because my sense of style kind of left the building long ago! Guess what. I managed to enjoy myself and I admit I feel pretty good in some new clothes! It’s a good thing to get out of the loungy pants here and there.
I used to think that showing myself more love had to be necessary because I was raising a daughter and I wanted her to see her mother not picking her own body apart, or putting herself down because of a few extra pounds, or shuffling around in clothes ready to fall to pieces. I thought that my responsibility was to be a confident and strong role model for her. And although that is my responsibility, it is not the main reason I should be loving myself. The main reason is because I am worthy of love. You are worthy of love. You are a human being that deserves all the things you have to offer. If I’m only loving myself because I want to be a good example, then I’m not fully benefiting from the choice to truly love. True love has a way of shining through and affecting the people we are around, the environment as well. True love brings about more strength to deal with the occasional blows life can try and knock us down with, it brings about a real courage to stand up for our beliefs and our values. True love brings nothing bad to the table. Every lesson learned from true love is a good lesson.
Loving and being good to myself is a work in progress. It takes rethinking, over and over and then over again in order to make it become something that you’re comfortable with. There are still so many days when I’m down about how I look or the things I sometimes think, or the way in which I interacted with my friends. There is always room to improve, yes, but please take the time to appreciate the moment you are in. On the days I feel “not good enough,” I try and remind myself that there is no one like me, and I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Friends, I hope that this year, you can start your own journey if you haven’t already. It’s never too late to start falling in love with you. If you have started your own love adventure, congratulations on that choice, and may you know that I am in your corner cheering you on! The funny thing about love is that once you start loving, it spreads so easily like warm butter. Plus, we never run out, for it keeps multiplying. I leave you with a quote that was the inspiration for my own love story.