“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits—anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” ~Kim McMillen
Sometimes people ask us questions that change our lives, questions that require us to dig down deep and think about what’s really important. Questions that push the envelope and show us that maybe the direction we’re going in isn’t the one we want.
My cousin, unknowingly, asked me one of those questions over ten years ago:
“Well, this is what you always wanted. Are you happy now?”
I was stunned. It had been such a long time since anyone had ever asked me that. But, much more than that, I was embarrassed that she recognized that “this” is what I always wanted.
How vain. How trite. How trivial when it came to life as a whole.
I answered, with a feeling of shame, “Um, yeah, I guess so.”
And then we walked back upstairs to join the rest of the dinner party.
I later recognized that, no, I was not happy now that I had “this.” “This” was my weight. I was the smallest I’d ever been.
I was at a healthy weight before, but it wasn’t enough for me to feel good enough.
I despised my thick thighs, longed for a leaner tummy, and wished my back fat would just disappear already.
And now here I was, where I thought I wanted to be, and I couldn’t be more miserable.
I was shocked. How could this be?
I’d envisioned feeling so much differently at this weight. Happy. Healthy. Vibrant.
I’d have a new kick to my step, be the life of the party, and radiate happiness.
Instead, I was lethargic, grumpy, constipated, and a sense of sadness kept me from ever feeling like me. And trust me, when you can’t feel like your true you, it’s impossible to reflect bounds of happiness and joy.
When I realized that I was now “here” and more miserable than ever, it was a turning point. Don’t get me wrong, it was a long slow turn I was going to need to make, but I knew it would be a game-changing one.
Part of making that turn was recognizing that the number on the scale was never my problem. My problem was that I never felt like I was good enough.
I thought if I looked a certain way and was thinner, I’d automatically be happier, have more friends, find a loving partner, and be liked more.
Bottom line: my struggles with body image, food rules, and my weight were symptoms of me not feeling like I was good enough—not actually food.
So, I started to address an issue that no diet, food program, meal plan, or fitness routine ever really does: self-love.
I wasn’t an overnight success story. It took time. And in all honesty, I didn’t even know if I was capable of doing it. (I was.)
All I knew was that I was ready for my pain to incite change and to grow into a healthier, happier human in body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Here are some things I learned along my self-love journey that may help you too.
Being kind to yourself may feel foreign at first.
Speaking kindly to yourself, appreciating the good in yourself, and treating yourself as you would treat a close friend may seem odd at first. Know that this is normal. Just keep it up and soon it won’t seem so foreign.
And in all honesty, when you start to do this (and realize how unkind you’ve been to yourself), it won’t be too surprising why you’ve been having a hard time making the next step.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you can’t move along in your journey when your star player is constantly doubting, bullying, and sabotaging him or herself. Be kind to yourself.
You have to forgive yourself.
If you’re a sensitive soul, like me, you don’t forgive yourself easily. If the same thing happened to a friend, you’d forgive them in a heartbeat, but yourself, no way.
When we’re living with blame or shame, we use food to soothe, stay in unhealthy relationships, and let go of all of our boundaries.
Forgive yourself, just as you would a friend, for the things you’ve been holding on to.
Let them go so you can move forward without that baggage and live in the light. Write a forgiveness letter to yourself and then burn it, mediate, use mantras, or journal—whatever helps you forgive and let go.
Until you accept yourself, you’ll keep searching for happiness elsewhere.
The simple realization that happiness is an inside job is transformative. It’s freeing, really.
It makes you think about what’s really important to you, what makes you come alive, and what you want more of in your life. You’ll discover it’s not your weight, hair color, or how much money you make.
When you uncover these questions and discover that self-love and acceptance are the keys to living a life of love, you’ll be consumed with joy.
You see, a lot of us wait until we get “there” to start doing what we really want to do. But, what if you started doing things because you knew that’s what lit up your soul in the now? I bet you’d get “there” that much faster.
You can change your script.
Remember that at any point, you can change the script of your life. Your past doesn’t define you and neither does your undetermined future. The only thing that matters is now, so make your now one that empowers, strengthens, and fills you with love.
You have to give love to feel love.
Smile at others. Give compliments. Express gratitude. You want more love? Then show it. The Universe will throw back at us what we give out, so give good. Give love. And open your heart to the tiny miracles that happen daily around you with thanks.
When we’re filled with love and gratitude, we make more loving and gracious choices for our bodies, others, and ourselves—and that’s the real food for a journey of self-love.
Love yourself image via Shutterstock