“Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?” ~Kristin Neff
My husband and family were my world. Although I’d found joy in my passion of writing, my heart revolved around my marriage. I thought we were happy. Then one day, he dropped the bomb: “I don’t love you anymore.”
Two weeks later, I found out he’d fallen in love with another woman who lived across the world. He didn’t want me anymore.
Sure, I’d known for a while something was wrong—that knowing deep in your gut that you can’t put your finger on, that tackles you in the quiet hours of the night, making it hard for you to sleep. That taunts you with fear when he doesn’t act as loving toward you as he used to. But I ignored it, because he was my world.
I’d fallen in love with him at a time when my self-esteem wasn’t too good. Social rejection at school, losing a parent at a young age, and being steeped in a very strict religion had all played their parts in making me feel that I wasn’t good enough. He made me feel loved and wanted. I was codependent and I didn’t even know it.
The next few months, after he took the rug out from under my world, I felt like I was dying. The pain, the rejection, and the hurt were all-encompassing, but I had a little light inside me. It was called hope. I suddenly had this hunger to heal, to become strong, and to find my truth. I began my self-love journey.
It all started when I read Choosing Me Before We, by Christine Arylo. She spoke about self-love in her amazing book. I realized that if I ever went into another relationship, I would put myself first. I wouldn’t go into something giving and giving and giving, knowing my own needs weren’t met. I would run far away from a man who used me in any way. I would turn away from anything less than true intimacy and love.
The problem was, in the loneliness, I entered into a rebound relationship, despite what I’d decided. The deep hole left in my heart made me blind to how harmful it was. The relationship was much worse than anything I’d experienced in my sometimes dysfunctional marriage. I had to learn the hard way. I eventually turned away, eyes finally wide open. But I’ve grown. And grown.
This is how I’ve healed through self-love, because self-love is the foundation of emotional and mental well-being.
When divorce hits you right between the eyes, you get flung into the five stages of grief with no mercy. They assault your soul like a tsunami. But they also wash over you and heal you.
I learned to let myself grieve. It was painful. I had to keep coming back to the same pain and sorrow, the same anger and “why?” questions, over and over again. But I let the waves hit me again and again. After awhile, they were smaller, gentler, more manageable.
I didn’t judge myself for my pain. I grew in my self-compassion and non-judgment. I learned to love, nurture, and coddle myself. Gentleness was my motto. And that helped me heal.
When you’re steeped in a judgmental, strict religion, it's hard to grow up with self-respect. You believe you were born in sin, and that you are this weak being who is bound by it. You are hard on yourself because of the rules imposed on you.
As the scales fell away from my eyes, I began to see that I’m a beautiful being. I’m worthy of respect. I am good to the core. We all are, but sometimes the mirror is cracked.
It’s hard to always respect yourself, but once I made that decision, I grew by leaps and bounds. I also realized how my ex’s words and actions had broken me down at times—or more so, I’d allowed his perception of me to affect the way I saw myself.
Now I could accept myself no matter whether I was having a good hair day or not, and even though I wasn’t this skinny youngster anymore. I could accept myself even when I didn’t act like a saint or I didn’t feel great! Non-judgment—I’m a work in progress.
No matter what shape my body is, I respect it because it’s beautiful and does amazing things. I still have bad days when I want to pull my curls out as they don’t cooperate or I want to get rid of the rolls around my middle, but then, mindfully, I remind myself that it’s the heart that matters. And that society has lied to me on what is beautiful. Society has honored perfection, not authenticity and true beauty.
This is a hard one for me, but as I’ve begun to set boundaries around me, to protect myself from people taking advantage, my sense of safety has increased. I’ve chosen to be single for now, as I know I’m not ready to enter into a relationship without falling back into codependency and losing myself again. I’m relishing in my freedom and the growth of self-love.
If I entered into a relationship now, I wouldn’t keep up the right boundaries because I would jump over hoops to keep this person in my life—hoops that hurt me. I have often given parts of myself to a man before I wanted to, just to keep him interested. No more!
Boundaries comes in all shapes and sizes, and whenever we say “yes” when we want to say “no,” we are being unkind to ourselves. It’s hard because there is a spot inside of us that loves to help and please people. And it feeds something in us. So, we have to find the balance. I’m a student of self-love and I’m learning the balance every day.
