Here’s a confession: self-love is really damn hard. I know sometimes because of what I write here and write for MDA it may seem that I might have the self-love thing pretty wrapped up. I’m even having something I wrote published in a book solely on the topic. But learning to love myself is one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted to do in my life.
Loving yourself has to permeate so many areas of your life and some are harder than others. Take for example, relationships (I know, you could have guessed I was going to go there right? 🙂 ). I posted a blog the other day called “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride” which I deleted (though I know the e-subscribers still probably got it) because I wanted to address this more all-encompassing topic instead. The basic idea of it though was that I’m “always a date, never a girlfriend.” Though I’ve dated a decent amount of people, I haven’t been in a serious relationship in what seems like eons. I just can’t seem to get over that dating-relationship hump. In most ways, I’m thankful for that because I would much rather just date a lot of people than waste my time getting into relationships with the wrong people. At this point in my life, I don’t want a relationship for the sake of one…I want the right one. But it can be extremely wearing when date after date, things just don’t ever get to that level. It’s hard not to internalize that and think “what am I doing wrong?” or “is my disability really that bad that I can’t find a life partner?” I’d love to be able to be a person who just didn’t want a relationship and though the idea admittedly does sometimes scare me, I can’t deny that it’s something that I ultimately really want. So when that doesn’t happen and when it seems so many others around me don’t seem to have the same difficulties, it can be very hard to keep grounded in myself and in my self-worth.
Besides dating and relationships, there’s also a hell of a lot of external forces out there that make it really hard to love yourself. I’d say on a given day, I’m thrown at least 10 images of some beautiful actress or model…some idea of societal “perfection.” So even if I woke up that day feeling 100% about myself, after about image #5, it gets to be like riding a bike up a giant hill in San Francisco to maintain that confidence.
As I’ve said before, of course self-love can and should come from things not even remotely related to appearance, but even feeling that way is a challenge in itself. I have to really keep myself in check to remember that my self-worth comes from so much more than how I look, or how I don’t.
It’s interesting how much easier it is to tear ourselves down. To believe the bad. To be so hard on ourselves. We think things to ourselves or judge ourselves much more harshly than we ever would our closest friends. In fact, I’m extremely fortunate to be told rather frequently what a positive and awesome person I am but some days, I just can’t believe it myself. I can think of so many bad situations I’ve been in where I’ve used all of my brain power to deny how bad it really was or find excuses to stay in it. Why is it so easy sometimes to devote our thoughts and energy to something like that but it can be so difficult just to tell ourselves that we’re enough?
I know having a disability doesn’t help. Loving ourselves is a struggle for many many people obviously but when you have something that’s perceived by society as largely a flaw or an imperfection…something negative…that hill you’re trying to bike up gets even steeper. I not only have to love myself for all my regular imperfections but I have to love myself for this huge one that affects so many aspects of my life.
Trying to get to that place of true self-love sometimes feels like being in the depths of the ocean. I can see the sunlight just ever so subtly on the surface, but no matter how hard I swim towards it, I just can’t get my head out of water.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about self-love though is that it’s not an end point. I’m not getting up everyday in the hopes that one of those days in the far future I’m going to be able to love myself completely and do so 100% of the time. That’s just not possible for any of us I don’t think. But what is possible is getting up everyday and making the choice to love me. To embrace my flaws, to remind myself of how much I have to offer this world, to feel beautiful for everything about myself and not just how I might look or what clothes I put on. I know and accept that some days are going to be harder than others but I also know that the only way someone else can love me and the only way I can truly find peace in life is if I truly do love and accept myself. Even if I have to love and accept that I may not always believe in myself, that’s still a start. And I know I’m much further along in the process than I was even 2 years ago and for that I’m extremely grateful.
I think Rumi put it really well: “Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”