Self-love (minus the toxic positivity)
Sometimes I feel like we should start with self-okayness before self-love. Maybe you were like me and your relationship with yourself leaned much more negative most of your life so self-love feels pretty unattainable. That's fine.
Start with self-okayness.
Move into neutrality into the parts of yourself that are overwhelming to you. Love the parts you love and be ok with the parts you've previously unappreciated. I like to think of self-love as a spectrum. It begins by accepting yourself just the way you are and as you do that, you begin moving into neutrality about all parts of ourselves and that helps us see our truest truths. Once we can accept those truths, we can heal the ones that are hurting and begin to love the parts we've neglected.
But we don't have to do all of that today. Let's just start with the prompt and then we'll dive in.
"What does self love mean to you? What about self acceptance?"
As always, this is no pressure thing. This is all a practice. Meaning we are going to practice journaling every day. That's it - no perfect words or well arranged thoughts. Just write whatever those sentences bring up for you. What they mean for you or how they relate to your life - truly anything.
I've wondered so much about this topic. Sobriety for me has been a gigantic act of self-love. Setting boundaries has been too. And it really has gotten me thinking about what self-love actually looks like it. And it doesn't look like $150 massages followed by luxurious baths with gigantic glasses of wine. That is self-love in package form, something that someone is trying to sell you.
Self-love is radical self advocacy. When you can see your needs and wants for what they really are and then you are able to articulate those needs, set boundaries and ask for help in order to meet those needs, and then treat yourself with compassion as you learn about yourself - that is self-love. Radical acceptance for who we are leads us to finding out what our core needs are.
When we learn those needs, we don't have to reach for something to stop us from coming up for air. We will come up for air. We will ask for help. When we know our needs, we don't have to drown because we can't swim - we can learn we have options.
Glennon Doyle tells a story about these monkeys she visited at a zoo that all sat on islands separate from one another. She talks about how sad the monkeys looked and asked why they didn't go to one another on the other islands. The tour guide responded with, "the monkeys don't know they can swim."
It wasn't that the monkeys couldn't swim, they were completely capable but they had no idea of it.
She mentioned that feeling to be akin to addiction. Wanting so desperately to be free but not realizing you have the key to your own freedom.
Self-love is so similar. We've been given this idea that if you make yourself pretty enough, thin enough, fun enough - whatever it is enough that the world will love you and therefore, you will love yourself.
But the lie that self-love and self-acceptance happens any other way than within the person who needs those things is the very thing that gets people stuck in cycles of perfection and coping. We run towards these societal ideas of perfect - even in terms of how we love ourselves - we say things like "I don't deserve that because of I didn't do this" when really there is no justification needing for loving ourselves.
It's like a mother who worries she is loving her baby the wrong way when she snuggles her, meets her needs, and sings to her. The baby cannot be loved incorrectly when her needs are met. That is how self-love works too.
Ask yourself what part of yourself you struggle to accept. What parts of your emotions or decision making do you regularly shame yourself for?
Mine was and sometimes is my anger.
My anger used to be something that was uncontrollable and completely impossible for me to understand. I had to start accepting my anger so I could learn to understand what it was telling me.
When my boundaries get crossed, I get very angry. This used to upset me and I would make it my mission to let me husband hear and feel how upset I was. But I started to notice that this never got us anywhere. We went in circles because I would feel unheard then I would yell and then we would fight and the original problem wouldn't ever get solved because I had never actually articulated what was wrong.
I spent years of my life locked in shame around my reactionary anger so I never dealt with it. Once I let the shame slip away, I was able to see my lingering anger for what it was. A bucket full of resentment caused by years and years of trauma where my boundaries were regularly crossed. I carried around that resentment like a security blanket and would blow up anyone who crossed that boundary - letting the pent up anger loose on people who didn't deserve it.
I finally accepted what was happening and I did an experiment where instead of lashing out, I got quiet. I let myself write, listen to what was happening, and maybe even step out for a second. My anger is mine and if I am to let people know they have crossed my boundary, doing it calmly is probably going to get me heard more than yelling or being hurtful. I think about how I would respond to my kid if she was upset and yelling - I would comfort her. I'm working on doing the same thing to the little toddler inside of my anger sometimes.
This has consistently been one of the hardest parts of my self-love and self-acceptance journey. I really wanted to shame myself into changing my anger because I thought that's what worked for everyone else. Jokes on me, shame is the worst motivator in the world and it caused me to go darker, not lighter.
Self-love is not always a victory march, sometimes it's cold and sometimes it's super fucking broken. That's ok too my loves.
That's what this beautiful life is about. Learning how to love ourselves in spite of all the ways the world has told us we shouldn't. I used to drink because I was too anxious, too depressed, too lonely, too fat, too angry, too stressed, too whatever - I believed every part of myself needed to be smaller and silenced. That in order to be great, I had to be numb.
Now I have learned that no one has ever hated themselves into loving themselves and if that worked, I would have done it by now. This practice of self-love is one I am returning to. I am not always in the space but I working through self-okayness and some days I let myself slip into the beautiful glory that is radical self-acceptance and radical self-love.
When we let ourselves open the door into self-love, I think it allows some softness to come in. This month you will see hundreds of posts of how to squeeze and shrink and change yourself in order to love yourself. You don't have to do any of that shit. All of you have to do is allow yourself to exist JUST the way you are. Start there. I am rooting for you. Like everything, you don't have to perfect - you just have to show up.