Self-love has sharp teeth.
How can something so friendly sounding actually be—in reality—like taking the lid off a pot of snakes?
After one exceptionally humiliating and confidence-smashing affair with a betraying love-rat, I promised myself that I’m going to love myself more, no matter what it takes.
Because I can’t go through that again.
I prayed for help:
Get me out of this place.
I can’t live like this anymore.
What do I do to change?
I sentenced myself to a minimum of six months celibacy (turned out to be nearly three years), went on a detox, backed off from parties and spent a lot of time alone.
A month into my mission, I found myself thinking: Self-love sucks. I was happier when I was drunk and having sex with love-rats.
But as gruelling as it was, I couldn’t go back to rat town. I couldn’t do one more rat.
Not even a little one.
I bought the books, had the Reiki, did the yoga, ate better, ditched the drugs and culled the dodgy friendships. I took myself out for dinner and romanced myself with flowers. I put sticky notes in my car and on the fridge.
I love myself…are we there yet?
Because the dark was long and very, very lonely.
Why is this so effing tough? I thought one day as I was restraining myself from eating the contents of the pantry. Feel your feelings. I was learning this was the mantra for dealing with my heartbreak. Feel your feelings. Do not numb them with sugar, sex, alcohol, Doritos, a bong of grass or cigarettes.
Toss those crutches. Know they are false friends.
Feel your feelings. Well, hello. That wasn’t always convenient.
Like at work if abandonment was coming up, even a picture of a puppy on my tissue box could trigger a tsunami of tears.
Like if sadness and grief were coming up and it was my friend’s birthday, parties were impossible.
And if anger and rage were coming up, I still had to wear a professional teacher’s smile.
Feel your feelings. Do not override them but don’t cling to them or get bogged either.
Feel them. Allow. Give them space. Get friendly. Make these heinous things your friends, Dettra.
That’s the journey.
I have deep admiration for that thirty-something woman who started to really explore self-love. She had no clue what would come barrelling toward her—no idea what self-love meant apart from having more massages, drinking less vodka and making better boyfriend choices.
She didn’t know she would be torn down again and again, and in each fight and eventual surrender her heart would soften and open a little wider to take another part of herself in. She found out (the hard way) that if she was doing self-love right, all the lost bits of herself would come banging on her door looking for acceptance, a good meal and a home. At the beginning she had no inkling her shadows were so dark and her light so bright.
I could just hold that younger me, and say:
“My God, girl. Congratulations. You are one gallant woman. What you’re allowing into your heart will change your life. I know it doesn’t feel like that. I know this feels like sh*t. You feel smashed and exhausted. As soon as you’ve met one hard-core emotion another confronting, intense wave comes rolling in. I know. It’s hard. You’re in self-love boot camp right now. It won’t always be as tough as this, but don’t be thinking there’s an actual end point, my sweet honeybun.”
Back then, I didn’t realise that my self-love—or lack thereof—was the taproot for all my other relationships.
I didn’t know the men in my life were rejecting me because I was rejecting myself. I just thought I had a really tragic antenna for commitment-phobes.
I had no clue that if I hadn’t met my own anger or sense of betrayal with acceptance and softness I couldn’t meet that in you. Not really.
I didn’t understand that the depth of my self-love would impact on how I view others and treat them.
Little did I know that the harsh judgements I made about others were actually about me.
Self-love has been my steepest learning curve ever.
Self-love hurts. It hurts to be blown open. It hurts to be taken down. But what a perfect way to find hidden treasure. How else would I be unprotected enough to feel my wounds and disasters and shames, and make the discovery that love and forgiveness heal, and touch the place inside that tells me love is actually the fabric of this existence?
Self-love started off being about me. Me and my pain. What do I have to do feel better? But it had its own fire and once I lit the touchpaper; it started smoking me out. Yes, there have been lots of growing pains: I’m proud of the stretch marks on my heart.
Love drops. It deepens. Expands. Gets richer. Fuller. More inclusive. Softer, more pliable.
More open and forgiving.
These days, I see a mighty tiger in my tank, not a little kitten.
If I’m doing it right, self-love is not just about me—the radical opposite. The quality of love and forgiveness I have for myself affects everyone else, too.
When I got behind the theatre of it all… I knew in my heart that everyone is self. That’s treasure.
Author: Dettra Rose
Editor: Renée Picard