I am still learning…and unlearning.

2017 was my year of learning. I adopted Michelangelo’s quote “I am still learning” as my motto and let it guide me through uncertainty and doubt each time I stepped out of my comfort zone. I made myself uncomfortable a lot last year which resulted in a lot of learning. I learned that I was strong enough to balance on my hands, head, and one leg with the other one bound. I learned to ask for what I wanted and to remain determined when I kept hearing ‘no’. I learned that walking across Paris to sit underneath the Eiffel tower as it sparkled was worth the pain I felt the next day (but next time I’ll take a taxi!). I learned that practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make you better. I learned to believe in the kindness of strangers and the simple joy of smiling a little longer than usual. Most importantly, I learned that learning is a life-time practice that requires, commitment, patience and kindness.

While “I am still learning” defined my journey in 2017 and allowed me to move closer to the life I wanted, the thoughts and beliefs I had to unlearn were equally if not more important to my journey.

Prior to starting my journey to self-love, I  made countless attempts to change. But back then change involved losing 20 lbs first (despite never really needing to lose that much weight) and then everything else falling into place. Just about every quarter or so I would get a burst of inspiration usually influenced by an arbitrary deadline (8 weeks until summer, 10 weeks until my birthday, before the New Year,etc.) and focus on losing weight or making another superficial goal. Sometimes I got lucky (i.e caught a cold or loss my appetite due to stress) and came close to my goal but most of the time when I hit the first setback, I would give up and go back to my old habits. I held on to this belief that losing weight would be the catalyst to “cure” my anxiety, depression and insecurity for much of my adult-life.

However, in my late twenties as I freaked out about turning thirty soon and not being where I wanted to be in life, I started to question and challenge my thoughts and habits. I started asking myself – “If I can get this far in life with anxiety and insecurity, imagine where I can be if I actually loved myself and believed I was capable of achieving my dreams”. It started becoming clear to me that I was the one person standing in the way of my happiness. Years earlier an advisor in college had blatantly asked me when I was going to stop “shooting myself if the foot”. I remember at the time feeling attacked and misunderstood. I felt my actions, thoughts and feelings were justified given the circumstances. I was convinced that the source of my anxiety was related to the way I looked, so the solution had to be in losing weight. But I realized that the problem was in the way I thought about myself, not in the way I looked.

Unlearning the thoughts and habits I’ve had for almost 20 years is no easy task. Just like learning, I imagine it might be a lifelong practice where I’m consciously making the choice to not give in to my thoughts and limiting beliefs. Meditation has helped significantly with not allowing my thoughts to define or control me, but the beliefs I have seem to be rooted pretty deeply. To quote Solange’s Cranes in the Sky, I tried to “run it away…write it away or cry it away” but it still remains.

Even though I have a long journey of learning and unlearning ahead of me, I am still proud of the progress I’ve made over the last year and half. Sometimes it seems like things are creeping along because I’ve had no dramatic life changes, but I know that the seemingly tiny steps I am taking are adding up to a better me and a me that is one step closer to the woman I want to be.

 

 

notes on learning to love

 

“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!).

Final thoughts

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!

Late to the Party.

Hi there!

My name is Cass and this is my first blog post. Yes, I’m just starting a blog in 2018. I know, I know. I’m very late to the “I needed a creative outlet” party. But I’m here now to plant my proverbial tree with three simple goals in mind: to become a better writer, to express myself creatively, and to show-up for myself.

While this blog is primarily to help me develop discipline and vulnerability as a writer, I hope that one day my words will be an inspiration to someone (or many someones tbh). But for right now, the following posts are the words I need to hear and the lessons I am still learning.