Tag Archives: love

How do you learn to love yourself?

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Photo by Noah Silliman

 

I grew up watching Oprah on television and she often returned to themes of self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. Everyone has heard of “self-love”.  I always thought I loved myself, after all isn’t that an innate human trait? How can you not love yourself? I remember often I would roll my eyes listening to talk shows and reading self-help books and think, “Get to the good stuff, what’s going to make me skinny?” I said affirmations. I wrote letters to myself. I journaled my feelings. I told myself that I was capable of being anything I wanted. Nothing changed.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I looked up the definition of “self-love” that I so clearly saw the problem.

Self-Love: regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.

I remember actually smiling when I saw this because at that moment I knew the final piece in the puzzle was not only identified, but ready to be played.

The problem all along had been lack of action. My walk did not match my talk. You can say affirmations all day long, but if your physical actions deplete you, then the message you are sending to YOU is, “I am not worth my own time and effort.”

Having REGARD for your own well-being and happiness is self-love. Unfortunately most of us do not practice this, instead we put our own oxygen masks on last.

You can’t feel love when you wear ARMOR. So many people walk through life wearing protective shields of armor made up of busyness, martyrdom, housekeeping, over working, errand running, people pleasing, partnering, parenting, caring for pets, perfectionism, taxi driving and more. We don’t need protecting, we need to be able to FEEL and release emotion and stress. We’re not capable of receiving love, warmth and nurturing, if we are wearing armor.

Somewhere along the way we have been conditioned to believe we need to put on a happy face, get it all done (and more) PERFECTLY, stoically, and just keep swimming. This is not possible though as we are humans designed to feel, process and show emotion. As a result of shutting down our feelings and emotions, we become toxic. We have no ebb and flow with our environment, nor within our own spirits. We simply intake. Day after day we take on more, take in more and often feel more isolated and unappreciated.

Instead of thinking about self-love, think self-care. We all understand what that is, and most of us do a really poor job of making time for it. Self-care is the way out, the way to better health and the way to self-love: regard for your own wellbeing and happiness. If YOU cannot make your own wellbeing and happiness a priority who will? No one. I promise, because we teach people how to treat us.

Many of my clients come to me practicing no self-care. They take exactly ZERO time for themselves. Even the obligatory manicure/pedicure is now filled with frantic texting, scheduling, and task elimination thanks to our smart phones. Remember the days when you just read a magazine, talked with a girlfriend, maybe made a new friend, or gasp…even closed your eyes? Those days are gone. There is always one more thing that can be done, and we should get that done now….right now.

When is the last time you took a walk, not to sweat but just to breathe? Had a massage? Read a book without your phone in the other hand? Sat in your own backyard alone? Took a yoga class? A cooking class? Signed up for something for no other reason than it would bring you JOY?

We have finite time here. For some of us it may be down to months, days or hours…we just don’t know and that’s ok. What is not ok is wasting the time you do have NOT being happy and staying trapped in the armor where you just exist, stifling your authentic self.

If you wear one of these suits of armor and you want to dismantle it allowing yourself to become more present, aware, and yes healthier, then you must start with self-care.

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Photo by David Marcu

FIRST, protect your time. Almost every person I work with at some point says, “Well if I don’t do it, who will?” I get it because when I was a toxic, unhappy, angry, martyr this was my slogan! I often used it more than once a day, I was “Queen Martyr in charge.” Here is the thing: change is hard. Dialing back your commitments, your kid’s activities, your work schedule, the frantic pace at which you live your life will take some work. You will have to become a firm advocate and fan of the word NO. It will be your protective weapon as you start to pry off the pieces of your armor and let your authentic self step out into the world. But like anything it gets easier. Soon your overuse of the word NO makes room for more YES, but now when you say YES it is to things you actually want to do. This is self-care; this is self-love.

SECOND, rethink your legacy. Your current traits will have to change and this is also hard and uncomfortable. Perfectionism is the trait I had to release. I remember when I would walk by a pile of laundry and fight the urge to drop my keys and purse, cancel my “me time” and just get it done. Now I am a reformed over-laundry-doer and I simply shut the door. Laundry, dishes, and all the rest really can wait. But can you? If you drop dead tomorrow no one will speak at your funeral about how good you were at laundry and dishes. They will talk about who you were as a person and what you loved doing, what made you happy and most importantly how you made them FEEL. The catch is they have to know these things; they can’t stay stuffed down in your suit of armor. You simply cannot stay the same and change. You cannot expect your current attributes will deliver you to a new way of existing. If you want a different life, one where you are more present, one where you practice self-love, then you will have to dig deep and resolve to let go of some of your long standing attributes.

THIRD, think “we” instead of “me”. Harder than yielding your NO sword and dropping long-standing traits like perfectionism, is asking for help. The only way others in your home, your life, can be of assistance is if you ASK them. Kids actually thrive on being given responsibility. Your kids can make their lunches, make their beds, do their own laundry and pack their own bags for games (their coaches actually encourage this). Your partner needs to know you need support and help, you can’t resent them if you haven’t used your words to express your needs. (If you have expressed yourself and they don’t help then you have my permission to 100% resent them!) Your co-workers will keep piling on the work if you keep saying yes. People won’t offer to help you if they think you have it all handled. Think community, lending support, and receiving support. There is no gold star for going it alone. What you gain is stress, toxicity and a depleted soul.

I will never go back to being angry, toxic, unhappy, nor a martyr (even though I excelled at all of those things) because I will never give back my self-care. I will never stop loving me. When I was able to begin caring for me, filling my own cup first, my armor fell to the floor and I actually felt free for the first time in my life. My weight also fell off because I was practicing self-care. Sleeping more, listening more, being more present, fueling my body with better foods, and moving more. For the first time in my life I understood self-love as I had regard and care for my OWN wellbeing, and I felt this love envelop me like a warm blanket. I knew I was going to be ok.

