“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.” – Kristen Neff
This quote really resonates with me and my long journey to self-love. Growing up I was picked on a lot for being overweight. When I didn’t stand up for myself I was called weak and when I did stand up for myself, apparently, I didn’t know how to take a joke. If I said I love my curves and I’m beautiful people would say I was conceited and full of myself. If someone else told me I was beautiful and I acted modest I was called insecure. I learned people always have something to say; “why don’t you go on a diet”, “you should try going to the gym”, “you’re so pretty, but you’d be even prettier if you lost a few pounds”. I think my journey really began when I moved out of my parent’s house at age 20. This was my first time ever having a “safe space” as my family home was very hostile and I was badly bullied at school. I finally had a quiet place alone to emotionally heal, and I spent A LOT of time alone those first few months.
Eventually I went to therapy and that’s where the real healing began. I won’t go into details but I had a lot of, and a lot of types of, anxiety. I worked through a lot of it with my therapist and then decided I was in a good enough mental state to go at it alone. I finally started to learn how to love myself, it was such a slow and painful process that I can’t really put my finger on that exact AH-HAH moment, but I’d say it was when I was around 24/25 – to put that in perspective, I just turned 27. Now-a-days showing myself love comes in so many forms. If I want those shoes, I buy them because I deserve them! And the next day self-love means not giving myself a hard time for buying yet ANOTHER pair of shoes. Self-love is being kind to myself on days when I just can’t bother to be social because deep down I know giving myself anxiety about having anxiety is just counterproductive. Self-love is accepting that I have never been skinny, and I probably will never be skinny and that I don’t NEED to be skinny to be worthy of someone else’s love. Self-love is not feeling guilty for putting me first when I need it most. Sometimes self-love is just letting myself have a good cry when I need it and then picking myself back up and getting done whatever overwhelmed me in the first place.
Most importantly through all this I learned that self-love was not letting people’s opinion define me because that was the problem to begin with. There was nothing wrong with me when I started kindergarten and got picked on for being fat, for real though – I WASN’T EVEN OVERWEIGHT! I let other people’s opinions of me define me and bring me down, I let their opinions become my reality because I was too young to know any better. My parents always made sure I had what I needed when it came to the necessities, but they weren’t very useful for emotional needs and they didn’t know how to deal with what I was going through at school. In therapy, me and little Emily made amends for everything I couldn’t do for us because I was never taught how. She knows it wasn’t her fault and more importantly she knows that her future does get better and that she is so loved, by herself and others.