I few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for a little work trip/vacation. As I sat on the beach watching what is arguably one one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world I couldn’t help but think back to how much has changed since my first trip to Hawaii 8 years ago. Almost a decade has passed – most of it my 20s – so change is neither unexpected nor elusive. 6 months after that first trip to Hawaii I would start a little blog called The Healthy Maven.
Many of you have followed my journey over the years, much of it documenting my journey to self-love. And I’m not talking that Pinterest quote kind of self-love. I’m talking the hard love. The facing your truth kind of love. The things we cannot change but learning to accept kind of love. From the outside it may have looked easy (as a perfectly summarized blog post can always make it seem) but it hasn’t been. I’ve spent years in therapy digging into the depths of my shadow only to discover there’s more work to do. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to self-love it’s that it is not without work. As cliche as it may sound, self-love is a journey not a destination. It’s learning to wake up every day with a commitment to grow and evolve and going to sleep every night with an empathy for whatever may have unfolded. It’s choosing the voice of self-compassion over the voice of self-criticism. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it: It’s f*cking hard.
Back to Hawaii.
I was 22 at the time and struggling deeply with disordered eating and exercise addiction (you can learn more about my journey here). I was manipulating my body in the hopes that maybe if I could love the way my body looked I could one day love myself. Or at the very least a “perfect” body could be deserving of someone else’s love. I remember a picture a family member had taken of me in a bathing suit that I scrutinized for months because I was convinced I looked fat. I ruminated on how I shouldn’t have picked at my dad’s fries or should have doubled up on my workouts the day before. The problem seemed blatantly obvious to me: I lacked self-discipline. In reality the only discipline I lacked was the ability to stand in front of the mirror and love the person reflected back – no matter who was standing there.
Now I could walk you through the wake-up call and my journey to recovery but much of it has already been documented here. Instead I want to share my biggest lesson and one that I see many women falling into the trap of every single day. It is both a simple change and an incredibly challenging change but it is one that will transform your life. It is a change that you can implement overnight and also a habit that will take many years to undo. But like I said, self-love is work and it’s also f*cking hard.
The change I’m talking about it how you talk to yourself and about yourself. It is about that voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t enough. It’s the voice that says that no matter what you do or accomplish if your body isn’t perfect then you have failed. It’s the voice that tells you to skip lunch or never skip the gym. It’s the voice that tells you those stretch marks or cellulite are your fault. It’s the voice that thinks it’s okay when all the beautiful women in your life speak about themselves with the same voice of shame as your own inner-critic.
I have compassion for this voice. It was my own inner-monologue for years but as 30 rolled around and I was still hearing so many women in my life and in this world giving power to this cruel and evil voice I couldn’t help but reach my breaking point. Ladies, enough is enough. It’s time to stop.
It’s time to stop…
Thinking your body is any reflection of who you are as a human.
Treating your body as your masterpiece.
Skipping meals, feeling guilty for not working out or starting diet after diet.
Defining self-care by whether or not you have cellulite or your abs are showing.
Scrutinizing or comparing your body shape and size to a previous version of yourself.
Giving power to that voice that tells you that you are not enough, exactly as you are.
If you are this woman – I see you. I have the utmost compassion for you because I was you. But I’m not that girl anymore and it was because I made the hardest and simplest change I could have: I let go of my inner mean girl.
You will never catch me saying that I feel fat or bloated or even skinny for that matter. I don’t earn or deserve my calories. I don’t talk about calories at all. And pay attention to this one: I don’t comment on anybody’s body – ever. I’ve come to learn that those of us who judge others based on their bodies are projecting their own internal self-hatred. The only thing I ask of the people in my life is that they show up with kindness. I judge them on how much they love themselves and I have a zero tolerance policy on negative body talk. I’m not here to shame them or you, but if you talk about your rolls, mention calories, skip a meal or think your body is in any way, shape or form the reason I am your friend, I will not engage.
Now I’ve learned the hard way that telling someone to love themselves rarely yields any kind of change. Modelling the behavior is far more effective. It’s also harder. And so each day I wake up with a bit more compassion for myself than the day before. Sometimes it’s 2 steps back before 1 step forward, but I keep trying anyway.
As I sat watching that sunset 8 years later I couldn’t just see the change, I could feel the change. My life isn’t perfect and I struggle all.the.time but with each stumble I pick myself back up, acknowledge my own needs and try again. I can finally say that when I look in the mirror I love the person staring back at me. Not because she’s perfect, but because she shows up in spite of her imperfections. And that, my friends, is self-love.
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