Before I get started, I’d like to say that no, I have not yet read Love Warrior by Glennon Melton Doyle, but it’s at the very top of my list and that the inspiration behind this post is from some major love bombs dropped by GMD on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic podcast on "starting before you’re ready". If you haven’t listened to this podcast, get after it. I mean it.
After trying and failing almost too many times to count, I’ve slowly (so very, painfully slowly) stumbled upon the realization that self-love must come first, always. I never wanted to believe the adage that one must love his or herself before he or she can love others, but shit, you guys. It’s true.
In an attempt at making sense of my new life-altering realization, I’ve come to look at the many layers of my life – wants, needs, desires, dreams, all of it – as building blocks. The very first one, the foundation for it all? You guessed it: self-love.
Let me rewind for a minute to provide you with some more context before we move forward…
Las week, I was doing homework for 7 Weeks to Bliss (an offering that touches on values, vision & goals, and all that juicy stuff) and I got stuck on my journal entry for our week 3 content: What are my 10 greatest strengths? Immediately the snarky, sassy voice inside my head listed off eating copious amounts of pizza, slaying series on Netflix, and scaring off boys that I think are cute and might want to date. And then, I completely shut down. Rather than feeling inspired and compelled to dig into the work like I had in the previous weeks, I closed my notebook and completely switched gears. I didn’t even attempt to answer the question because in all honesty, nothing came to mind right away and I hate talking about myself in the context of what I’m good at or what I have to offer. It makes my skin c-r-a-w-l.
When I revisited the question again last night, rather than using humor as way to deflect I decided to attack the question from a place of inquiry. I started with why. Why was I feeling resistant to answering such a seemingly simple question? Which then turned into: why am I so much more comfortable giving love than receiving it? Which led to a major “holy-fucking-shit” moment.
True, sustainable self-love is an unknown for me, and I often find the unknown scary. I’ve never truly loved myself or treated myself with the same kindness, compassion, and understanding as I do with others. When it comes to myself, I’m a total bitch. I’m all about conditional love and, even worse, tough love. I’m never – literally never – satisfied with anything I do or create. I am guilty of being my own toughest critic. I hustle for my own self approval, which is fucking exhausting. It’s my way of keeping myself working harder and striving to be the best version of myself. I admire humility in others and am terrified of being labeled as self-involved or vain, that gnarly “what will people think?” is always lingering (unwanted) at the back of my mind.
Now fast forward back to today when I was listening to the podcast featuring GMD. She said all the things, many that I will never forget, but the biggest thing that stuck with me was this:
“When you try to love someone, you have to unlearn so much. And start over.”
Now maybe this doesn’t strike a chord with you in the way it did with me because you don’t know the context in which she said it (unless you’ve also listened to the episode), but noodle it. Let it marinate and I’ll keep blabbing on.
Although she was referring to the love between two people and the unlearning of gender norms and constructs of society, which I agree with whole heartedly, I immediately thought about my homework of answering the question of What are my 10 greatest strengths? And my whole tough love thing I have going on.
I need to unlearn.
I need to unlearn the destructive stories that I tell myself about myself: if I lose the weight then I'll be desirable; I’m too much for this person or not enough for this person; I’m being unrealistic and childish to pursue the things that make me feel alive; I will never receive the love I so desire, and the list goes on, and on, and freaking on.
I need to unlearn the habits that I fall back on when I feel vulnerable and insecure, like harmful, self-deprecating humor and distracting myself by becoming so busy I run myself right into the ground.
I need to unlearn the dos and don’ts I follow (consciously or subconsciously) that keep me in my neat little box: being the “cool girl”; saying or doing something because it feels like the nice or right thing to do; not speaking my mind; people pleasing…you guessed it, this list goes on and on as well.
I need to unlearn to heal and move forward so I can then begin the process of learning how to truly love myself. And someday, when I'm ready, I can wholeheartedly love someone else again.
As much as I'd like to shed some light on how to go about doing this unlearning and diving into the process of softening into self-love, I don't have the answers. And usually that drives me just plain nuts because I like to have all the answers all the time, but this post will not have a tiny bow tied on top of it. Strangely, I'm OK with that. I am currently wading through the muddy waters to figure out where to start and what I need to do to get me to where I so badly want to be and I am practicing patience with myself. Look at me go! I think I'm already taking baby steps in the right direction, eh?
Until next time, friends.
To be continued...