Learning to Love Yourself

Learning to love yourself is not an easy thing to do. It may be one of the tougher things, if not the toughest, you do in your whole life. We put ourselves at the bottom of the list almost every time. When things are piling up, we sacrifice so others don’t have to go without — we eat poorly, we stay up too late, we run ourselves ragged — and this seems to be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves as compared to how we feel about others around us.

Last night, in sharing some wisdom with my beautiful niece, I recalled the first moment (after my self-esteem tanked in middle school) that I realized that maybe I was not 100% disgusting/ugly/fat/bound to be rejected for the rest of my life. It was 10th grade. But first, let me give you some context.

7 year old me

I grew up with teeth that I inherited directly from my father.

I’d call them quite “gappy” and on top of it all, I sucked my middle two fingers until I was 12 or something absurd like that…

11 year old me

So, I had a gap. I was very sensitive about this gap and I don’t know why. I can’t actually recall anyone making fun of it. But many of the pictures I looked through show me with a closed mouth smile — even today that’s my go to smile. Anyway… I digress. By the time my 12 year molars started coming in, the gap started closing – as you can see in the 2nd picture. But in my mind my teeth were still a train wreck, until that day in the 10th grade.

I was sitting in geography class beside this guy who I thought was super hot. He had braces and said something about how much he hated them. I made a comment that he was lucky to have them (because my mom could never have afforded braces for me) and that I wished I had braces. He looked shocked and said back to me “your teeth are perfect!”

Then I was the one who was shocked. You mean to tell me that other people can look at me and see something pleasant or perfect even? Even if it’s just my teeth… That’s somewhere I could start. So I began gently, by finding what I liked about myself. It’s hard. It’s almost excruciating to sit down and make a list of what you love about yourself. But do it anyway. I started with the fact that I liked my cute little nose and my pretty feet. Then I grew to find qualities about myself that I liked — I am kind, I am funny, I am loving.

As I acknowledged these things about myself, it became easier and easier to find other things about myself that I liked. Eventually, I began to believe my whole face was pretty. Not just my teeth and my nose. Recently, I have been able to feel like my entire body is beautiful (thanks to the others in the body positive movement).

Last night, I told my niece I loved her out loud. Then I told my mom. Then I told myself. Out loud. So other people could hear… that I loved me. It was a little funny but super important. And powerful. And it felt really good!!! Have you ever said that to yourself? “[Your name here], I love you!” Try it.

It’s not an easy process. It’s a long process. It’s been 23 years since the 10th grade… wow. But I’m here. And I love me. And if I can get here, so can you! Start with a list of just few things you like about yourself. Maybe you’ll struggle to find even one… but find it. Then look in the mirror everyday and acknowledge that you like it. Then listen to the people that love you and acknowledge in yourself what they acknowledge in you. Start praising those parts of yourself too. Eventually, you will start seeing more of what you love about you than what you don’t love about you. And eventually, you will start treating yourself as if you actually love yourself like you love those around you.

How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever been sitting there thinking those words: How did I get here? It could be about a variety of things in life, but if you’re human, I’jm willing to bet you have in fact thought those very words. What I want you to think about right now is how did you get to the place where you don’t love yourself, or maybe even like yourself? How did that happen? What I know for sure is that you didn’t start out as a little human not loving yourself. You were TAUGHT to not love yourself. Sit with that a minute and think back to the messages you have received through the years.

“You can’t do that.”

“That doesn’t look good on you.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“You’re too heavy/tall/thin/short/fat.”

“Did you even try?”

“That’s a crazy idea.”

The message comes in many forms. Sometimes it is obvious that it is a critical message. Other times it is more subtle. I like to think of us as having been contaminated by these critical messages through the years. Perhaps our natural state is to love ourselves and others and we are taught to hate others and ourselves through our interactions with others.

