“Hey Kid, You’re Awesome.”: A Radical Practice of Self Love.

Via Erica Leibrandt
on Feb 1, 2014
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Photo: zsófi B

I’ve spent the majority of my life being a real bitch to myself.

I don’t remember once thinking, “Hey kid, you’re pretty awesome.” Well maybe for a split second, after I wrote a poem about a daffodil or something, but that was when I was around six. By the time I was seven, it was an endless You-Suck Fest.

Why? I don’t know. Looking back, I was normal. Taller than most, chunkier than the rest, sure, but normal. I lived in a middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of Boston with a raspberry bush in the backyard. My parents didn’t get along very well, but whose did? I had a dog, a lot of toys, dinner on the table every night and clean sheets on my bed.

But when I looked in the mirror, it was black.

Intensely disliking myself led to weird behavior—behavior which, when I see other people doing similar things—I’ve learned to recognize as the language of self hatred.

First, I became a liar. If reality wasn’t to my liking, and it invariably wasn’t, I just re-wrote the story. I lied about my grades, my family’s income, my weight, even the origin of my dog—you name it, I lied about it. I thought I was slick— who knows? Maybe everyone just felt too bad for me to call me a liar. (The upside was, it gave me great story telling skills which I use to this day.)

Next, I became depressed. By grade school I was either nauseous with anxiety or sleeping to avoid my feelings 24 hours a day. I didn’t have any energy for school work or extracurricular things, my grades dropped, and whatever glimmer of self esteem I’d had evaporated. I schlepped around wondering what the point of existence even was, and how I could make my parents leave me alone once and for all.

By high school I figured out that when guys paid attention to me, I hated myself less—or at least I didn’t experience it as directly. I glommed on to all sorts of boys, hoping to define myself by their shadow. I continued with that strategy way past college, until it led me to the kind of guy who preys on girls like me.

We were a perfect fit: I wanted to change, and he wanted to change me.

Of course, that wasn’t how he approached me at first. First he told me all the things I wanted to hear, things that were actually true, but which I didn’t truly believe. “You are beautiful.” “You are larger than life.” “You are a blue chip stock.”

He made me feel admired and protected, as if he was the only person who could ever appreciate me. My need for his admiration eclipsed everything else about me. Soon we were embroiled in a life I could never have imagined, a life filled with cocaine, scams, drug dealers, homelessness. Classic story of a “good” girl gone bad, except I never thought I was all that good in the first place.

Maybe I was addicted to hating myself, because like any addiction, when I finally hit rock bottom, there was nowhere to go but up—or six feet under.

Piece by piece, I strung something back together that resembled a woman. I was too focused on surviving to hate myself anymore—for the most part.

Years passed. I became a mom, I wrote things—big things…a book, I learned about yoga and how to teach it, I learned about food and how to cook it. But I was always afraid to look in the mirror.

If the light was bad, I knew it would still look black.

Then one day, an ordinary day, I woke up and wondered, what if I just decided I was okay—who would I be? What would that be like? Without the punishing voice in my head, would I go off the rails? Would I eat a stack of pizzas, get drunk and run naked down the street while my husband and kids watched, their pale oval faces pressed up against the window as they dialed 911?

Or would I just be able to smile, gratefully and from the inside as I finally said (and meant), “Hey kid, you’re pretty awesome.” Not perfect, but awesome.

What if I walked around every day, having my feelings, doing my things, and every now and then gave myself a little thumbs up? “Hey kid, good job on that yoga class you just taught. Well done!” “Hey kid, you put together a nice dinner tonight, seriously…it was tasty!”

Why not? Why not say these things? Why not decide, in fact, to treat myself the same way I treat the other people that I love? That would be amazing! I could say, do and think all sorts of wonderful things!

So I’ve been practicing.

Honestly, it feels kind of dumb. I’m not used to “nice”, “sweet”, “gentle” or “loving” words regarding me, authored by me, ringing around my brain. But the nicer I am to myself, the nicer I seem to be to others and if for no other reason, I’m going to keep trying.

If you see me wandering around the block mumbling to myself with a strange expression on my face, don’t worry. I’m not crazy. I’m just practicing this nice-to-me thing. And if I do happen to run naked down the street, maybe I’ll be able to be nice-to-me even then.

“Hey kid,” I’ll say,  “You only ran naked down the street once! It’s not so bad. No one even saw you, and by the way, you looked hot! Now go put some pants on and maybe we’ll grab a slice of that pizza.”

 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: zsófi B

 

 


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About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a certified Yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, vegan cook and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. She aims to apply the principles of Yoga to real life. Between writing, teaching and studying to earn her master's degree in clinical counseling from Northwestern University, she spends her time being walked by her dogs and trying to dream up an alternative to doing the laundry. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg and you can never dance too much. You can connect with Erica on FacebookTwitter and Tumblr.

Comments

2 Responses to ““Hey Kid, You’re Awesome.”: A Radical Practice of Self Love.”

  1. This makes me so happy. You really are awesome (and I'll remind you if you ever forget, so don't worry). <3

  2. Ryan says:

    This article resonates so loudly in my being it's almost deafening. Replace a few key details like gender (male) and DOC (mdma, cannabis & booze) and I see an almost identical portrait of me less than two years ago. The ways we try to fool ourselves from seeing our true-self seem utterly insane from the outside looking in but in the throes of our desperation feel like our only hope relief from pain, like clinging to a crumbling ledge by a single fingertip.

    But often the chains that hold us down are wrought by our minds.

    In a fit of anxiety and self doubt, blazed out of my mind one night, I came to realize my self deception. I saw my darkness as it is, and in that moment everything became crystal clear. And though the weight of the moment felt absolutely soul crushing, I knew then and there I could not continuing feeding the devils inside me. I knew I had to change or otherwise be eaten alive.

    And how was that moment any different from any other moment before? It really wasn't. Maybe it was just a spontaneous instance of clarity, but in that moment I decided to accept my reality and chose to have the power to change it.

    I committed myself to reinvention and very quickly found yoga in my life. It really helped reaffirm the importance of self love and also helped undo a lot of the harm I had caused myself, both physically and mentally. Here I am now, almost a year deep into daily practice. And though I still battle with my darkness, my time on the mat has really put the struggle into perspective and dissolved the sense of helplessness and self loathing I experienced before. I still have miles and miles to go, but at I can look in the mirror now and not feel the urge to turn my head away in disappointment and disgust…

    Thank you for posting your article. It means a lot to me knowing I'm not alone.

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