In all honesty it’s been a 42-year journey to be able to say, without cringing, that yes, I do love myself. But it’s not an Instagramable rainbows-and-unicorns love. I love myself very quietly, very gently — and occasionally, when it’s needed, I love myself like a lioness protecting her cubs. I’ve learned that I am responsible for my own happiness and my own sense of worth and that everything I value is built upon the foundation of how I look after myself. Because no one else is going to do it for me — it’s not their job, it’s mine.
I grew up with low self-esteem. An absent father and a troubled teenage resulted in the search for love outside myself, yet even when I found a sweet devoted boyfriend, I couldn’t really accept that I was loveable — it was like sticking a Band Aid over a festering wound.
Somehow I made it though my 20s intact. I worked hard at building my career and did my best to maintain a relationship. Looking back through my journals I see everything was focussed on the external — achievement, status, love from another. I knew something was missing but there was no way I’d stop striving to figure out what it was…
… And then, at age 32, I experienced a devastating bereavement that rewrote everything I knew about life.
Painstakingly, and with help, I pieced myself back together. I had to learn how to exist on my own, to unravel the past and find meaning in my new life — perhaps for the first time ever. Those first few years of grief and healing changed everything for me. It was like being given another chance to have the relationship I’d always wanted, but this time with MYSELF.
The by-product of all that inner excavation was the blossoming of self-worth, which I feel is the precursor to self-love. It’s almost impossible to love yourself if you can’t see your own worth. When I realised I could say no to the things I didn’t want to do and could extricate myself from friendships that were causing me pain, I was signalling to my self that YES, you are worth more than this. The more time I spent with myself the more I had my own back and it’s amazing how fiercely you advocate on your own behalf when you only have yourself to rely on.
The most challenging piece of all this was the conscious dance with my shadows. It’s easy to accept the nice bits of ourselves but harder to hang out with the murkier stuff. I’ve sat with my obsessiveness, my cynicism, my envy, and rather than disown it I do my best to embrace it all — it’s as much a part of who I am as any of the “good” stuff. I am obsessive and I am creative. I’m cynical and I am hopeful. I am envious and I am a warrior. The door to self-love opens wider when you can hold the wonderful things in the same hand as the stuff you’re ashamed of.
All of this is a daily practice for me. Radical kindness seems to be the key whenever I come up against the temptation to put myself down. Self-love doesn’t require us to be perfect. It merely asks us to be open to accepting the truth of who we are — the light and the dark — and to actively extend the sort of kindness we’d give to a cherished loved one. I have down days and I have fantastic days and through it all I try my very best to be kind and compassionate towards myself. To love the woman I see in the mirror because she really is doing the best she can.
I recorded a little self-love visualisation so we could practice the cherishing together. You can listen to it over here.
This is my contribution to the April LOVE project. I invited 28 inspiring women and one brave guy to share their thoughts and stories of what self-love (how you feel about yourself) and self-care (how you look after yourself and put that self-love into action) means to them. We have a truly delicious mix of essays, videos, meditations and journal prompts for you to explore.
We started today but you can sign up at any time to get the daily self-love emails. Don’t worry if you miss a few days — I’ll be making an ebook at the end to send out the first week of May. All free, of course.
Sign ups are happening over here xo
I always know I’ve been spending too much time online when the chatter in my head is not my own. I’ve been umbilically attached to my computer since I discovered blogging back in 2006, and while having access to this extraordinary global connectivity has been truly life changing, as an introvert with hermit-like tendencies, it’s far too easy to feel like I’m interacting with the world when in fact I’m hiding out behind the screen “researching”.
The internet is a noisy place. On days when I feel vulnerable and porous, this is what being online feels like:
As the highly scientific diagram from my journal shows, it’s like being boxed into a tiny square while ricocheting in all directions. It’s disempowering and draining and makes me doubt myself unnecessarily — a self-perpetuating cycle of crapness. I’m well aware that no one is to blame for any of this other than myself. It’s not so much what I’m consuming online — it’s more about choosing to do it when I’m not in the right headspace. That’s when it becomes toxic.
