“The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet."
“Self-love is the best love.” I know you’ve heard that extremely cliché phrase over and over and over again. I tend to avoid clichés at all costs because they can often be so corny and unrelateable. But today, I am literally overflowing with self-love and genuine contentment. Not in the “life is great” kind of way either. Because life is certainly not perfect and it is far from where I want it to be but I have a wonderful sense of peace and serenity in the midst of it all, and these are feelings that I’ve never felt before.
It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with this whole self-love thing for a very long time. The notion of loving my self has only just recently become a part of my consciousness. The majority of my time and energy has been spent in trying to get everyone else to love me. And for a while that worked for me, for years actually.
It worked because it helped me to avoid looking at some of the fundamental truths about who I am. The superficial love I received from my friends and various significant others over the years only served as a distraction. A distraction from actually having to get to know myself and love myself for who I am.
I don’t know why that task seemed so daunting, but just the thought of accepting myself with all my flaws scared me. In a world that demands perfection, I was afraid to expose all of my imperfections. So afraid that I could not even face them. And because I could not love myself, I loathed myself instead; constantly trying to win the approval of others to help ease the pain of disappointment that I always seemed to feel.
See I was disappointed with myself for so many reasons. If you have been following my blog you’ll know all about them. The failed relationships and the morals compromised. The expectations that I never met and the disappointments that replaced them. It all culminated in, what I like to call, the “not good enough” syndrome. NGE is a severe disappointment in self. It is a self-loathing destructive mindset. It brings you to a level of insecurity that causes you to question your very existence.
I hated my own reflection, physically and emotionally. I was bruised and battered and the sight of my brokenness was too painful for me to behold. I couldn’t look it in its face. So I covered it up. I covered it by being the party girl and the ride or die girlfriend. I covered it by sitting in the front row at church. I covered it by posting “profound” status updates on Facebook. I covered it with good jobs and beautiful things. And when all of that became a bit too transparent, I covered it with a marriage and three beautiful children.
But Band-Aids never heal a wound. Nope. At best they just prevent the world from seeing how bad it really is. They have no healing properties. And inevitably, at some point, they need to come off.
Recently, I ripped off my bandages. And what I found was a painful wound that has been festering for years. A wound from a tainted childhood, growing up in an unhappy home and an adolescence riddled with insecurity. A wound that is rooted in fear and low self-worth. A wound that was exasperated by heartbreaks that never healed and abuse that was never exposed. A wound that was stuffed with food, sex and drugs. A wound that was badly infected and desperately needed a cleansing.
And that is what I had to do. I had to cleanse myself of all the toxicity that this wound had spread throughout my entire body. Emotionally I was broken and disheartened. Mentally I was stressed and anxious. Physically I was grossly overweight and extremely unhealthy. Spiritually I was lost and disconnected.
And in a moment of desperation I made a decision to get well. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew that God didn’t spare my life for me to continue throwing it away. In the back of my mind I knew that there was more to life and I wanted to find it. It didn’t happen overnight. In fact it is still a process that I go through every day. It’s a process that may never end. A process that is lifelong. But a very necessary one.
Of course I still made a bunch of mistakes but that small subconscious desire was fueled by a sincere distaste for the way I was living and an equally sincere desire to change. A desire to learn how to live in that cliché…a desire to love myself. See after all the disappointments from just about everyone I’d ever loved, I was yearning for a love that would never disappoint. I was tired of the objectified flings and the falsified relationships. I wanted something real.
So I started to do the work required to be made whole. I started to pray and meditate and genuinely seek God’s will for my life. That process was difficult. Seeking God’s will meant abandoning my own and choosing to live in accordance with what He wants for my life. That was completely foreign to me, so I spent a couple years banging my head against the same wall in stubbornness. I had spent the better part of my life running the show on my own, so learning how to surrender to a power greater than me was a challenge. But the more I surrendered the more I found peace.
As the days turned into months and the months turned into years I made small, seemingly insignificant changes in my life that all contributed to a change in heart and mind. I started to truly invest in myself, spend time getting to know myself, take risks on myself and treat myself with care and consideration. I learned how to be brutally honest with myself and about myself and I found freedom in that honesty. I learned how to respect myself and in turn receive respect from others. I began to see myself for what I truly am, a child of God, beautiful and priceless. And while I continue to find my way on this journey, the road becomes clearer with each passing day. Slowly but surely I am breaking bad habits, changing old mindsets and bulldozing through barriers that once kept me as a prisoner.
The last few months have been challenging. I’ve found myself at a very familiar cross road. It’s not the first time I’ve been at the end of a relationship. In fact I’ve been here many times before. And each time I stood at the fork in the road I was faced with these same three options. Go back to what I know (old relationship), walk blindly down a similar path (new relationship) or choose something different (love myself). In the past I always chose options one or two. And they always brought me back to this same place. So this time I chose something different. I chose me. It was the most unnatural decision I have ever made. But making the decision was the hardest part of the journey; actually coming to believe that I am worthy of this journey, worthy of the gift of love.
And in just a short time I have found everything I have ever searched for. Love, peace, happiness, hope, courage…I found it all within myself. All the things I was looking for a man to give me, I’ve started to learn how to give myself. Confidence, respect and dignity. I lost all of those things in a string of relationships and finally I’m starting to get them back. I’ve begun to see my strengths instead of my weaknesses, my successes instead of my failures. And all these things teach me that I am valuable.
Over time, I’ve realized that if I could love and cherish myself enough I wouldn’t have to put up with all the people in my life who didn’t. I could actually validate myself. I could celebrate myself. I could love myself. I no longer have to wait for someone to do it for me. After all, I’ve been waiting for a very long time. But the wait is over, I can finally step into a world full of love all on my own.
No, it’s not a perfect love, because that only comes from God, but it is as close as I am going to get to it. It’s not euphoria either. It’s a relationship. It fluctuates. But with the right amount of work and dedication it will flourish. Some days I have to work harder at it than others. Sometimes I let myself down by the decisions that I make. I don’t always wake up brimming with love and acceptance for who I am, but I always take a moment to embrace the essence of it anyway. And in doing so I give myself permission to correct all the things about myself that still don’t feel quite right, whilst still celebrating the wonderful things at the same time.
As cliché as it sounds, I’m going to have to say that it is true. SELF-LOVE IS THE BEST LOVE! Because it is. Loving myself gave me a confidence that other people never could. It gives me a purpose that no one else can define. It allows me to have peace even when the world is falling apart around me. It is the answer to every problem I’ve ever faced and the anecdote to all the pain I’ve ever felt.
There are probably thousands of blog posts out there that speak of this very same thing. But I’m hoping that this blog post won’t be just another cliché in pile of self-love proclamations. In fact, I’m hoping that this post can be a catalyst for someone, somewhere to choose to love themselves in the most real and genuine way a person could ever be loved. I’m hoping that someone will take a long look in the mirror and choose love instead of hate. I’m hoping that someone will embark on this incredible journey with me and fall in real genuine love for the first time.
I know it seems hopeless sometimes. Life can really get you down, but there is hope inside of you. There is happiness inside of you. There is greatness inside of you. And it all begins with love.
Be strong…be courageous…BE GREAT!