Loving yourself does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic. Rather it means welcoming yourself as an honoured guest worthy of respect. Loving yourself is sometimes hard to do. But if we can find value and love in who we are then it is so much easier to radiate love to those around us.
During the first few months after my ex-husband and I separated, my self worth plummeted. I felt all used up and broken. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I hated what I saw. Red and swollen eyes staring back at me did little for my self esteem. To make matters worse I had dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep and the stress had caused my hair to thin and begin to fall out. I looked awful. I felt awful and really didn’t like who I was or who I had become. I began reading a self help book on how to love yourself and the author asked the reader to go to the mirror and say “I love you” to yourself. What a silly thing to do, I thought when I first read that statement. I actually put the book away for a few weeks before I had the courage to pick it up again and try that ridiculous suggestion. After contemplating that passage for several weeks, I finally decided to give it a try. Ridiculous or not I needed help. So one night after the kids were asleep I crept into the bathroom and locked the door. I looked in the mirror at my disheveled mess of hair, my red and swollen eyes and my sunken in face. I tried desperately to say to myself, “I love you.” But the words wouldn’t come. Instead I began to cry uncontrollably and scream insults at my self. Sure I loved my children. I loved others. I even loved God, but I could not love myself. I felt unworthy to be loved.
I tried over and over again to say those three little words to myself. In the car..on the way to work..anytime I was alone, but I could not say them. I could only utter insult after insult to myself, then cry in defeat, wipe my tears, put on my mask and go to work encouraging and loving those around me. No one knew that inside I was hiding an insecure mess. I think this battle with myself went on for quite some time. I lost count of the days. When you are in distress your mind tends to wander and you lose touch with reality. I knew I was falling apart but I didn’t know where to turn for help. I had to stay strong for my kids and for my job. I had to support my family. I could not afford to fall apart now.
I tried reading every self help book I could find on divorce, love and self worth. Finally I just gave up and went back to the basics. The Bible. I began thinking that if God, the creator of life and light, and creator of the entire cosmic universe, really did indeed create all, then I would be a part of His divine creation, wouldn’t I? And if I truly loved God as much as I professed then I should learn to love his creations, all of them, which included myself!
I slowly started to feel worthy of love, but it didn’t happen over night. It took months. For starters, I began to tell myself good things rather than bad. If a bad thought or insult came into my mind about myself, I would stop, take a deep breath and ask God to give me positive words to replace the negative. This was not an easy process and very often I would slip back into the role of beating myself up, but I tried hard and I worked hard to make sure I could love myself. I even tried taking myself out on a date. For the first time ever, I went alone to the movie theatre. I bought myself a huge tub of popcorn and watched a sappy chick flick. I cried my eyes out through the whole thing. I’m sure those around me thought I had gone mad but the tears were completely glorious. Afterwards, I went to the mall and bought myself a treat and tried not to feel guilty. Again, this was very difficult for me to do, but I did it! Slowly, and one day at a time, I began to find joy in loving who I was as an individual, not as someone’s wife, mother or teacher.
Because I am a songwriter, I find music speaks to my core. So I began writing songs which expressed my inner most thoughts and emotions. Being able to release these thoughts through a musical outlet was a huge part of my healing process. Some of those songs will be featured on my upcoming album. Others are too private and personal to share but all served a purpose in helping me to express myself and offered insight into where I was emotionally. Sometimes the words would just flow and afterwards I would re-read the lines I had just written and an awakening would happen in my soul. There were times that the songs revealed things to me about myself such as, “ I had no idea I felt so harshly about this”, or “Wow! I’m really going to be ok with that.” If you are looking for ways to express yourself but don’t write songs, there are many other alternatives to songwriting. Journaling, poetry, art, dance and theatre are also powerful tools for self expression. But don’t limit yourself to the fine arts. Find something that resonates within your core and go with that. A good friend of mine took up running during her divorce. For her it was an amazing and uplifting form of physical release. As she ran, she was able to not only express herself in a physical way but she was able to clear her head and become focused. By taking good care of her body, she began to foster a new love for herself and the world around her.
As babies we are all born with a clean slate. One that is ready and capable of self love. Then, by whatever circumstance life throws at us, our perception of love and self worth changes. Sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative manner. But if we continually blame those around us for how we view ourselves, then they have won and we have let them. We are all capable of changing our thought patterns. Ask God to help you, then start by taking one small step at a time. If you have a set back don’t feel defeated. Pick yourself back up and keep going. Remember, there are always dips in the road. If you happen to get stuck in a rut, ask God for help and I assure you that you WILL find a way out. Support groups are also important. Having others around you to encourage you and cheer you on as you make these changes is crucial. I joined a divorce group during this time, which was another key component in my healing process. Taking the step to locate the group and actually put one foot in front of the other and walk into the door of that said group was a huge feat and not any easy task to do. But, I am so thankful I did it!
For some of you reading this, loving yourself comes easy and this post might not make any sense to you at all and that is okay. Perhaps this will enlighten you as to what others around you might be facing. We must remember that we are all on a different journey and arrive at various places at different times and stages in our lives. For those of you suffering from negative self thoughts as I did, my hope and prayer is that you will find a way to love yourself as God loves you and to see yourself as the magnificent, wonderful, beautiful, remarkable and unique being that you truly are!
With all my Love,