I was working on a different blog post when I got the idea to write about self-love, and I quickly switched gears without giving it a second thought. With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, I thought it seemed fitting to pursue a post centered on love, especially one that highlights an internal rather than external love. As someone who is currently single, I know how difficult Valentine's Day can be for those of us who aren't in romantic relationships . . . but maybe we wouldn't feel that way if we shifted the focus. I thought this would be easy to write because I believed in the importance of getting this message out before the holiday . . . but my excitement to tackle this piece disappeared the moment I tried to express my thoughts. I struggled to find the right words . . . I struggled to piece it together . . . until I decided to speak from the heart and tell the truth about my own inability to love myself for years.
When I was younger, I battled to love myself. I constantly viewed myself negatively . . . I avoided the mirror . . . and I subjected myself to situations that I knew would leave me feeling hurt and empty. I only focused on my failures and flaws . . . and held space for the people who saw me the way I saw myself . . . as someone insignificant and small. I exerted my energy on loving everyone around me, with hope that they would love me in return . . . not realizing that I was chasing the wrong love . . . a love that continued to leave me feeling empty and alone. I didn't need their love . . . I needed my own . . . but I didn't see myself as worthy. I continued to deny myself the love that deep down, I knew I deserved.
I experienced a lot of hurt growing up . . . from family, friends, coaches, teachers, bosses . . . and I allowed that hurt to shatter my self-esteem and self-worth. Instead of fighting back or standing up for myself, I relinquished my power . . . hid in the corner . . . adopted a victim mentality and succumbed to a life of inward darkness. I lost myself in that darkness . . . I chose the wrong people for relationships and friendships . . . I allowed people to use and walk all over me . . . I ignored my own needs . . . I made the wrong life decisions . . . and I forgot how to listen to my inner truth. It took me a long time to find the light that was still burning deep within that darkness . . . but I didn't start fueling it until I got tired . . .
I was tired of the hurt . . . the abuse . . . the same repetitious patterns that kept yielding the same results . . . and the unhappiness. I was tired of being a victim. This wasn't how I wanted to live, and as much as my self-esteem had been destroyed, I knew that I had more to give myself and the world. I decided to face the mirror and fight the darkness.
I began taking steps to heal my wounds and rebuild my self-esteem. I paid more attention to the voice of my heart and allowed it to guide me. I learned how to say "no" when I felt like someone was taking advantage, and I began making better life decisions. I healed through my writing and used my own words as motivation and guidance. There were times when I slipped back into my old patterns, but I pushed myself back on track. I had faith that I could conquer my own demons and I kept moving forward . . . until the wrong person entered my life and hindered my progress. I succumbed to his manipulations . . . I believed his lies . . . I allowed him to crush my spirit and nearly destroy me. I watched as the light that I had reignited began dimming as my healing unraveled . . . but it didn't extinguish . . . and I knew in my heart that I deserved better. I used every ounce of my strength to walk away, hoping that the light would brighten on its own . . . but the damage was extensive and I couldn't fix it alone. I needed help . . . so I went to therapy . . . twice.
I was never opposed to therapy. I respected what they did and I valued the importance of guided healing . . . but I always believed that I could fix my issues by myself. After experiencing an unhealthy relationship and seeing how its aftermath affected my daily life and my way of thinking, I knew that I needed outside help to get beyond it. My first therapist opened the door to this new world of healing, but she could only get me so far. My second therapist changed my life. With his help, I unlocked hidden demons . . . healed past wounds . . . understood my behaviors . . . severed self-destructive patterns . . . and abolished my victim mentality permanently. He opened my eyes to new perspectives and lead me down the path of self-love.
Coming from a new place of love and worth, I changed how I viewed myself and engaged in more things that made me happy. I started to overcome my fears and trust my instincts . . . I learned how to get out of my own way . . . and I began attracting non-toxic people who added value to my life. I started to let go of my attachment to people, places and things that no longer served me . . . I forgave my mistakes . . . I celebrated my victories . . . I recognized and respected my boundaries . . . and I listened to the voice of my heart. I embraced the path of self-love and was rewarded with the life I had dreamed of living . . . full of endless possibility.
Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
My Personal Guide to Self-Love
Set Healthy Boundaries
When you set healthy boundaries, you express to the world that you know your worth. You may not be able to set your boundaries until you know your limits. Knowing your limits is a process of trial and error, but once you know, if you honor and respect them, you will help to prevent others from taking advanage of you or depleting your energy.
Spend Time Alone
When you are alone, you can truly listen to the inner voice that you may not be able to hear when surrounded by the influx of external noise. It will give you the opportunity to rest, re-charge and only focus on yourself and your needs.
Celebrate Your Triumphs
Sometimes we are so focused on our failures that we forget to acknowlege our triumphs. Celebrating your accomplishments, regardless of how small they may be, will help you to maintain a positive attitude while pushing you forward to bigger achievements.
Forgive Your Mistakes
We are human . . . we make mistakes . . . we will always make mistakes. The more we focus on the things we did wrong, the less we will acknowledge the things we did right. Use your mistakes as guidance for growth, but try not to let them define you. They will not prevent you from your end result unless you allow them. Be gentle with yourself on your journey.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Getting help is not a sign of weakness . . . it is a sign of strength. We all have the ability to fix our problems, but sometimes we need external support. Whether it's family members, friends, teachers, coaches or trained professionals, find your courage and seek out the help that you need. You deserve a life full of happiness . . . allow yourself the chance to have it.
Let Go of What No Longer Serves You
Letting go isn't easy . . . especially when we attach ourselves . . . but it's important to pay attention to what we choose to hold on to and how those attachments make us feel. Take the time to notice what you carry with you emotionally, mentally and physically and see if you can identify the negative and toxic baggage that weighs you down. Do your best to release what you no longer wish to carry with you. It will help you to feel lighter and free.
Do What Makes You Smile
This is your life . . . enjoy it by filling your days with the things that make you happy! Living your life by engaging in the things that bring you happiness and joy is the greatest gift you can give yourself and a true act of self-love.
May this Valentine's Day be full of the love that you not only give to the people around you, but to yourself as well. Treat yourself with the love, compassion, kindness and respect that you deserve! It's important to recognize that all relationships have the possibility of ending . . . but the relationship with yourself is forever.
The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself. ~ Abraham Lincoln