Inspired by a book I bought for $0.99 earlier this spring, I decided it was time to start loving myself.
And not just in the superficial sense of self-love, like exercising regularly and watching less TV. It was time to really, fully and wholly love myself – top to bottom, inside and out.
To love myself to the point of waking up every morning with a heart overflowing with gratitude for all I was blessed with in life. To love myself unconditionally – quirks, flaws, and all. To love myself the way I hoped for someone else to one day love me. Fiercely, and unafraid to show it.
But this story didn’t start this spring; it’s been a long time in the making.
Well before I stumbled upon this little $0.99 book, maybe 2 years prior, another pivotal moment in my self-love journey had taken place on a beach in British Columbia. A moment whose weight I didn’t fully comprehend until much later.
It was a brisk summer night and the sand was cold; I was in the midst of a heart-to-heart with someone I’d only known a few days, as tends to happen when you travel.
I don’t quite remember how it escalated to this, but I distinctly remember crying as I looked out over the sea.
We were talking about relationships and why mine – past and present – never seemed to go so well. I had trust issues, compounded by the fact that I had a proclivity for attracting the untrustworthy types.
And then a rather unexpected question was posed to me, a question that left me speechless for all the wrong reasons. Again, my memory of this night is a bit fuzzy after all this time, but the question was something along the lines of:
“Are you happy with who you are?”
I couldn’t find the words to respond. Not because I didn’t know the answer, but rather because I knew it instantly.
After a few suffocating moments of silence, the best I could do was shake my head “no” as more tears, now double the size, rolled down my face.
I didn’t like who I was or who I had been. I most certainly didn’t love myself. And it was in that moment I came to the crushing realization that it was all my fault.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. I wanted to love myself – desperately, even. But what I eventually came to understand was this:
When you’re making poor choices, choices that defy what you know in your heart to be right, you never will know self-love.
The months leading up to that moment in British Columbia had been particularly difficult for me. I reached a truly low point in terms of my self-esteem, and it was all because of a series of choices I’d made – choices that I was not proud of, and did not reflect the kind of person I wanted to be.
And in that moment, those poor choices came rushing back to me all at once, swallowing me up in a tidal wave of shame and regret. Sure, I might have cried first for my failed and failing relationships that night, but in the end, I cried hardest for the person I never allowed myself to become.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but a series of subconscious choices had just been made.
To start living up to my own potential. To start making myself proud. To start living my truth.
FIRST CAME CHOICES
Every day, we are choosing. We may not choose our circumstances, but we choose how we react. In fact, the only thing truly within our control is ourselves and our choices. It’s all we have.
So even when other people hurt us, when our pain is the direct result of someone else’s choices, the choice is still ours whether we let that pain suffocate us, or if we let it go. Move on. Forgive.
For far too long, I felt the pain and emotional bruising from distant moments I should have long – since forgiven as sharply as if they had just happened yesterday. For far too long, I held onto resentment, blaming others for my choices.
I was all too aware of my faults, and for far too long, I had done nothing to correct them. I was avoiding responsibility for the crappy outcomes of my poor choices which wasn’t doing me any favours.
That summer, a few months after that rude awakening on that beach in British Columbia, I knew my business needed to start supporting me financially or I was going to be in debt.
And so I made the choice, over and over again, to put my work ahead of my own pleasure.
In hotels, I sat hunched over my laptop, surrounded by travelers hell bent on distracting me. Other times, I purposely isolated myself. I sat alone in the corner, or alone in my room, or alone at the dining table in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else was out enjoying the beach.
Funnily enough, I still found plenty of time to enjoy myself, too. But the best part of it all was the sense of pride that arose from finally making choices that aligned with what I wanted in my heart.
When I finally began making choices that I respected, my “luck” began to change. The positive changes that came out of that summer were all the reassurance I needed to know that I was on the right path, that I was inching ever closer to living my truth, to knowing myself, and ultimately loving myself.
THEN CAME GROWTH
As time wore on, personal development became my addiction. I dedicated late nights and early mornings to my work. In my leisure time, I read self-help books.
Much like the early lessons, the new lessons I was learning didn’t always register right away. I had to chew on them for awhile to release the subtleties, the nuances, the complexities.
But all the while, I could feel myself changing. I could feel myself growing more aware of who I was, how I acted, even what my heart wanted (some might call that “intuition”) and that awareness allowed me to make better choices and know when to alter my course.
This spring, I bought that little $0.99 book. I read it every night as I laid in bed.
That book was called Choose Yourself, and it was written by a man named James Altucher.
You may not have heard of James, but he has founded many companies and made millions.
But of course, as it always goes, there’s much more to this story. James also lost millions. Sunk businesses. Destroyed relationships. Lost his home. Went through a divorce.
Of the 20 companies he founded, 18 of them were failures. In 2008, at his lowest of lows and in the midst of the worst economic depression since the 1930s – with no job, no friends, and no money – he nearly lost the will to live.
His life insurance policy worth $4 million suddenly seemed like the best chance for his kids to have a decent life.
Feeling someone else’s pain, even through the vast distances of space and time, always helps put our own pain into perspective. It doesn’t diminish it or make it any less real, but it helps us to realize that if someone can be pushed to such extremes and still find the power to choose themselves, well, so can we.
James developed what he referred to as “The Daily Practice” which centered around taking care of himself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He was putting himself first, choosing himself in every way.
So I started choosing myself in every way. I went to bed early and woke up early. I reintroduced regular exercise into my routine. I practiced gratitude daily.
I found my way back to yoga, which has been perhaps the most transformative practice of all.
The very first intention I set on that very first day was the very thing that drew me back to the mat in the first place: to know myself.
One major difference between this new undertaking and my casual yoga habit of days past is that I no longer regarded it as a fitness tool. Breaking free from that old assumption allowed me to see yoga for what it really was: a powerful vehicle for self-exploration.
For me, it is the ultimate display of self-love, showing up on my mat for a moment of mindfulness. A great butt and toned tummy – should they appear one day – would simply be a side effect of choosing myself.
And my gosh, it felt so good to choose myself for once. And that month of self-care? It’s been extended indefinitely.
Good choices beget good choices, as it turns out, and what started as a painful personal challenge on a beach in British Columbia has now become something of a habit.
That’s not to say that life is fine and dandy as a result or that I don’t still experience deep pain. I endure bouts of crushing self-doubt on a near-daily basis. I torment myself with “what ifs” that have no right to take up headspace. I still sometimes wonder and maybe I always will – what if this all comes crashing down tomorrow?
But self-love is a process, one that will never be truly complete. There will always be more I could improve, more I can learn, more kindness I can show to myself and others.
And in the vein of extending that kindness to myself, I constantly need reminding that yes, I am deeply flawed in many ways, but that is what makes me human, and I deserve love anyway.
I am still on the path to loving myself and to knowing and living my truth. I can say in all honesty that I love myself now more than ever, and I know I will come to love myself more deeply in the future.
What’s most important, however, no matter where I am in the process of self-love is to remember…
I am enough.