At the start of 2014, I embarked on a physical and mental journey, one I never could have predicted the results from at the start. Since taking the first, hesitant steps, I have learned A LOT about myself – it’s been pretty amazing, but at the same time, scary.
Being sick for so long left me with a lot of time on my hands. Time to think, time to cry, time to wonder why I feel certain ways towards certain things, time to really face my inner demons and sort out all the crap that flies around my brain at a million miles a minute. Because I was forced to take steps back from everything life related (thanks painful SIBO), I was given the opportunity to really learn and reflect on one of my least-favorite subjects, myself.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned (and continue to teach myself every day) has been to love myself for me. That’s right, little old me. And you know what I’ve realized? I’m pretty flipping amazing, and YOU are too.
Want to know how long it took me to realize that? Over a year. That’s over 365 days of telling myself that I am me, a beautiful creature with an amazing life plan and plethora of hopes and dreams. It took me months to realize that I’m perfectly ME despite my “imperfections”.
Self-love is a tricky thing. It happens differently for each individual, so I really can’t share how I developed this love for myself (although I know you were hoping to find out the secret). However, I can certainly share a few tips I learned along the way!
It takes time. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does self-love, that’s for sure. Still to this day I have negative thoughts about myself, years into this journey. While those thoughts don’t seem to go away, or at least, they certainly haven’t for me yet, instead of letting them negatively affect me, those thoughts flutter into my mind, I evaluate them for a moment and reflect on why I’m feeling that way, and I work to let it go.
You have to persevere. You know that little voice in your head that tells you you can’t do things, that you’re imperfect, and that no one likes you? You know the one, she’s a pesky bitch. That negative voice in your head will be your demise if you listen to it. If you let her negativity bring you down, you’ll become your own worst enemy. Believe me, I’ve been there.
It can be frustrating. Oh man, this one is no joke. It’s like when you’re on the prowl for a new girlfriend or boyfriend and you just want to find one that you like SO BAD… yea, I felt that way about myself. I so badly just wanted to be at the point where I was comfortable in my own skin, in love with myself, and feeling happy every day. Much easier said than done.
You are forced to face your insecurities, and deepest, darkest fears. As an individual, I deal a lot with guilt. I feel guilty when I do fun things, when I say things that are on my mind, and even when I feel a certain way with no explanation. Why? Well, (I’m sitting here chuckling as I type) I’m just beginning to find out. With the help of my hypnotherapist, a handful of emotional sessions, and several boxes of tissues, I’m just beginning to hit the tip of the iceberg as far as my guilt is concerned. But the point is, my guilt has been something very scary for me to face. It’s been an incredibly emotional journey uncovering the why behind these feelings, and from what we’ve been able to discover, it seems to have started way-back-when, at a very young age. My guilt is one of my biggest insecurities, and I knew it would be one of the toughest hurdles to overcome. It’s probably the thing that holds me back the most in life, and it’s constantly curbing my happiness. Although still a work in progress, as I uncover more and more about my past that’s contributed to my feeling this way, it’s almost like a breath of fresh air to know that it’s not just me.
Take it one day at a time. In my opinion, this one is the most important. You will have days where you hate yourself. You will. But it’s important that at the start of each new day, you treat it as a completely new beginning. Leave all the shit from yesterday behind. If you try and carry yesterday’s struggles, frustrations, and unhappiness over to today, you’re going to be a very unhappy camper, with no mind space to welcome the new experiences of the day. Do yourself a favor and let your sleep cleanse you of yesterday’s struggles. I now always ask friends and family, and even myself, “How are you doing TODAY?” or “How is TODAY?” Every change starts small, one step at a time, day by day.
An added bonus on my self-love adventure that I would have never anticipated at the start is that I’ve found a renewed love for others. It’s a beautiful cycle really – the more I love myself, the more I love those around me, and the more I love my life. With each day that passes, I feel more love around me, and have found myself on a happiness up-swing, much different than I was feeling just a few months ago.
Understanding myself more has allowed me to better understand others. Through dealing with my own pain, I’ve learned to be empathetic and comforting to others going through their own. In facing my own emotions, I’ve been able to help friends face theirs, and have shared the most intimate and emotional moments with people, some I’ve barely even known. In persevering through depression, where getting out of bed every day took enormous efforts, I’ve been able to support others struggling through their own cloud of despair. In teaching myself, I’ve learned how to teach others, offering encouragement and lessons to friends and family.
As I help each additional person, I am helping myself – to become the person I want to be, the woman I love, and the individual I respect. Over the past 18 or so months, I’ve made a lot of progress. But like I tell my friends, it’s a never ending journey, one I hope I’m mindful of for years to come.
When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible.