I wish I could tell you a story about that one dramatic event that changed my life forever. You know the type – the divorce, the physical abuse, an accident, or even a near death experience. It’s not because I have some morbid desire to experience these painful things.
It’s just that sometimes I think maybe (just maybe) one of those pivotal events would have been the impetus I needed to see what was wrong in my life, and to take action to heal.
But then again, maybe not. When I look back on my 20’s, and on the long and painful list of struggles I experienced, you’d think that at least one of them would have led to my light-bulb conversion story. Unfortunately, they just kept piling up, like a car wreck on the highway.
The first pile up came in the form of relationships. I often let my values and beliefs slip to the wayside, especially when it came to romance. I wanted “love” so badly, that any guy became better than no guy at all.
One relationship was so destructive that I developed not only depression, but also anorexia nervosa from all of the stress and anxiety that it caused me. You’d think I would have learned my lesson by then.
But I didn’t, and I settled for less time and time again. And not just in romance! I always seemed to attach myself to dominating and controlling people, rather than respectful and loving friends.
I also never believed that I was worthy of a good career, and so, I always settled for jobs that never challenged me, or helped me grow. Even though I hated each one, I never believed that I was capable and worthy of something better.
During my 20’s, I used to say to myself, “I’m such a waste of time.”
It was such a bleak outlook, but that’s how I saw those years of my life. Those years that should have been full of fun, exploration, growth, and all the happy photos you see on Facebook and Instagram.
Instead, there I was, and I wasn’t proud of my life. In fact, I was fed up, and wanted to end it all. I never had the courage to commit suicide, but I wanted to, because I knew life could be better. I just didn’t know how to rise above my long history of settling and censoring, of caving in and giving up.
So, I tried to fix things: I exercised, I prayed, I questioned my beliefs, I changed beliefs, I read self-help books, I tried to stand up for myself, and I broke off many relationships. In short, I tried to address my issues as if they were isolated and disparate parts.
But the problems never really went away because there was a much deeper problem.
And it’s true – depression, self-esteem and body image issues, social anxiety, and eating disorders are all real problems that countless people deal with. But these issues were actually the symptoms of a much bigger problem for me.
I had the chronic illness of not loving myself.
I never saw this illness sneaking in, and like so many others, I never thought this could be the underlying issue, because on the outside, so many things seemed okay.
Can you relate? Do you see any of the following scenarios playing out in your own life, too?
Does no one see that your own heart is a bit broken inside?
Maybe you’re very responsible and self-sufficient? My parents used to be so proud of me and say, “You always paid your own way and held down a job.” Well, yes I did. But I basically cried on the way to most jobs; I worked myself up with to so much stress that my body stopped tolerating most foods. How many times have we endured too much for too long? All because we don’t respect ourselves enough to say no and stop?
Maybe you’re a great student, and a favorite in the classroom. But instead of celebrating your good grades and academic accomplishments, you constantly compare them to everyone else’s and criticize yourself for not being good enough.
The thing is, we look at these scenarios, and say things like, “Oh, she’s just too hard on herself.” But what we should be saying instead is: “She doesn’t love herself!” I never thought that I didn’t love myself. I just figured that my life was hard. But how many women go through the same troubles, and don’t understand why?
How many women are self-sufficient, have romantic relationships, do well academically, but deep down, don’t love themselves one bit?
This lack of self-love is insidious, much like a deadly cancer. On the outside, everything seems good, even good enough, but you know it’s not. You know you could be better, healthier and happier. Unfortunately, few of us realize that our common struggles result from our love deficit. I’m so glad I realized this, and started loving myself again.
It’s been some of the most difficult work I’ve ever done, because it’s meant changing my mindset and the long-held beliefs I had about myself. We all know that nothing good comes easily, and if you ask me, loving yourself is some of the best work you can ever do. So, it goes without saying that this work has been anything but easy.
But since it’s the most important job we have, we have to start loving ourselves again. The question is, how?
Here’s how to start loving yourself again.
First, admit that you’re not loving yourself enough or at all. Admit that you want to fix it. Tell yourself that you want to change and be happy, and that you want to give up pain and replace it with love. It sounds easy, but it takes a lot of strength. But don’t worry – you have this strength within you.
Next, actively surround yourself with as much love and support as you can find, whether that be with friends or family. Don’t just wait until the next birthday party. Actively schedule time with supportive and loving people. Listen to positive coaches or podcasts, and start to cultivate better thoughts.
This also goes for professional support! It’s important to admit that you might need professional help. Maybe it’s a counselor. Maybe it’s alternative medicines to help clear negativity. Whatever it is, allow yourself to be helped. We all need this from time to time!
Then, we have to start identifying what our hidden acts of non-love look like, and replace them with loving actions instead. I gave a couple scenarios above, but there are also many others. The problem is, so many of them have become commonplace, and we all know that once something becomes normal, it loses the power to impress us.
So, here are some other red flags to look out for: Dating or sleeping with men just to be with “someone”; changing who you are in order to be accepted and have “friends”; putting up with any form of abuse. Harming yourself in any way; accepting a life you’re not happy with and avoiding or refusing help; ignoring your health by avoiding medical attention, a good diet, exercise, grooming, dressing well; settling with jobs and commitments you’re not happy with, because you rather please others than be happy yourself.
Once you’ve acknowledged these actions, take time to forgive yourself. It’s not the time to beat yourself up anymore. Instead, it’s time to see that you’re worthy of your own love, compassion and forgiveness.
Remember to be patient on this journey. It will take lots of determination and gumption, but never give up on yourself!
Exercises to cultivate love for yourself.
- Dress yourself like you have something special planned that day. You’re worth it! I started something called “The Bloom Challenge”, where I challenge myself to dress up for 13 days straight. It’s a big, fashionable, “I love you”, and it’s so much fun. It reminds me that I’m worth looking and feeling great.
- Other ways you can show love to yourself is to prepare and enjoy a good meal. Half the time, we throw down a red carpet for everyone else, but we’ll stand at the kitchen counter when it’s time to feed ourselves.
- You can also be your best friend, by thinking of all the things you’d do for your closest friend, and doing them for yourself. Things like enjoying a latte at your favorite café, walking in the park, buying your favorite flowers or lighting a candle, going on a nice outing, or even just letting yourself relax and enjoy small pleasures. You’re worthy of all these things, too.
As you can see, none of these suggestions are super complicated, and that’s because loving yourself is actually very simple work. The problem is that we usually have no idea how little we love ourselves, or we truly believe that we’re not worthy of our own love.
This is the main theme of my book, The Heiress Project: Every Girl’s Guide to Reclaiming Your Worth & Creating a Life You Actually Love. So, if this is an area you struggle with in your own life, come check it out!
The bottom line is this: You are absolutely and 100% worthy of your own love, and I bet that if you begin to love yourself again, you’ll slowly begin to heal all the other areas of your life, too.
Marie Therese Batt is a writer and blogger at www.marietheresebatt.com. Her work focuses on empowering women to love who they are, and to change the way they view themselves. Her own struggles with anorexia and depression are the catalyst and inspiration for her writing, which has given many women the encouragement needed to change their lives. Check out her new book here.