Think about this: Have you ever been watching a 2 year old play? It’s a lot of “look at me!” “Watch this!” “I’m super fast!” That seems to be the natural state of humans. A state where they think themselves to be amazing and love themselves for all of that amazing-ness. But then it starts to happen. Sometimes it happens in your own home. Sometimes it is not until you start school — but you start to become contaminated. People begin rejecting you. Judging you. Criticizing you. And all of a sudden you begin to question if you’re good or not… Maybe they are right. Maybe they know something you don’t know…

It starts off slowly and it just compounds on top of itself from there. In writing this, I had to think back to the first time I remember getting messages from peers about not being good enough or similar enough to everyone else that caused my peers to direct critical comments toward me. As I can remember, it wasn’t until the 5th grade (after I had gained weight over the summer) that people began calling me “fat.” That continued into middle school and seemed to tame down a bit by high school — mind you, looking back, I can see that I was not fat. But, maybe they knew something I didn’t know. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was supposed to look like those super thin friends of mine. That’s when the questioning starts. Then it is compounded by messages from the media and society. Eventually, we start saying mean, awful things to ourselves. And what’s worse is we BELIEVE those things.

“I’m fat.”

“I’m ugly.”

“My breasts/teeth/feet are the wrong size.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one will ever love me.”

“I’m not worthy of love/acceptance/friendship/kindness.”

Ugh! I hate even typing those things now! You see, I used to believe those things. I used to think that I was the ugliest and grossest person on the planet. That no one would love me and I was bound to die alone in a box down by the river. I feared rejection and judgment. I feared being vulnerable because I felt so vulnerable all the time anyway. And it wasn’t until I started talking to myself differently that I started feeling differently and acting differently. I started focusing on the people in my life that were supportive and uplifting. I started listening to the people who said they loved me and showed me they loved me in their own unique ways.

Then I started telling myself what I loved about myself. It started out small. “I like my cute little nose and my pretty feet.” Then it grew into believing that my face was beautiful. Then it progressed into realizing that I don’t have to look like everyone else for people to find my body beautiful. I embraced my curves & my bulges (that’s the harder part, by the way… there are still some of those that I don’t like so much — but I’m working on it). And each day I look in the mirror and tell myself at least one thing I like about myself. Over the years, those messages people gave me in 5th grade and throughout middle school have quietened & I can hear my natural state again. The state that loves everything about itself. The state that says STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING. The state that knows its own power and worth. That state is present in you, too. Let’s find it! And don’t let anything “dim that light that shines from within!”

Celebrating You, Celebrating Me, Celebrating Us

Monday was my 38th birthday! For years I have tried to find ways to celebrate that give back to others; donating blood, volunteering, raising money for a cause.

Hello 38!!

This year I wanted to do something that celebrated by giving back all year… and maybe even longer than that! I want to take myself on a new journey this year; a different kind of journey. A meaningful journey. I’ve set out on many journeys through the years, some have been intentional. Some I have stumbled upon. This year I want to take a journey that impacts the lives of others in a meaningful way. I want to bring you with me on this journey.

It’s a journey to improving the way we look at ourselves. We are constantly bombarded by messages from others and from ourselves about what we should look like, what we should have accomplished thus far in our lives, the roles we should be playing, etc. With all these messages, which start at such a young age, we have lost sight of the fact that we are beautiful creatures, inside and out.

My goal is to help encourage you in your development of a greater sense of appreciation for yourself. To be transparent about the struggles that go along with loving yourself, caring for yourself and flourishing in a world that screams ‘you are not good enough’ by sharing my own struggles and thoughts.

You might be asking yourself what makes this blog any different from the other body positive blogs or self-esteem blogs. The answer is nothing really. I’m no different from any other woman out there looking to build up others, empower people and edify humanity. Use as many tools as you can to find your way. I have over a decade of experience in psychology but for me this is a human issue. No one is immune from feeling insecure or fearing rejection based on how they show up in the world. So, if you’ve struggled with that, this might be the place for you.

Let me start with this simple fact: you ARE enough! You are good enough. You are strong enough. You are worthy enough! You are more amazing than you realize and I would like to invite you to come along with me in growing your appreciation for yourself. The journey to loving yourself and caring for yourself in a compassionate way — let’s call it living THE RADD LIFE. So if you’re down, let’s do it! Watch out world! Here we come!