Almost seven years ago, I was a girl trying to find her way after being sprung from the domesticated apron springs of a 15-year union. The girl who was seeking love, without ever realizing that the love first had to start from within. The girl who was looking for her better half because she wasn't yet whole.
Although I didn't fully realize this at the time, I did know that self-love was important. It was an area of my life that I made a conscious effort. I read the daily affirmations, the self-help books and engaged in the self-love talk.
I looked in the mirror every day and told myself I loved me.
I told myself I loved me and then allowed people into my life who didn't represent love.
I told myself I loved me and then treated my body in a way that was contradictory.
I told myself I loved me and then ignored my inner voice telling me something needed to change.
I was living a life so toxic that I am certain that if I had stayed living this way, it would have killed me physically, emotionally and spiritually — it already was.
And one day, frustrated and broken, I found myself in a crumpled-up mess on the floor. I cried and prayed for God to send me someone amazing, to love me, to care for me — someone awesome to come into my life.
"Lord I am ready for them... I really am. Please send me someone." I was asking God to send someone to love me when I didn't even love myself.
None of the actions in my life supported the idea that I loved and cared about myself. I was living a lie.
I was somehow missing the mark on this self-love thing. Then one day, I came across the most impactful statement I had ever read on the subject. It was my "aha" moment, the one I had been waiting for.
"Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us."
It suddenly made sense. I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. None of the actions in my life supported the idea that I loved and cared about myself. I was living a lie.
And many of us do this — we say the words but our actions are not in alignment.
We mistreat our bodies. We stay in bad relationships. We don't make time to nurture and care for ourselves.
We say yes when we really need to say no. We try to be everything to everyone, yet we aren't being true to ourselves.
And so the work began, writing down rituals and practices of what loving myself would look like. I started with the basics — getting the proper amount of sleep, nutrition, drinking more water and exercising. I made time for prayer, reading, mindfulness and fun. I evaluated relationships in my life, letting go of the ones that were not adding to it and investing in the ones that were.
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Then came the hardest but most necessary part — looking into the mirror and acknowledging who I really was. Not just the great things, but my weaknesses and limitations. This was one of the toughest things that I have ever done. Being authentic takes courage and observing the things about ourselves we may not like is a painful process.
And it has only been through all of these practices that I have come to know that I was searching for something that I first needed to find within.
The truth is until we can cultivate real love for ourselves, our own beings, to love ourselves fully with our combinations of strengths and flaws, we will never be able to love someone else. This is a lifelong process — we are always growing and changing — discovering new strengths and limitations. We are all perfectly imperfect and that's OK — lets embrace it.
Take the time and do the work to get to that place of being happy and whole on your own. The foundation for the best damn love story ever written starts with you.
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