I’ve learned to find ways to nuture myself, and I’ve actually had a blast. In making sure I have a daily spiritual ritual, I’ve bought myself a few special things, I’ve joined a dance group to meet people and to just have fun, and I’ve taken up a hobby to just unwind; I’m thoroughly enjoying my freedom.
I didn’t realize how much of my energy I’d put into making my husband happy. All because I was afraid he would leave me. I bent over backward for him and oftentimes, didn’t feel free to just be myself and put “me” first.
I’m loving putting me first; even with having three teens to look after and running a busy household, my downtime is my time. It’s been healing my soul. I feel like I’m just starting on this journey of self-nuture and self-love. I can’t wait to discover more. But even the little bit I’ve learned has changed my whole mindset on life.
A Spiritual Practice
I began a meditation practice around about the time my marriage broke down. It grew as my desperation grew, especially during a very difficult time after experiencing crime as a single woman. This practice has become the lifeblood of my existence. It has helped me to calm deep anxiety, find peace, grow spiritually, and learn mindfulness.
As I’ve become more mindful, I’ve grown aware of when I sabotage myself with negativity and anxiety. It’s not always easy. But I have hope and my peace is growing.
Meditation has taught me how to be me and how to connect with the divine. It’s taught me the value of silence and taking things slower, of breathing and resting. The joy of listening and tapping into higher consciousness and the higher self.
Alongside my meditation practice, I also have a self-Reiki practice every day to balance my energy, heal me, and give me peace.
I’ve been devouring spiritual books and growing in my faith in the Universe and my knowledge. I’ve opened my eyes to see truth in many faiths and practices. It’s enlightened my soul. It’s put me on the path of love and peace.
I’ve learned to tap into my intuition. Yes, I’ve had several men take an interest in me. I’ve learned to say “no,” because my gut says “no.” It’s been hard. When you’re lonely, you’re keen to have someone in your life, but I’ve learned to listen to that voice inside and say “no” when it hasn’t felt right deep in my gut.
I’ve grown in my intuition practice by doing Reiki, reading oracle and tarot cards for myself (such a powerful mirror into the soul), practicing soul writing, and just plain going with that deep, inner voice. I’ve grown more aware of miracles and synchronicities; I’ve grown in gratefulness.
Finding tools to get in touch with my higher self / Spirit has been essential in this time of my life. I’ve had to grow up fast. When I married my husband, I was young and naïve. He was the main breadwinner and head of the home. I’ve had to learn greater responsibilities and make big decisions for my family, instead of relying on him to steer the ship.
Being able to access my higher self has led me to make more guided and calmer decisions. It’s increased my sense of peace and wholeness as I’m following my true desires and that still, gentle voice that’s deep inside. It’s enabled me to navigate difficult relationships and situations with a sound mind. Yes, I sometimes get it wrong, but it’s like a fitness routine—the more you practice it, the better you get.
I think the hardest part for me has been to let go and forgive. Together, hurt and resentment have been the one wave that has broken most violently upon my shore. But part of self-love is forgiveness.
We only harm ourselves when we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us. Yet, as much as we know this fact, it’s not always possible to feel forgiveness straight away. In fact, it’s taken me one and a half years since that dreadful day to start to see the light. Today, I prayed for the well-being of my ex and the woman he left me for. And I meant it! I want their highest good.
The thing that has actually helped me to forgive the most is to realize my own worthiness. As soon as I chose to believe that I wasn’t responsible for what happened or that there wasn’t something dreadfully flawed about me which made him leave me, the desire to blame disintegrated. I released and validated myself and it became easier to release him. I began to see him as a human being with his own hurt and pain—that’s why he’d hurt me.
I have to choose daily to release him and what happened back to the Universe. I choose daily to believe that what has happened is being used for my good. And it is. I can see how much I’ve grown. I can see how love has worked this whole thing out to make me feel more loved and more supported.
What I’d deeply feared happened to me, and I’m still okay. I’m more than okay! I now know that it will always be okay. That deep inside, no matter what happens to us, we’ll be okay. We are whole; we are love; we are connected. We are growing and evolving toward better beings. We are deeply, irrevocably loved!! I’m going to practice that love every day. It’s called self-love.