I haven’t always struggled with Self Love. When I was a kid, I loved me for me. I loved who I was regardless of the name calling, teasing and bullying. I deflected with humor and honestly lived in my own little bubble and couldn’t care less what anyone thought of me. The magic of being a kid and not worrying about all that stuff…don’t you miss that?? As I’m sure it was for most people, the tween and teen years were where things started changing.
It was the 90’s and being rail thin, having straight hair and wearing certain clothes (which are totally making a comeback now) had a lot of weight in deciding who you hung out with and how popular you were. As the years went by I noticed just how different I was (overweight, glasses, curly hair…oh my) and the continuous bullying made me see it even clearer. Once I got to High School the bullying stopped, but I was already in the cycle of harmful dieting and self loathing. Nobody made a big deal about what I looked like anymore, but the most important person did…ME!
I have to say that I LOVED High School! While I struggled academically for a couple years, the social aspect as well as all of my extracurriculars made HS so much fun. I was friends with all kinds of people (I am a people person after all) and I felt truly accepted by everyone…except myself. I never had a boyfriend, never went on dates and my first kiss was a “thank you” kiss (ya know…thanks for taking me here, it was fun, but we are just friends). When doing theater, I was not always “eligible” for parts I would have loved to (and probably deserved to) have (thanks type casting). Every rejection made me think less and less of myself regardless of how big or small.
I actually managed to lose weight in HS, but it was due to removing things that bothered me (not from any diet). Heading into College I felt more confident in my body and having a boyfriend for the first time really made me feel on top of the world. It’s so crazy how validation from others affects us. I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt a boost of confidence from getting validation from others, amiright??
Unfortunately I developed major health issues in college which then led to my journey with emotional binge eating disorder. Talk about confidence going down the drain. I had ZERO self love! After over two years, my boyfriend broke up with me on top of everything else and I spiraled for a little while. Eventually I jumped back on the yo-yo “fad” diet wagon, started going out and drinking more, smoking weed and trying not to care about what anyone else thought of me. It didn’t work. I had always put on a facade of this happy, bubbly, optimistic person when deep down inside I was screaming for help. By nature I am a happy, bubbly, optimistic person, but life has a way of shifting things and that’s exactly what was happening. However, instead of being honest and forthright about my feelings, I just pushed them down and topped them off with some kind of junk food to make them shut up for a few minutes!
I think the lowest of the low for me was marrying someone I never should have. I had gotten so much rejection (or wrong attention) from men (well…let’s be honest…boys) that when I went on a date with my ex, he was the first guy to not be a complete asshole. So what did I do? Married him! I ignored MAJOR red flags over the years we dated, were engaged and were married. Talk about self loathing! I thought that little of myself (“If you leave him, you’ll never find love again”…”Remember how hard it was to even get him”…”You’re fat, nobody will want you”) that I stayed with the wrong person for nearly 8 years! It took me going away (to finally fight my demons and figure out why I was binge eating) to start opening my eyes to the fact that he was not for me. A year later I got very sick and spent a lot of time alone. THIS was when I finally saw every one of his true colors and said enough is enough!
At this point in my life I was actually 100lbs lighter and probably the most confident I’ve ever been in my life. My body was not “picture perfect”, but I was healthy and felt so good. I couldn’t remember a time that I actually felt GOOD! I was still scared about finding love, but it didn’t feel like an end all, be all anymore because I was happy with myself! I was back to my authentic happy, bubbly, optimistic self and you know what? It made finding love easy! Confidence and self love shines through us like beams of light! I felt like SUNSHINE and it showed!!
