Self-love sounds like the easiest and most natural thing in the world. I mean, how hard can loving yourself be? As it turns out pretty doggone hard for many! I know for many years I didn’t like myself, much less love myself. Growing up, I was never bullied as a kid (at school). As it turns out, the bully lived with me. He used to tell me how stupid I was and constantly belittle me. He used to talk about people’s weight as if being heavy was the most grotesque thing in the world. I’d like to think I was better and stronger than to let it bother me, but as it turns out, it really got to me at such a young age.
After a while, I started to believe I really was stupid. Not only was I stupid but I was worthless. Although I did well in school, I always struggled with Math, especially as I got closer to my last years in high school. It took everything in me to get a B in Math so of course, I was stupid! If I were smart I would’ve been able to ace that class no problem. It didn’t help that my dad was a Math wiz and could just look at a complicated formula and have the answer in a moment. He didn’t have the patience to teach someone as dumb and slow as me. He could only break things down so far before he would get frustrated that I couldn’t understand and make me feel like an incompetent preschooler trying to color on their older sibling’s paper.
I didn’t go to college right after graduating high school. When I went to apply a year after graduating, I was incredibly nervous to take the entrance exams. I was just applying for the local community college but the thought of taking the Math exam was terrifying. I hadn’t done complex formulas and it’s not like I used any of them in real-life scenarios in the year since. As it turned out, I didn’t do very well. I was placed in a remedial Math class which came as no surprise. Somehow I was always in the most advanced English and History classes but entry Math and Science. Although I was embarrassed, I was also relieved. I struggled to keep up in AP Math in high school and that was the first class I ever dropped. So not having the pressure of keeping up with a class I struggled to keep up in to begin with was such a relief! As it turns out, I ended up only doing one semester of school before deciding it wasn’t for me but I managed to push myself and do well in my remedial Math class.
As time went on and I stepped into womanhood, I started to gain weight. The weight came from the battle I was fighting with depression. With each battle I lost and depression won, I gained more weight. I started to become one of those “grotesque people” my father always talked about and made fun of. Although I was only 20 pounds overweight, I felt absolutely disgusting. I was so embarrassed to do things or go places I might see someone who I hadn’t seen in a long time. What would they think? I let my weight rule my life in many ways over the years. From not participating in events to not being in photos. There are whole periods of my daughter’s life where it seems like I was missing. Everyone is laughing and smiling and I’m nowhere to be seen. I took all of the photos but refused to be in them. I continued to gain weight as the years went on.
I was really hard on myself and my father hadn’t been apart of my life for many years by this point. Although he wasn’t there physically, his words lingered in my head except they were no longer in his voice but my own. I’d become my own bully. As time went on, it was too hard to live with myself.
I felt like a stupid, fat, failure.
My life wasn’t where I pictured it and I hadn’t amounted to the potential I was expected to live up to. I was incredibly unhappy, unmotivated, and could only see all that was wrong with me and all that was missing in my life. It seemed like there were always problems and my life was a constant dance of one step forward ten steps back. I no longer had the desire to live. As it turns out, I was such a failure, I couldn’t even end my own life. As horrible as it sounds, that’s exactly how I felt at the time. Now I realize that the universe saved me, from myself.
After getting over the shock of not just wanting but planning to take my own life, I knew something had to change. There were so many things I didn’t like about myself and I hated my life. I felt so worthless and powerless I didn’t know where to start but I knew everything had to change or I wouldn’t make it to my 30th birthday. As terrifying as it was, I embarked on an intense journey of self-love. I didn’t know how to at first and it felt so awkward and uncomfortable. For years I’d been my own bully and now I was trying to love myself? Could you imagine, a bully just going up and earnestly hugging the person they’d been bullying for years out of the blue? Would the bully even know what to do or how to do it? How would the bullied person react? I was both people in that scenario, sounds uncomfortable right? Yeah, that’s exactly how it felt.
All that I knew is everything I’d been doing up to that point wasn’t working. I couldn’t bully, belittle, or shame myself into being a better person. I couldn’t strive for perfection and feel good about it because the higher my expectation, the bigger the disappointment when I didn’t meet or exceed it. So I told myself I had to do the opposite of everything I’d been doing up to that point. I journaled, made lists, and identified my habits. I made notes of the types of thoughts I had, the way I talked to myself, and the choices I made. It was clear I needed to learn how to be nicer to myself, let myself off the hook, and be more compassionate towards myself.