On the days when I feel centred and on top of my game, being online can be incredibly inspiring and motivating. On those days I feel less inclined to see what everyone else is doing and just get on with my own creative work. I look after my heart emotionally and digitally. In fact, I don’t have to wait until I feel centred to do this — I can centre myself by remembering (and practicing) the things that connect me back to me:
I drew this diagram as the antidote to the first (mad drawing skillz, I know). Once I’d identified the unhelpful things outside of myself I jotted down everything that truly fed my insides — the stuff I DID want to
consume savour. The circle represents my inner world and I get to choose what’s inside there.
Some days I forget to tap into the circle but lately I’ve been paying closer attention to the pattern of centred days and porous days. In her book, The Optimised Woman, Miranda Gray shares the four different phases of our monthly cycles and how we can use them to our advantage. I knew there was more to my month than just PMS days and non-PMS days but it’s so helpful to get really specific. Like knowing that Day Five of my cycle is the day I get REALLY down. It happens every. single. month. and knowing this means I can prepare for the dip and plan accordingly. Ditto that block of five days when I’m on creative FIYAH!
Being self-employed helps, of course, but even just knowing what’s going on helps me navigate the difficult days. Awareness is the first step towards making meaningful adjustments — and frankly checking out the moon’s cycles helps too. I’ve never been much for astrological things, but I can’t deny how synched I am to the big white ball in the sky.
This year I’m making a conscious effort to get out the house more. To be around actual living human beings more. To seek out nourishing community. To experience the world through ALL my senses, not just my eyes. And part of this nourishing mission is knowing when to reach out and when to retreat. Working WITH the rhythm of my cycle, not against it.
After the fun we had with December Reflections last year I knew I wanted to do another photo challenge before our annual August Break (I love that we have an annual tradition) so it is with much anticipation and excitement I present to you April LOVE!
The theme of the challenge, as you’ve probably guessed, is love — love for ourselves, our lives, the world around us. LOVE expressed in gratitude and kindness. February might have Valentine but we’ve got April LOVE :)
If you’re ready to infuse a little more love into your life there are two ways you can play:
PART ONE: the Photo Challenge
Just like the August Break the first part of April LOVE is the photo challenge. I’ve put together a list of photo prompts we can explore together during the month — this is not compulsory, obviously, but sometimes it’s nice to have a focus for each day’s shooting.
As always we’ll have a Flickr group, a blog roll and an Instagram hashtag — #aprillove2015 — so we can gather as a community and share our photos…
PART TWO: the Daily Emails
I also have a extra special treat for you! I invited 28 luminous women and one luminous man to share their tales of what self love/self care means to them personally and how they practice it in their own lives. There’s no perfect path to self love and all of us are walking it the best way we know how — I wanted to know how others are doing it (and how they navigate the inevitable potholes!)
When you sign up to the April LOVE emails you’ll get a daily note containing personal stories (and confessions!), videos, tips and easy suggestions you can try yourself — the first email goes out Wednesday April 1st.
These emails are a bit of extra inspiration for us to enjoy and ponder alongside the photo-taking. We’ll also have a private (and completely optional) Facebook group where we can share our thoughts and stories with each other.
You’ll be hearing from: Abby Kerr, Amy Palko, Andrea Schroeder, Anna Guest-Jelley, Christie Inge, Danielle Dowling, Elizabeth Duvivier, Hannah Marcotti, Jamie Ridler, Jo Hanlon-Moores, Julie Daley, Kylie Bellard, Lianne Raymond, Lisa Lister, Liv Lane, Mara Glatzel, Margarita Tartakovsky, Michelle Marie McGrath, Mindy Tsonas, Pixie Lighthorse, Rachel Cole, Rachel MacDonald, Ronna Detrick, Sandi Amorim, Satya Colombo, Stephanie Levy, Tanya Geisler, Tiffany Han and Vivienne McMaster!
An epic line-up, yes? :)
Read more and sign up over HERE — I can’t wait to get started! xx