I know I’ve written about a number of my trials in my other blog posts, so I’m not going to go into detail in this one. My 30’s have been full of ups and some major downs. I think I’ve struggled more with self love in these last 7 years than I ever have in my entire life. Infertility, weight gain, a hysterectomy, fibromyalgia and more weight gain…it’s all been slowly eating away at my confidence day by day. Countless doctor visits, tests, research and so many trials and errors to figure out how to lose the weight and feel healthy again and I’ve come up empty handed every time. I’m nearing 40 now and I’m TIRED! I’ve actually stressed myself out to the point of LITERAL burn out. I knew I had to do something different. You know what Einstein said…”Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
I don’t know how many of you know anything about Reiki, but I have a dear friend who is a Reiki Master. I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t “believe” in this, but for all of us open minded souls…keep reading. She did a deep dive into my ancestral records to find out why I’m struggling so much health wise and what I need to do. What she found SHOOK me to my core! I come from a long line of individuals who have suffered many trials and tribulations with their health. Those before me have just lived with it all, accepted the suffering basically saying “it is what it is…can’t do anything about it”. I’ve NEVER been that person (though I’ve definitely had my “woe is me” moments) and I have continuously fought to be my healthiest self. My friend relayed the message from my ancestors that if I want to heal…I need to work on my SELF LOVE. If I can learn to have love and respect for myself, things will change and my efforts will show. If I keep up with the self loathing, nothing will change and I’ll be stuck just as they were stuck.
I won’t lie….I’d tried in more recent years to have “body acceptance” instead of the more popular term “body positivity”. It worked sometimes, but usually fizzled out the second I looked in a mirror and didn’t like what I saw. To be honest, we don’t have a lot of mirrors in our apartment and I’ve found it to be both a good thing and a bad thing! In any case, I really took what my friend told me to heart and began working on it immediately.
With my weight gain, I started covering more and more of my body, wearing loser fitting, dark colored clothing to just hide myself. I have flipped the script on this and started finding clothes that make me feel good and accentuate the parts of my body that I like. I’ve been working on putting together cute outfits and following other plus size women who do the same. I prioritize my sleep, listen to my doctors and other healers when it comes to what I need to do daily health wise, I limit social media time and have been working on getting back into exercise (without having major flare ups with my fibromyalgia). Most importantly, I’ve been listening to my body instead of ignoring it and not feeling guilty if I need to rest.
While I haven’t dealt with binge eating in years, I still had a tendency to push down my feelings. Instead of eating to quiet them, I’d hold them all in and then explode with all those emotions. Now I’m treating myself better overall and when I AM feeling frustrated, angry or sad, I share those feelings with my husband, my sister or a friend and let them be what they are (instead of stuffing them down). I have also learned to do something important when I’m looking at myself in the mirror. Some days I feel good when I’m looking into it, but on the days where I don’t I say “This is not your fault. This weight gain is not your fault. Your body has literally taken you through so much and it’s doing what it needs to keep you alive. This is not forever. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and continue to do for me every day”. This is not easy and I never expected it to be, but it’s worth it.
When you’ve spent most of your life punishing yourself with food (binge eating disorder) or over focusing on food/health (orthorexia), accepting or even loving your body when it’s not where you want it to be is a challenge, but it’s a necessary challenge. I take care of myself every day and have spent the last 11 years of my life just trying to get and stay healthy…how can I be mad at myself? I have survived some seriously hard days, weeks and even months. Why should I punish myself for that? I shouldn’t and neither should you!
Most of us (if not all of us) are guilty of self hate, shame or feelings of not being enough! The truth is that we are all ENOUGH every single day. It doesn’t matter if it was a good day or a bad day, if you’re overweight, a normal weight or underweight, if you ate vegetables or a piece of cake, if you got all your work done or took a sick day…you were enough and you will be enough tomorrow, too! We are all so different which is what makes life so beautiful. If we were all the same, life would be awfully boring, don’t you think?
If I’ve learned anything throughout my life, it’s that hating myself (for any reason) doesn’t do me any good. I’m sure there are people out there who would expect me to not like who I am (hi, fat shamers), so why not show them who’s boss and LOVE myself instead? I run a successful business, I’m smart, caring, kind, helpful, a good friend, a good wife, a good daughter, a good sister, I take care of myself and I have pushed through every storm my life has thrown at me. I am strong, powerful and resilient. How could I not love me?
I am going to challenge all of my readers to do something now. In the comments below, write at least 5 things that you LOVE about yourself! That may sound like a lot, but I promise it’s not and it’ll make your day that much brighter!!
“Don’t be afraid to shine. The world needs your light”. -Timi Nadela