I have gone from “Queen Martyr in charge” to a happy, imperfect mother, sister, friend, daughter, wife, business owner, and student who is healthy and loves herself, unconditionally. I wear many hats, and I have many roles in my community, but only one trumps the rest and that is being a human who practices self-love. This practice allows me to do everything else with energy, vitality and authenticity.

Don’t tell yourself you love yourself, show yourself. Parent yourself. Be kind to yourself. Make time for yourself. When your soul is content the rest falls into place and your authentic self can step out and shine.

I am Jennifer. I am @HappyBodyFood. This is my journey from unhealthy to healthy…but more truthfully this is my journey from self-hate, to self-love.

 

 

 

 

Standing on my own two feet

It has taken me almost two weeks to sort my thoughts on this one. To articulate what I want to say in a manner that truthfully reflects the gravity of the situation, for me, and for so many who will read this.

When I work with a client one of the things that comes up within the first month is the change they begin to notice in their relationships, every time, no exceptions. It is a tough conversation for me to have with people because I have lived the monumental change their life is about to undertake. I know it will get much harder before it gets easier. The truth is, when you are unhealthy, sad, lonely, depressed, insecure, or simply just don’t feel “good enough”, you attract people into your life who share similar traits.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” Simply put your vibe does indeed attract your tribe. What you put out into the universe is what you get back. So when you take your unhealthy habits, and your negative, defeatist attitude and begin to transform into a positive, happy and healthy person it is startling for people. Not everyone. Some people who maybe loved you from afar start to draw closer…they come towards the light, they like what they see. Others, who maybe shared some of your less positive traits want to jump on the train, they want to have what you’re having!

Sadly though, when you take steps to better your life, your body, your mind, your soul…you will lose friends. I know for me this hurdle kept me from succeeding for many years. The thought of not having “my tribe”, the security of the people I called friends, scared the shit out of me. Why would I walk away from relationships I had nurtured for so long? Why would I want to be alone? When I would start to feel the “shift”, the cold shoulder, the undermining comments, the phone not ringing, I would take my energy off all the good I was doing for myself and I would focus it back on the people who were pulling away.

Did I do something wrong? Are you mad at me? It seems like you are upset with me? Can we talk? How can I make this better?

I let others dictate how I felt about myself. If I didn’t feel their love, their support, then I must not be worthy of love and support, these were after all, my friends.

Often I would be told how I hadn’t been there for someone. I hadn’t realized they were going through a bad time. I had been selfish, I had been all about me. Like a child I would be scolded back into my role of sidekick, or more accurately doormat. I would ask for forgiveness, apologize profusely. Buy cards, a small gift, and be readily available at a beckon call.

If this sounds pathetic to you, it was. 100%. But please understand it was the only kind of love and support I had ever known. For me, all of this ridiculousness was love.

What I now know is when you love yourself, and put yourself first you draw the right kind of people into your life. Yes, I lost friends, but those are no longer the relationships I care to have. They were never going to fill me up. I place no blame on anyone other than myself. My choices were reflected back to me on a daily basis, and I accepted them. I allowed people to treat me the way they did.

As you heal, and learn to stand on your own, you have to drop the negative influences. There is no room for toxic relationships in the world you want to live in. I am here, and I can tell you it is “Heaven on Earth” to like who you are, to love who you are, and the amazing people you now have room to know, and spend time with…it is mind-blowing really. The only hard part is not lamenting on all the years you missed out on living your authentic life…so I try to focus on how lucky I am I got here when I did.

It is ok to say goodbye to your old self. It is ok to kindly and gently step out of relationships you know are not healthy for you. Give yourself permission to take the best care of you you can, because I promise you no one else is going to do it. When we do not care for ourselves emotionally, we cannot care for ourselves physically. This will leave you at the hands of the Health Care System in America, and that is really a “Sick Care” system, a place that is very hard to get out of, once you walk in.

Just last week one of these relationships, that I had gently stepped out of, appeared back in my life…no warning, just a “I am going to stop by to make you feel like shit and shove you around a bit.”I got the email on our 15th wedding anniversary while we were driving to get away for the night. My Husband said, “Do you think she is on drugs?” Because that is how CRAZY her email was. We haven’t seen one another in 3 years, havent spoken in a year, maybe more. I guess she unfriended me on FB last year, and I hadn’t noticed. What can I say? I just don’t have the time and energy for this, and neither should any of you.

What the interaction did do was make me feel really sad for the old me. It is a shame that I allowed this type of interaction on a regular basis. When people needed to feel better about themselves I was an easy target, and I called them friends. Again, I want to be clear, I am not blaming anyone other than myself. I am not a victim. I was just a passive participant in my life and I didn’t care enough to set boundaries and to stand up for myself.

This picture really resonated with me. It popped up on a friends FB feed right as I had been reflecting about who I used to be. The universe truly does speak to you when you live in it with an open heart.

Relationships should lift you up. They shouldn’t carry you, you have to carry yourself, head held high. But they should rise with you, just as strong, just as steadfast. They should surround you with color, warmth and joy, and on the darkest days they shine even brighter. Those are the days they lift you up and remind you who you are and why they love you.

My wish for everyone reading this is unconditional love for yourself. Only then can unconditional love from the right people follow.

I am Jennifer, I am @HappyBodyFood, and this is my journey from unhealthy to healthy…but more truthfully this is my journey from self-hate, to self-love.