When I began to allow in the possibility that there might, after all, be something in all this loving myself stuff, I began to notice more and more parts of my life that weren’t in tune with the real me, hidden away under all those layers. But the more I noticed, the more tender, raw and exposed I felt. I started to feel so uncomfortable with the way I’d been living as not myself, but I had no idea what to do about it. Nurturing myself, being more loving, and more consistent, sounded great in principle but so far away that I couldn’t understand what practical steps I needed to take to get back to being and loving myself again.
How does one begin to let that tired and fake wallpaper fall away to expose the beautiful real person, including those ‘cracks’ that you’ve been trying so hard for so long to paper over? I had no idea. I blamed other people. I felt stuck. I kept thinking about how great I’d feel if only this, that and the other were different. I felt disconnected and not strong enough to make any significant changes to the way I was living. I wanted the practitioner to tell me what to do.
After I’d picked myself up from wallowing on the floor, I began to try not to think my way through things, but to feel it. Thinking, my cherished number one pastime, had led me nowhere except the repeat button on a broken CD player, playing out the same patterns and cycles but never moving on to the next song, let alone a different album.
As I tried to feel what to do, the old patterns kicked in – I thought “I know how to fix this. I’ll just book myself in for a few healing sessions, go on a detox and voila! – life sorted and bursting with love and low-fat hummus forevermore. Can’t wait to get started! Healing will be just like waxing my legs: I’ll just get the pain over with and have another session every time the hairy mess grows back”.
As I worked on ‘loving myself stuff’ I began to try a different way: not rushing in like some kind of panicked person mopping up a disaster, not trying to fix everything and everyone in sight, not stage-managing the situation, but just noticing. That’s it. Oh, and dropping that whole self-judgment/loathing thing. That little thing.
I cut down on the drinking (a bit) and stopped pushing myself all the time. After all, I didn’t want to give myself some kind of ‘weird diet’ and another excuse for my perfection-striving brain to go into overdrive.
Instead of prescribing myself some kind of healing boot-camp, I decided to try to just stop and listen to my body more often. What changes might take place within and around me, if I start truly committing to loving myself and looking after myself?
This is what I’ve learned so far:
- It starts with me. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that recognises that I need to look after myself before I can be of any use to the rest of the world.
- Being honest. This also means asking for what I want and need instead of pretending “I’m so flexible, lucky me for having no needs, and being so ‘un-needy!”
- It’s not a quick leg-waxing fix, but about building a long-term connection and commitment to myself. Asking myself if what I am doing is really supporting me, listening to my body and then responding to it.
- Calling myself out: am I really going to accept this continuous burying of my feelings and not saying aloud what I can feel? Or am I going to take this opportunity to accept, instead of deny, that this is what I’m feeling, and start what will feel like a risky but potentially rewarding and loving conversation and deeper connection?
The benefits of this loving myself approach so far have been interesting:
- All the money I’ve saved on not flying to India to find myself.
- A lighter bookshelf now that they aren’t groaning with the weight of self-improvement manuals.
- Not having to quit my job, dump my relationship and abandon my entire life to live in a cave.
- Closer relationships.
- Having fun, actually allowing myself to feel tender and delicate but strong and powerful.
- Feeling myself again. What a relief!
I also realised that I don’t need to wait for stillness and space to start making changes and be more loving towards myself. What if, underneath everything else and deeper within myself, I already know how I want to live and the love that I am? What changes and choices can I make to the way I’m living now to better support me and how I want to live from now on? And how would I feel if I actually accepted, as part of my development, ALL the choices I’ve made so far, even the ones I’ve judged as ‘bad’?
By Bryony, London, UK