Thursday, November 21, 2013

How I've learned to love myself part 1

 Disclaimer: There were no edits done on this post,including checking for grammar and typo mistakes. I am not going to apologize for it, just a reminder to read at your own risk! :-)

2nd disclaimer: I just re-read this and although I don't have the energy to fix all of the mistakes right now, I would like to add humor to the list. Because man some of the typos are pretty hilarious. In the past I would have been so embarrassed that I posted something with so many mistakes but today it's kind of funny.

 It wasn't too long ago that I hated myself. I hated everything about myself; my personality, body, feelings, choices etc. I couldn't look into the mirror without cringing. This was deeper than my body. It seeped into every part of me and consumed me in a way that was impossible to hide. I longed to be someone else. Anyone really. I didn't believe that I was good enough, thing enough, or really that I deserved to be alive.

Although I read all of the books and spent tons of time in therapy, the idea that I could actually learn to love myself seemed like a cruel joke. It seemed like something completely foreign and unattainable.To be honest just the idea really pissed me off. You mean I have to stop hating myself? Stop doing what I had been doing for the past 12 years? Yeah right.

I fought it some on the outside but on the inside I longed for this freedom. To no longer be at war with myself. To be free.

And that is how it started. With a small glimmer of hope that just maybe I wasn't different. I wasn't the exception. Let's face it, I wasn't special. I could change even though it felt scary and meant truly being vulnerable.

Learning to love myself hasn't happened over night. It's still something that is happening everyday. Some days shame wins and I cling to old negative thinking. Other days I can't stop grinning at the person that I have become. One thing I do know for sure is that it's been a combination of small (and large) things that have happened along the way as opposed to one giant "aha moment".

Below are some of the things that have helped me along this journey from self hatred to self love. They are in no particular order/ I speak from what has been true for me and my experience but believe that everyone's journey is unique and their own.

1. Stopped apologizing: Sorry used to come out of my mouth in almost every sentence. I apologized for everything you can imagine. When I was in treatment this year one of the therapist had us play this stupid game (ok it wasn't stupid) where we had a set of stickers. Every time we said sorry for anything we had to give up a sticker. Let's just say I  was the first one to lose my stickers. I was angry. I felt like my apologies were genuine and thought my apologetic nature was a good quality to have. Only months later did I realize the therapist was right, I was pretty much apologizing for being alive. I no longer feel the need to say I am sorry for taking up space in this world or for being who I am. Saying sorry as often as I did wasn't genuine, it was a cop out. Now I take responsibility for what is mine and own who I am without apology.

2. Forgave myself: For me forgiving myself has been one of the hardest parts of this journey but the most freeing. I used to believe that forgiving myself was going to cause me to make the same choices/mistakes over and over again. I truly thought punishment was the answer and lived like that for years. I honestly didn't believe that I was worth forgiving. I felt like I was too far gone and truly deserved the misery that I was in. Of course this only perpetuated the cycle. Once I began forgiving myself, I started to make better choices. I let go of a lot of things that haunted me in the past and started to believe that I did the best that I could at the time. Through forgiveness, both of myself and others, I began to rekindle relationships. This gave me the fuel to realize I wasn't an horrible person but human with gave me the space I needed to work through things without judgement and self beating.

3. Honored my feelings: I am a sensitive person.Always have been and always will be. Things affect me strongly and this is never going to change. This wasn't always ok with me. In fact I hated it and tried hard to make it untrue. My emotions scared the crap out of me and were not allowed to be seen. Well except for the "good"ones. Anger, sadness, disappointment, shame etc. Ugh I did whatever I could to make sure I pushed those as far away as I could and as I did that I got further and further out of touch with myself. When I first started allowing myself to feel these things they were huge and honestly felt like they would consume me. Now they come and go. And they are good indicators of what is going on around me. They are my way of honoring my heart and have helped me learn to be more in touch with what I truly need and want.

4. Set boundaires: My boundaries used to be like jello. There was no line between where I and others existed. People walked all over me and I allowed it to happen. I dropped anything and everything for anyone all of the time and boy did my resentment grow. I couldn't say no and that lead to overcommitment until I couldn't physically or mentally handle it any more. I saw myself as only a mean to others and this was exhausting. It left no time for me. It was something that I couldn't keep up with and lead to more hatred. Learning to create boundaries has allowed me to have much healthier relationships and has allowed me to put myself on an even playing fried with others. This has allowed me to balance my desire to help others with the need to take care of myself and has created much more room in my life for joy.

5. Untried my worth from my doing: You mean I am worthy just for being alive? You betcha. I call bullshit or at least I used too. My worth was tied up in my doing; what I could do for others, my job, my relationships, the number on the scale. It was always a conditional statement. You are a worthy person  if you have/can do _______. It always changed and was impossible to keep up with. As I mentioned above I saw myself only through the yes of others so I looked for my worth in others. I needed attention and constant reassurance that I was doing "it" right. And the it changed depending on who I was with and what I was doing. It has taken me a long time and a lot of "fake it till you make it" to truly believe that I am a worthy person just for being alive. However since doing this I am now able to try new things and accomplish much more because my worth it no longer on the line.

6. Stopped trying to earn love: I was hesitant to put this one because it's new and still a little raw and hard for me to talk about. Feeling like I need to earn love has been something that has been with me since I was a little girl and something that I think will always partially be there. I want people to like me. All people, all the time. And I have spent most of my life trying to make this happen. But you know what? You know when I feel the most loved? When I am not trying at all. Instead of doing and doing to try to win people over, I've learned to be myself. No I am not perfect and yes I screw up but true love isn't conditional. It can't be earned or taken away.. This is something that I need to remind myself every day and has gotten easier through the growth of my relationship with my husband.

7. Listened to my heart: Cheesy I know but I love cheesy. My heart is what guides me. Some times that makes me unrealistic. Some times it makes me dramatic. But it always feels right and like I am being true to myself. It feels genuine and authentic. For years I disconnected from my heart because of what others thought of me and what it seemed like the world valuated. I was told over and over again that I cared too much and needed to toughen up. You know what? I love how big my heart is and how I care deeply about everything. It's actually my favorite quality about myself. I am passionate and wouldn't have it any other way. My enthusiasm is childish and if you don't like it then that is your problem not mine.

It seems like once I started thinking about this topic, more things keep popping in my head to write about so I have decided to make this a few part post. Stay turned for next time!