“I love myself”
That is not a sentence I was able to say a year ago. That’s not a sentence I was able to say six months ago, and I’m realizing for the first time in 17 years, I am able to say “I love myself” and fully mean it. Coming to this realization also made me recognize some factors that have played into my new mindset.
I started looking into my everyday habits that I would normally brush past, such as the way I talk to/about myself, prioritizing others and their needs above my own, and getting upset whenever something doesn’t go my way. I’ve found that habits like these are very common, normalized, in a way. I’ve watched everyone so casually say “I’m so dumb”, “I hate myself”, or “I suck at this”. I never really realized how engraved it is in our minds to be so self deprecating and negative. Who taught us this? Why are we so casual in self hate? Negative comments are so normalized that often we don’t even pick up on it. It’s almost stranger to hear someone say “I love myself” than “I hate myself,”. I’ve started to call out my friends when I hear them talk negatively about themselves. At first, I would tell my friends to rephrase what they said in a less self deprecating manner and they would turn “I suck at this” into “I’m amazing and wonderful and great at everything!” The issue with this is that it isn’t what you meant. Changing the way you talk about yourself does not mean saying you’re great at everything. Instead of telling yourself that you suck, rephrase it as something more like “I have room to grow and learn”. After catching my friends when they would start to minimize themselves, one came up to me and told me that since they’ve started changing their self-talk into a more positive light, they have noticed changes in their mood and confidence. I find it very interesting that once you start changing the way you talk about yourself, you start actually believing what you say.
It’s so hard to put yourself first. Whether it be relationships, friendships, work or family, it seems easier to cater to everyone else’s needs, disregarding your own feelings. Saying “no” to a request can seem impossible and capable of ruining the relationship you’ve built, when in reality, “no” is one word closer to healing yourself. When you take on too much, the weight has no choice but to collapse. This can make you overwhelmed, irritable, stressed, and can actually cause the quality of your work to suffer as well. Putting yourself first also means recognizing when relationships and friendships are doing you more harm than good. It can be hard to put yourself over the relationship you had formed but often it is necessary to cut ties with those who prevent you from growing. We are constantly evolving and prioritizing a relationship over your own well-being will hold you back from realizing and achieving future possibilities. In putting yourself first you must recognize your own self worth as someone who matters and you are allowed to refuse to carry weight that isn’t yours.
Lastly, one of the biggest factors in my healing and growth has been reflecting on my past. Connecting with the memories you’ve tried so hard to forget about can be painful, but it is key to understanding yourself and how you can grow. When I’m not having a good day and all of my emotions and behaviors are extreme, after I calm down I try to think why I acted the way I did. Recently, I had to confront someone and tell them that they had hurt my feelings and upset me. I had a really hard time convincing myself that I needed to communicate these feelings or else nothing would be fixed. I wondered why it was so hard for me to let them know how I was feeling. I was afraid of them getting angry and explosive. I reflected on why I had that fear, and when I did, I was able to comfort myself and give myself the reassurance that I am safe and I no longer need to hold onto the worries and defenses I needed in my past. Your past does not define you, however connecting with it may help you to create your own, better, future. If you faced trauma in your past or childhood, you most likely have built protective emotional walls. A huge step in growth is realizing why you built them and that it is okay to let go from the emotional necessities you had to have in the past.
Growth is a part of life and necessary. It may seem like things will never change or get better, no matter how hard you try. And sometimes, it can be scary or intimidating. The truth is, you grow everyday even if you don’t realize it. Growth is slow but constant and there will come a time where you can say “I love myself” and fully mean it.