“To heal is to touch with love that which was previously touched by fear.” – Stephen Levine
Happy Valentines Day!
In honor of this day of love, I thought I’d share a few notes on what I am learning on my journey to self-love.
In June of 2016, I made a conscious decision to start loving myself. I had just ended a long-term relationship with my first love and I was overwhelmed with a mix of regret, sadness and fear. At the time I was in my late-twenties and feeling like I had just ruined my only shot of ever getting married and having children before it was “too late” (i.e. before I turned 30). Instead of trying to figure out if I had done the right thing or how I was going to start dating again, I made a pact with myself to focus instead on “dating” and falling in love with myself.
Fast forward almost two years later and as much as I would like to say that I now love myself unconditionally, I am only now at a point where I’m flirting with liking myself. Nevertheless, I am committed to learning and growing through this journey. Here are few lessons I am learning along the way:
Lesson 1: Self-love isn’t going to happen overnight or within a certain time-frame.
When I first started on this journey, I gave myself one year to fall in love with myself. As the year quickly passed, I found myself no closer to that goal. I was confused and frustrated as I thought I was on the right track. I had made significant changes in most areas of my life, but self-love still seemed like a far away concept. After some time trying to work through what I might be doing wrong and searching for different solutions, I eventually realized that forcing myself into a deadline was the problem. I could not force myself to change within a year just because I thought that was how long it should take. I had to allow the journey to unfold no matter how long it took.
Lesson 2: My life is not on hold until I learn to love myself.
As I was writing this post, it become clear to me that a lot the resistance I had toward my journey taking longer than expected was because I feel like my life is on hold until that goal is realized. I was motivated to make a change and really commit to it because I wanted a better life than the one I had built hating myself and being fearful. In my mind though, the more time I spent working toward my goal of self-love, the longer I had to spend as someone who did not fully love herself. I believed that I could only experience a better life with unconditional self-love. But now I realize that self-love is not that black or white. Even if I don’t feel like I love myself at this moment, I can still give myself permission to act from a place of love and not reserve experiences or opportunities for the when I attain unconditional love for myself.
Lesson 3: Self-love is a skill.
Understanding that self-love is a skill came as a result of me adopting a growth-mindset. I can’t remember exactly where I first read about fixed vs growth mindset but the concept of mindset has been a fundamental part of my journey. Once I stopped looking at my problems as fixed defects, I started to see them as skills that I could learn to improve. While it is a little more challenging to measure my skill level in loving myself versus more tangible skills like playing tennis, I have learned that the best way to recognize growth in this area is to focus on my actions. During the times when I’m struggling with feeling unworthy and unlovable, I try to make an effort to make sure my actions align with my vision of self-love even if my thoughts don’t. For example, if I am consistent with my yoga practice, drinking more water and/or practicing self-care, that shows me I am making progress. Simply put – I show-up for myself even when I don’t feel like it or feel I deserve it.
Lesson 4: This journey is not all about me.
I started this journey a couple years ago because I wanted to improve my life and live a life that was not controlled by fear or hate. For so many years, I had been my own worst enemy and sabotaged relationships and opportunities because I did not believe I deserved them. I eventually realized that I was the only person responsible for improving my life. It was all up to me and about me. I was the problem. I was the solution. And I had to change for me. And them. At the time, “them” represented my future children. I thought a lot about the love I had (or the love I imagined I would have) for them, when I preparing to start this journey. I feared that the way I felt about myself would influence how they saw themselves and I could not live with myself if that happened. After all, how could I teach my son or daughter to love all of who they were, if I continued to hate myself for all that I was and wasn’t? While my dream of one day becoming a mother seems like it is being deferred the older I get and longer I’m single, I still remind myself that this journey is not just about me – it’s about setting the foundation for one day becoming the kind of woman that can teach her children what self-love is by the way she carries herself and through her actions. It’s about growing and being better so that I can be a better friend, sister,daughter, yogi, writer and wife (one day!).
This list is by no means exhaustive nor is it a guide to self-love. Even though I am not as far along as I would like to be, I feel confident that I am on the right path for me and I am choosing to “trust the process” and enjoy the journey.
Thanks for reading!