In the past 24 hours two different people asked me: “How do you go about loving yourself?”
Great question. Truly. It is the key to everything.
As someone who was constantly told that self-love was vitally important to wellness, I understood it. As a concept—not a practice. Once I owned it as a lifestyle and made it a practice, it literally changed my life. Self-love and compassion brought me out of 20 years of depression and seven years in bed, and into sustainable recovery and a Brilliant Transformation.
There’s not any one thing that equals self-love. It’s a number of things working in tandem—relatively small things done consistently over time can lead to amazing and sudden life changes.
Following are the ways I loved myself into a Brilliant Transformation:
I Became My Own Number One Priority—After more than 40 years of taking care of everyone else, I finally accepted the fact that it wasn’t selfish to take care of myself, but critical for my survival. I realized that not only do I matter, but my needs mattered too. I started to not only recognize that I had needs, but I voiced my needs to ensure they were met. I realized that if I didn’t give myself consideration, no one else would either.
I Began Speaking to Myself as Kindly as I Would Speak to a Friend—When I started paying attention to how I talked to myself, I was utterly appalled. I was an ass to myself! I certainly wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who told me I was fat, ugly and stupid. How could I possibly be happy when I was being so mean to myself? Simply paying attention to how I talked to myself was very eye opening. Then I turned that self-talk around to be positive, as a step in the right direction for self-love.
I Only Put Positive Things in My Mind—I became very mindful of what I consumed in terms of media. One of my son’s favorite quotes is, “Positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes,” and it’s certainly true. I only read good books, subscribe to positive Facebook feeds and watch uplifting and educational programming on media channels.
I Began to Live Life on My Terms—After living for everyone else for 43 years, I decided to live life for me and do what makes me happy. I am transparent with my thoughts and actions. I took the time to figure out what I really liked and I began spending my time focusing on those things. The more I develop the “authentic me” and doing what I enjoy, the happier I become. Most importantly, I don’t give a f*ck what anyone else thinks—there is great freedom in that.
I Gave Myself More Credit for My Accomplishments—When I was depressed, I never gave myself any credit. I would clean the entire house and finish nine loads of laundry, but if I didn’t put all of the clothes away, I felt like a complete and utter failure. At this point I had two choices. 1. Be proud of myself for kicking ass and getting all of that done, and cut myself some slack for not putting away the clothes, or, 2. Stay in bed for another year because I’m a horrible human and can’t accomplish a damn thing. For six years, I chose the second option. My forehead got really bruised from hitting that same brick wall over and over again. Then, slowly and consistently, I started choosing option one.
I Danced and Smiled. A Lot—I always smile when I dance, but I often smile when I’m not dancing and both of these actions make a huge difference in my attitude. I have a couple funny stories about smiling and dancing. Once, while dancing with a friend, she kept looking around trying to figure out why I was smiling so much because she thought she was “missing something.” Nope. Not missing anything. I’m just truly enjoying myself. Dancing makes me happy and automatically makes me smile.
Smiling also makes people wonder what you’re up to, which makes me giggle inside sometimes. One day—during my depressed years, at one of my most hellish jobs—I had a huge grin on my face and a coworker looked at me almost in awe, with a very quizzical look on her face. My reply: “I’m smiling because I took my tranquilizers at lunch.” Sadly, it was the truth. Thankfully, my smiles are genuine and med-free these days.
I Protected My Peace—Boundaries? I did not know or set boundaries as a depressed woman. I did whatever was asked of me, regardless of the cost. It didn’t matter if the cost was emotional, financial or physical. I did not evaluate the request or line it up with my personal needs or stance. Hell, I didn’t even know that I had needs or what my personal stance was. Once I found peace, I went to great lengths to protect it.
I Turned to Music as My Refuge—For 17 years I listened exclusively to Christian music. I love it. I love the messaging and the melodies. When I took up dancing again, I started listening to more varied music. I now listen to a much broader scope of music and have created multiple playlists that include “gangsta” tunes my son and his friends bump with me and music so meaningful it brings tears to my eyes. I love the variety. Music is so healing.
I Changed Up My Wardrobe—My parents always told me I was dressed well “for my size.” It was a back handed compliment and true. I did dress well for a 307 pound woman, but the truth is, there aren’t many options in terms of “stylish and sexy” clothes for a woman of that size. After losing 110 pounds, I started wearing more stylish and sexy clothes that didn’t hang on me in an attempt to camouflage my rolls of fat. I previously owned four pairs of shoes: black flats, brown flats, black sandals and brown sandals. After losing weight, I started wearing dresses for the first time and hooker boots with heels! I buy most of my clothes and shoes at thrift stores and always wear dresses when I dance. I thoroughly enjoy dressing my new body shape.
I’m Not Worried—I’ve always been a faithful person, but since my job elimination and even more recently, I have a renewed sense of faith and knowing that I am protected and everything happens for a reason and for our greatest good. While we cannot always see or know the reason at the time, I have faith in God that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and know that He is always working things out on my behalf.
I Learned to Say No—I quit enabling people and taking on other people’s responsibilities. My therapist cried when I told her that I was choosing not to accept responsibility for a situation that my son had gotten himself into. He is a grown man who makes his own choices and must deal with the consequences of those choices—even if my family thinks otherwise. It was the healthiest behavior I could have chosen for both of us.
I Reconnected with My Sexuality—Because I was single for so long (and on psych meds for more than 20 years) I had essentially shut down that part of my life. I decided to take matters into my own hands and reinvigorate my sex life instead of waiting for a man to pleasure me.
I Modified My Circle—I surrounded myself with people who were on a similar path of enlightenment and recovery. Because you become like the five people you spend the most time with, I had to be cautious of who I was spending time with. Not everyone is growing, learning and evolving. I couldn’t afford to be stagnant while I was recovering. I lost some friends in the process and that was okay.
I Checked in with a Coach on My Progress—It was important for me to work with someone throughout my recovery. I worked with a therapist initially. She saved me from the depths of depression and got me to a stable place. Therapy was more “therapeutic,” as in, we just talked through things each week. My coach took me from stability to flourishing. Coaching was more action-oriented and helped me to really put things into practice in order to meet my goals.
I Continue to Work My Program—While I “graduated” from meeting with my coach each week, I will never graduate from recovery. I need to work my program daily and am constantly mindful of the steps it took me to get well.
I cannot abandon the techniques the helped me get to the point of loving myself into a Brilliant Transformation because honestly, self-love is the key to everything else. Once I truly loved myself, I manifested a healthy relationship, a better relationship with my adult son, authenticity in living my life, transparency in my actions, financial stability, successful business connections, more intimate family relationships and the ability to speak up for my needs.
Everything begins and ends with self-love. I hope these techniques will help you to love yourself into recovery and a Brilliant Transformation as well. I wish you well on your journey.
Author: Melissa Drake
Editor: Travis May
Image: Flickr/AK Rockefeller