“You, yourself, as much as anyone else in the entire universe are worthy of your own love and affection (and care).”
Last night at yoga our instructor used this as a sort of mantra throughout our practice. She introduced it at the beginning of practice and returned to it throughout the class having us focus on it as a way to stay in the present and to keep our minds from chattering. It really stuck with me. So much so that it inspired me to write a little bit which I haven’t done in ages.
Self care has been a thing I have worked on a lot as a coping mechanism for my depression and anxiety. It was a concept that was totally foreign to me throughout my life but something I learned recently through therapy, self help books and blogs. It is something that has been very difficult but with practice and diligence has become more natural. I have learned that I cannot take care of others without first taking care of myself. You can’t pour from an empty vessel or some shit like that.
But an even more difficult concept to grasp for me has been self love. That is something that has been utterly impossible for me in my life. The way that I talk to myself and view myself is, to be honest, shameful. I never have kind words for myself and can rarely find anything remotely positive or likable about me. There is no forgiveness for the mistakes I make and I often keep myself up nights reliving all of the ways that I am a complete and utter fucking failure. I am my greatest critic. Sometimes even possibly my greatest enemy.
Without going into my whole life story and the circumstances I will say that I grew up not feeling loved. My way of dealing with that was to try to earn it. To do everything and to do it well. I was helpful and kind. I was smart and achievement-oriented. I got straight A’s, went to college full time my senior year of high school, graduated with honors, and did all of this while working close to full time from the time I was 16. I helped out at home, tried to never be a burden, cared for everyone and tried to be the perfect daughter/sister/student/everything. But it was never enough. I always felt not good enough, and was often told I was not good enough. So I worked harder, did more. I chased after the love I so desperately needed doing everything in my power to earn it even though nothing I did was ever enough. No accomplishment, no good deed, no act of service was ever enough to get the love I so desperately wanted and needed from those who should have freely given it. And it left a scar. A really fucking big one.
That scar followed me into adulthood where I continued to chase love. I continued to chase perfection sure that it would bring the love of… Who? I didn’t even know anymore. Anyone. Everyone. I desperately needed to be liked and loved by others. But that voice was always there telling me I wasn’t good enough. I never would be. I didn’t deserve to be loved. And I hated myself because of it.
Only recently have I learned some really important things about love. Mostly that no matter what you do you cannot make anyone else love you. Not even the people that you think should love you without condition. No accomplishment, no “doing” will ever make someone love you. The only person in this whole world that you can count on to love you is you. So you have to work on that first. It is super hard but it is possible. And here are some things that have helped me.
First of all when I talk to myself I ask myself “would I say that to a friend?” If the answer is no then I do not say it to myself. I would never tell my friend that they totally fucked up that thing they did today. Or that they sucked at that new thing they tried. Or that they are a total fucking idiot. I would be supportive. I would be kind to them. And I owe the same to myself. It is easy to fall back into the same old self-hate talk but when I frame it this way it makes it easier to practice and get better at.
Another thing I do is apply the same grace I give to everyone else in my life to myself. Over the last few years I have tried to hone my compassion and love for others by truly believing that most people are doing the best they can with what they have been given in any specific circumstance. And so I try to give myself that same kind of grace. So during the quiet times of my day (especially at night while I am lying in bed trying to get to sleep) when my anxiety brain starts to tell me all the things I fucked up that day I quietly tell it that I did my best. I don’t say this as an excuse, it is the honest to goodness truth. Each day my best may look different. Some days it is pretty great and some days it looks like a dumpster fire but I truly believe that I have done my best each and every day. And if I feel like on this specific day my best was a dumpster fire then I let it go and decide that tomorrow I will try harder and maybe do better. After all, no amount of dwelling and beating myself up will change what has already happened. It is done. No going back. All I can do is recognize opportunities for growth, forgive myself, move on, and hopefully do better next time. I try my best to learn from my mistakes but to not dwell on them.
Lastly, I believe people when they say good things about me. I have never in my life been able to take a compliment. I dismiss them and deflect them and most of the time because my self hate runs so deep I do not even register them and forget what the person said within a minute because it just absolutely cannot be true. But my therapist taught me a trick. She had me reframe compliments as gifts. If someone gives you a physical gift you do not use throw it back at them. You graciously accept it. Otherwise you look like an asshole. I started out pausing, considering the compliment and simply saying thank you. Nothing else because that is all I could handle. But now I am to the point where I can genuinely accept their kind words and occasionally remember them later. I appreciate them. And it feels pretty fucking good.
None of this has been easy. It has taken a lot of practice. But it keeps getting just a little bit easier and a little bit more natural and a little bit more like a habit every day. And in time I think it will just be normal life. But for now I will keep working. And keep loving. And keep telling that anxiety voice to shut the fuck up. Because I am worthy of my own love. And I am actually finding out that I am a pretty great person. My worth is not dependent on what other people think of me because they do not know the whole me. Only I do. This life has been one tough bitch and I have survived and even done pretty fucking ok. And I deserve to be loved. And that starts with me.
So I hope you can start to find that love for yourself. Because you deserve it too. Not for anything you do or through any accomplishment but just because we all deserve to be loved. And if you can’t count on anyone else to do it then start with yourself.
But p.s. you can always count on me too.
Love to you all. The unconditional kind.