It's a familiar scene (and one I lived for nearly 40 years)...
You feel worthless. While outsiders aren't privy to your internal dialogue, it is clear through your actions, conversations, and decisions that you don't see how powerful and intrinsically wonderful you are.
Everyone around you can recognize just how amazing you are, except you. Naturally, everyone tells you that you are incredible. And then...then...the well-meaning people who love you say..."Just love yourself", or " I wish you could love yourself as much as I love you."
Self love isn't magic. It isn't something that just happens because someone tells you to. And it is EXTREMELY frustrating to know that you should be doing something (like love yourself), and people want you to, and they tell you to, BUT no one ever tells you HOW to love yourself.
It's akin to feeling hunger pains and the world telling you to eat. You see everyone able to function without constantly obsessing over being hungry. It seems so natural for them to eat, but you never learned how to chew. So you occasionally try to put food in your mouth and it results in choking and tears. Nothing to sustain you long term.
We all have a background and life story that influences the lens with which we see ourselves and the world. For me this lens consisted of child abuse of all sorts, including sexual abuse by my father. It meant I lived on my own from the age of 14 on. I never graduated high school. I lost my closest brother to an overdose at age 25. When my husband said I was ugly and dumb, I believed him. PTSD and Panic Disorder would pop in occasionally to keep me locked in my house, and even at times unable to leave the bed to use the toilet. The list goes on, and you have your own I am sure, too. It is our stories that bind and connect us.
I believed all of it. I believed every last horrible thing that anyone had ever placed on me. PLUS, I hated my body and I wasn't a perfect Pinterest mom and I couldn't keep my house obsessively perfect and why could't I get over my anxiety and on and on and on.
Until one day I hit the proverbial rock bottom.
I was an Army Officer's wife. I had a 15 yr old, a 13 yr old, a 2 year old with autism who I was taking to the children's hospital for daily therapies, and a 6 month old. My then husband was deployed. Between my two littles, I was sleeping only 1.5 hours at a time, and never more than 4 hours combined. It had been that way since my 2 year old was born. (Not so fun fact, many children with autism have sleep issues...to my fellow special needs moms, I feel you and a big virtual hug!)
I thought I was a failure. I had been told that my whole life. It only got worse with no sleep. Oh, I was in counseling for postpartum anxiety/depression, but I could not be honest about just how bad it had gotten in my head. I truly believed if I told him, he would think worse of me than I already did. There was no way I could handle disappointing another person.
Do you see the pattern here? I didn't love myself. I couldn't be compassionate with myself. I didn't know HOW.
The breaking point happened.
There was a loaded gun in our home. My brain began to lie to me. CONSTANTLY. I couldn't stop thinking that the whole world would be better off without me. My kids wouldn't have such a miserable mom who never made fun crafts and treats any more. No one would miss me. They would get over the momentary sadness of my departure, but they would breathe a sigh of relief. ALL LIES.
For three days I obsessed over that gun. At first it was a thought I could argue with, but as the days went on, my brain made a plan. I would go to the field just a block from our home because I didn't want my kids to find me. It just wouldn't let up. It seemed like the only possible solution.
But for some reason I will never be able to articulate or understand, on the third night at about 9 pm, I had a fleeting thought that I acted on. I knew a woman who was a prior soldier, and she would know how to take the bullets out of the gun. And maybe if the bullets were out, my brain would stop screaming at me with its lies. I called her to come over but didn't tell her why. SHE ANSWERED!
What happened next was the most loving treatment I have ever received from anyone. She didn't judge me. She didn't freak out on me. She didn't shame me. She just showered me with love and a space to speak my truth...I felt worthless. And then, she stayed the night on my couch and tended to my babies while I finally slept.
That next morning, when I went into my bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror. I don't know when the last time you have truly looked yourself in your eyes was, but it startled me. So much so that I grabbed a bar of soap lying next to the sink and wrote, Step into your life, right across my face on the mirror.
I wish I could say that fixed everything. That the tears dried and the persistent anxiety lifted and life became flowers. It didn't. But it did open the door to me learning to love myself. The HOW.
Seeing that message several times a day changed me. I quickly realized the power that the language I used with myself had. For one second, I could pause. I could contemplate something different. I could be more mindful of what I would say to myself when I saw myself...just for one second.
That one soap message turned into hundreds of moments of love for myself over the last 5 years. All of those moments turned into a natural way of thinking about myself...one with compassion and love. And I promise you, that a message on your mirror can turn into hundreds of moments for you, if you'll try.
So....self love isn't magic. But there is something you can do, right (write) now, to start learning HOW to see yourself with love. It starts with the language you use when you see yourself.
I believe in you and your ability to see your strength.
All my love,