The Challenge of Self-Love

Growing up, I never loved myself. From my earliest memories, I believed (mostly from “friends”) that there was something inherently wrong with me. As a consequence, I spent more than half my life in a gym trying to fix my flaws. I thought if I was skinnier, I would be happier. If I had a flatter stomach, I would love myself more. (Mind you, I have never been larger than a size 2!) If the number on the scale was low enough, then I would show myself some self-love but that didn’t come without extreme dietary restriction and a chronic obsession with exercise.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I actually start to like myself. Beating myself up constantly was taking its toll and I grew tired of trying to be perfect. It was exhausting to be 110 pounds all the time. I missed indulging with friends over french fries and beer and envied the freedom that had while enjoying such “bad” and unhealthy treats. I felt like I was trapped in the prison of my self-loathing and I wanted nothing more than freedom.

 

No matter how successful I became in life, no matter how much people loved and cared for me, it did not fill the void I felt within myself. I spent hours obsessing over the fat on my belly, the small size of my chest, the crookediness of my smile. Despite being fulfilled in my life and career, I still didn’t love me.

Being the kind of person that likes to take responsibility, I decided to make a change. I finally made a conscious effort to shed the feelings of inadequacy, not doing enough, being enough, feeling like I always need to improve and do more. It wasn’t easy; there was no simple fix. It has become a lifelong process and journey. And even now, as I enjoy my early 30’s, there are still moments when I am plagued with deficient levels of self-love. But I am so much more free, filled with a greater sense of peace. I have the tools to help me get out of the self-loathing mentality and shift into a more self-accepting and self-loving state.

 

So why do I share my story? Because almost everyone I know needs more self-love. We are great at loving others and taking care of our family and friends but usually at the expense of ourselves. Our society doesn’t teach the necessity of self-love but I am here to tell you that can all be changed. You can love yourself the way you need to.

Here are some ways the worked for me to cultivate a self-love practice and helped me to rewire my mind into knowing, trusting and believing that I am worthy of love, especially from myself! I hope some or all of these help you in your journey.

 

Acknowledgement – The first step I needed to take was to acknowledge that I didn’t love and care for myself the way that I needed. It was a hard truth to face because for so long, I denied it. Although exercise was healthy, I used it as a form of punishment. When I came clean to myself, the burden lifted and I felt more confident and ready to make changes.

Bioenergetic TherapyBioenergetic Therapy is different than regular therapy because it starts with the body and its basic functions of mobility and expression. It is a combination of bodily and analytic work that helped me release aggression, anger and rage and develop aliveness, pleasure, joy, love and vibrant health. I did this therapy for about 6 months and it was the key of overcoming my self-limiting and self-sabotaging behaviors.

Yoga – I attribute much of my self-love success from the dedicated practice of yoga. After I retired from boxing, I was drawn to the yoga mat and since then, it has been a part of my daily practice. Through the poses, breathing and surrendering, I have cultivated a larger sense of self-acceptance, inner peace and grace. I have grown to appreciate that I am divine, we are all divine, despite the past, flaws and mistakes.

Conscious Indulgences – For years, I am adamant about denying myself pleasures. I would give myself one cheat meal a week and aside from that, kept an extremely rigid diet. I rarely indulged and whenever I did, I was riddled with guilt, shame and intense fear of being fat. However, throughout my journey, I now find peace with enjoying life (within moderation) and have worked really hard to not deny myself anything. And if I do indulge in a delicious treat, I try not to let myself internally unravel and lose perspective.

 

Journaling – Writing about my experiences was extremely beneficial in identifying why I developed a lack of self-love, my triggers as well as challenges and triumphs along the way. Before I wrote about it, I tried to figure everything out in my mind and it was making me crazy. The more I wrote, the clearer I got and the better I felt. Sometimes the task of just writing out fears, pains and annoyances creates space for love instead.

Books – I am an avid reader and dedicated many years of my life to self-help/self-love books. It was helpful to learn about different stories and techniques from other people who also felt deficient in self-love. Some of my favorites are: Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, Happiness is a Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman and Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss.

 

Affirmations – Learning to love myself required a change in my mentality and thought process and one of the best ways I rewired my brain is through affirmations. I wrote out 5-7 statements, such as “I love me” and posted them next to my bedside and bathroom mirror. Every single day I said them aloud to myself until one day, I believed them. Instead of the old patterns of how I am not good enough, my thinking shifted to “I am enough” and more importantly, “I will always be enough.”

 

It’s not easy to love ourselves unconditionally but I believe it is a vital key to the success of any person. I really hope this helps and inspires you to take great care of yourself. You deserve it !