That’s the Power of (Self) Love

Queue this being stuck in your head:

If you’re following me on Instagram, you’re probably more-than-aware that my journey in 2018 has truly been focused on self-love, whether it was intentional or not.

I’d heard it since I was a teenager: you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. You have to be true to you before you can be true to anyone else.

But I never GOT it before now. 

In January 2017, I went through a breakup that I refused to accept. I beat my head off the metaphorical wall of life until we were back together, even though that meant I sacrificed majorly important parts of who I was because I thought I HAD to be with this man (and I’m accepting full responsibility for that). Our relationship had so many issues it could’ve been NatGeo, but that didn’t deter me. I was convinced and emotionally train-wrecked and like I said, I refused to accept that our relationship was over. Fast forward to less-than-a-year later, and we’d bought a house together two hours away from where we were living, changed jobs, gotten engaged, and were planning to be married less than 1.5 years since our tumultuous breakup. My desire to be with him overruled everything, and I found myself constantly and consistently miserable. We’d have arguments over absolutely nothing that would turn into screaming matches and two days of uncomfortable miscommunication and lots and lots of me crying. It was SO unhealthy. When it finally came to an actual end (less than two months before our wedding date) the pain of the relationship ending didn’t last long (there was a lot of other bullshit, but when isn’t there in these situations?). It was over before it restarted, and accepting that made it easier to transition out of our relationship.

With the help of some really amazing people, I made the decision to really focus on weight loss and on goal-setting – what am I doing with my life? What do I want to be doing with my life? How do I get there? What things are holding me back and how do I eliminate those things? As SOON as I started to figure this shit out, my life began to improve. I did things I’d always wanted to do but never did because… why? I didn’t have a good reason. I could blame 100 things, but at the end of the day I wasn’t living for me and that was my own responsibility. I went country line dancing and recorded music with the band, I started a band and sang my heart out to people I love and people I’d never met before. I took a selfie and thought, for the first time that I can remember – holy shit, I’m beautiful.

As I started to make decisions for only myself (and to write about all the things somewhat incessantly), I subsequently started to realize what I had spent the last 14 years of my life doing: hoping that if I was whatever someone else wanted me to be, they’d love me. We can talk for days about where this stems from (being abused as a child, being raised in a religion in which a woman’s value was her ability to take care of a husband and children, societal pressure to be everything to everyone, a lot of defense mechanisms because I was scared of basically everything) but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I needed to figure out how to move past all of that, past all of the reasons (excuses) and into a better place for myself. After all, you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. You have to be true to you before you can be true to anyone else. 

My dedication to my health and weight loss has been awesome – losing almost 50 lbs has really had a positive impact on my mental faculties. But what I’ve changed the most this year is how I treat myself. When the voice creeps into my head to tell me I’m [insert self-deprecation here, I don’t even want to cite an example because I don’t have time for that shit] I just shut it down. I literally say to myself, usually in my head, but whatevs if it’s out loud, “stop” or “that’s enough of that”. When I get dressed in the morning, I don’t pick apart every little thing about how I look in my outfit. I just smile at myself in the mirror and move on with my day. I’m working on not being obsessed with tight-fitting clothes – it’s okay for me to wear something loose or baggy, it doesn’t somehow take away from my weight loss progress. Instead of the normal golden rule of “treat others the way you want to be treated” I’m following the “golden rule of owning who you are and loving yourself”: treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Be nice to YOU, be good to YOU. Learning to love yourself isn’t easy. It’s hard work and constant analysis of your thoughts and actions. It’s taking an intricately woven cloth that’s had so much outside influence (and that’s 31 years old, in this case) and unweaving it, strand by strand, until you can take all of your fibers and weave them back together with your own love and your own patience. It’s also big, big lessons in forgiveness. Because you’re going to fuck it up. And have regrets, and then spend time learning how to not regret a second because you appreciate where you’re at and where you’re going. It’s deep breathing and not taking a moment of your life for granted, because even though sometimes it feels like it’s dragging on, it can end at a moment’s notice.

If you’re still reading (sorry, so many words) and you’re feeling at ALL like you need to learn to love yourself, please please PLEASE start today. Start right now. Write down five things you like about yourself and read it 10 times before the day is over. Then read it again tomorrow. Read it every day for a week, then make a new list. It’s a simple start but it’ll change your life. That’s the power of (self) love.

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