For two years, I went through a series of 10 key practices I came up with by just doing the opposite of what I’d been doing. I started seeing results within just a few months. It took a lot of dedication, consistency, and effort, but I did see progress. At first, it was really hard. I felt so fake being nice to myself, trying to think “happy thoughts” and look on the bright side. This was such a polar opposite of the way I’d been treating myself, things I’d been thinking, and the way I’d been looking at things. But part of my experiment was to see how doing things differently would change my life. I had no idea just how powerful this would turn out to be. It was a desperate attempt to have a life worth living that ultimately led to me quitting my toxic job and getting rid of commitments that didn’t sow into my life in a meaningful way. I learned how to trust myself again, listen to that whisper within, go with my gut, follow my heart, and love and accept myself for who I was as I was.
It was just last year that I realized just how far I’d come. That scenario I’d been so afraid of played out in real-life. You know where I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and they saw how overweight I was? Ordinarily, people obviously notice when you’re nearly 50 pounds heavier since the last time you’ve seen them but won’t say anything because it breaks social etiquette. Well, this was no ordinary encounter. I’d offered my business services for a project to my mom’s ex-boyfriend whom I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years. After our meeting and the formalities were over, we got to catching up. Out of the blue he asks if it’s ok for him to ask me a question. For some reason, I thought he’d ask about my mom. What came out of his mouth next shocked me to my core but also made me realize how far I’d come on this journey of self-love.
He asked me why such a pretty girl like me would allow myself to get so fat. He said it was such a shame and that I was too pretty to be that overweight. I couldn’t believe he said that. I laughed and stuttered for a moment because the question caught me so off-guard. I proceeded to tell him how sad it was to me that’s what he saw. I told him I’d never felt better in my life. Sure I was heavier and I wanted to lose weight for my health but not for my looks. I loved myself exactly as I was and my weight didn’t make me any less competent, ambitious, or worth loving. That’s when I knew I was doing something right. Had he asked me that question a few years earlier, I’m not sure how I would have reacted in the moment. I do know I would have let it devastate, humiliate, and sink me even further into my pit of despair. But I’d climbed out of that pit by this point and embarked on a journey to get as far away from it as possible.
Just like it’s easy to gain weight, it’s so easy to find our faults and tear ourselves down. Although it takes a little more effort, planning, and consistency to lose weight, it can be done. It usually starts with changing habits (and for me, a desire deeper than the weight loss itself). The same can be said for changing your mindset, you have to come up with a plan and create new habits. It’s not always easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, persistence, and consistency you can create the healthy mindset you desire. I know what it’s like to have a longer list of things you dislike or despise about yourself than the list of things you like or love. I know it can be so easy to look around and feel like you don’t measure up and have the external confirmation to prove it.
I also know that unconditional self-love is the antidote to disliking or even loathing ourselves.
It took a lot of dedication, intention, and practice for me to change the stories I told myself and the things I believed about myself. I no longer think I’m stupid. While complicated Math formulas are still a challenge for me, I rarely have to use them and have learned I’m capable of doing challenging things. While there are things I’m not particularly good at and things that don’t come as naturally to me, I also think those are the things I need to practice at and be more patient with myself with. Although I’m still overweight, I don’t see myself as disgusting anymore. I’m curvy, voluptuous, and thick. I’m working on having a little less curves and voluptuousness because it puts me at risk for some health-related issues. I’m focusing on attaining wellness (not fitting into a size 4 pants). I believe I’m capable, resourceful, driven, and powerful. It has taken me a long time to believe all of these things. But I can honestly say that without trying to convince myself it’s true. I spent a lifetime feeling like I wasn’t worth the air I breathed. Now I believe I’m valuable beyond measure.
If you can relate to how I used to feel about myself in this post, I’m sending you an extra dose of love. My heart breaks with you because I know that feeling so well. I can’t take it away for you, but I can support you if you so desire. Feel free to reach out in a comment or via email if you’d like to talk or just share something. My inbox is always open for you. I’m wishing you all that you need to support you in embarking on your own journey of intense self-love, as awkward or as difficult as it might feel at first.
Sending lots of love your way!
Former self-loather turned woman’s worthiness coach