The First Step To Self-Love
Admit it: You hate yourself. Part of you hates your lumpy body, your less than impressive resume, and your long list of failed relationships. Part of you hates your mediocre parenting, that closet in the hallway in which you keep every misplaced and underused item that you’ve ever owned, and the fact that you wake up in the middle of the night to go eat cookies.
You hate your stinking guts.
Listen to your self-talk, as you pinch at your middle section, lament about the dreams you had when you were younger, and tell yourself that you’ll be ready to find a partner when you finally lose those 20 pounds, if you only had time to go to the gym.
Watch as you berate yourself for not fulfilling the list of goals you set for the week on Sunday night, as another morning passes that you don’t wake up early to run, or meditate, or write in that gratitude journal your best friend bought you that just sits on your nightstand.
Let’s go deeper: back to your childhood. You hate yourself for not keeping your parents happy. You feel guilty, still, for when they fought, when they chose you over your siblings, when you lied, when you wished you would’ve spoken up but didn’t; when you did speak up. You feel guilty for the time you kissed your best friend’s boyfriend, for that affair you’ll never tell anyone about, because someone as nice as you wouldn’t do such a thing, and because you’re a good person.
You tell yourself that one day (one day soon), you will be a new you, a better version of yourself, like you but 2.0, and this newer model will be worthy of love; this model will be thinner, more accomplished, and will eat less trans fats. But until that day comes, you’re going to have to figure out how to live with what you’ve got; at the end of the day, you’re stuck with yourself.
This is the first step to self-love. This is the first step to healing your deep wounds, ones that manifest in insidious ways: weight gain, getting involved in unhealthy relationships, and self-sabotage. The first step is to really and truly loving every inch of yourself – mistakes and all – is to see your screaming anger, your heavy guilt, and your overwhelming hatred for yourself.
See it and own it. Write it down. Tell a friend.
I have guilt because I moved away from my family and left.
I hate myself because I was never able to help my younger brother when he clearly needed it.
I am insecure because my parents always called me fat and pinched my middle section. My mother told me I’d better do well in school, because there was no way I was ever getting married.
Cry. Scream. Let it out.
I don’t forgive my parents. I don’t forgive myself. I have anger towards my ex-husband, and the way it manifests is I grind my teeth every night. I can finish an entire cheesecake in one sitting. I can’t remember the last time I fell asleep without having a glass of wine and some Tylenol PM.
The first step to healing is identifying our pain. The first step to loving ourselves is noticing all the places and all the ways that we don’t. The first step to stopping negative patterns and breaking free from self-sabotaging loops is to see them, clearly, and to stop denying that our feelings, both unconscious and conscious, exist.
Part of me hates myself, and part of you probably does, too.
But it wasn’t until I saw it, until I called it out and named it: Hey, the me that wants to limit my caloric intake; the me that’s putting up with people who aren’t so nice; the me that’s giving more than I receive; the me that’s trying to be perfect – I see you. I got my eye on you, and you’re not going to slip under my radar anymore.
That’s the key to transmuting all fear: First, we see it. And once we become present to it, and it arises (because it will continue to be there), we will recognize the sound of its voice, and when it speaks, we will hear it. Then, and only then, we can decide not to listen to it. We can choose again.
Once our self-hatred has a name and a face, we take away its power. We bring it to the light.
Our deepest pains and fears are buried, and why wouldn’t they be? It feels safer to bury our trauma so we don’t have to acknowledge it. It feels safer to hide from the pain; but then, that pain becomes the dominant ruler of our lives. Once we are willing to bring light to our darkest shadows, we must first see them. Then and only then, we can whisper: Oh, there you are. And like nothing at all – flip the switch.
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