Love has become a word that is often painful to think of let alone even feel. This last year I watched someone I love become someone I didn’t even know. I was abandoned by “love”. I was really angry about that for a very long time. You see, I thought that after everything I had been through, I deserved that relationship. I deserved happiness and while that is very true, I missed the point that the love and happiness I really deserved was a love for myself.
You see, I hated myself. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see the dark haired beautiful woman that my friends and family told me I was. I saw acne in my late 30’s, pounds that I had lost and regained, wrinkles. I saw a woman who had never had a great fashion sense, who often didn’t wear make up or fix her hair, except in the laziest of pony tails, and I hated her. Inside I began to remind myself of what a failure I was. I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be to my children or the daughter that I felt my parents could be proud of. I was unemployed, practically homeless if not for my family taking me in. I really developed this self loathing after Kenny left. I created scenarios in my head where instead of the gaping hole of silence he’d left, there were discussions about how he didn’t love me anymore, how I was no longer attractive, or how I couldn’t be what it was he wanted. All of those scenarios, however, were self inflicted. He never once said those things.
I became incredibly depressed. Often finding myself in crying spells for no apparent reason. I was miserable. Friends and family would remind me how loved I was, how strong and brave they believed me to be, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t believe it about myself. I moved home heart sick and broken. At least my definition of broken. I had always been a spiritual person, a Christian. My faith was a huge part of my life, but as time wore on I began to feel indignation toward God. How unfair to allow my heart to be so shattered! How could He, the God who loved me, abandon me. I later learned He had certainly NOT abandoned me. While He didn’t give me the answer I wanted, He has certainly led me to a place of healing, and that has been learning to love myself.
I remember the day that the thought of how much I truly hated myself hit me like a ton of bricks. My friend Brian and I were walking the docks in Fairhope. Patient and understanding, Brian has listened to me with possibly the most nonjudgmental ear. I was pouring my anger out, hot tears rolling down my face, when he grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me around to face him. “Rebecca,” he said, “Girl you aren’t angry with anyone but yourself. I don’t think you like yourself very much. As a matter of fact, I think you hate yourself. For every good and positive thing someone tells you, I know you’ve got a negative, angry retort on the tip of that tongue. You are never going to be able to move on if you hate yourself forever.” Anger welled up inside of me. How dare he tell me that I hated myself. It made me angry because deep down I knew it was true.
“You’ve got to learn to love this amazing, talented, fierce woman you are.”
I had no idea where to even start. Self love had always seemed selfish to me. If I only loved myself then where was the love I was supposed to have for my family, my kids. I started small. I looked up and read about self care. I finally found a description for how I felt inside. Just like my bank account that stayed in the red, I was deep in the red emotionally. I’d been writing “love checks” for everyone, but making no deposits for myself. Being in love with myself wasn’t self centered or narcissistic as I had believed. It was essential to my self confidence, self worth, and ultimately my sanity.
One of the first ideas I had to be comfortable with was being alone. Being alone seemed incredibly frightening to me. I had learned to wrap my self worth up in what others valued me for. I wasn’t comfortable on my own. I decided to do something fun just for me. At first, this was painful. I chose an activity that I had previously never done on my own. I went to the movies. I thought that was easier than my first idea of dinner by myself. I was nervous almost like first date nervous and then I realized, hey this is sort of like a first date with myself.
I made a dream board. ALL FOR ME. Up until this point, my dreams had centered around the things I wanted for my family. I cut out pictures of places I wanted to travel to, of the boat I would eventually own, even products or items I had always thought I’d like to have. I started a journal, one that is so deeply personal that I keep it locked away. It has the good, the bad, and the really ugly. It was so empowering to just release some of those thoughts and then mark through them with a black marker.
I learned the power of no. As a people pleaser, it was really hard for me to not want to be all things to all people. I discovered that saying no wasn’t always negative. My “yes” moments hadn’t always led to my best work. It’s hard to be at your best when you worn thin. This is a really hard lesson for women.
I made a list of my accomplishments to counter all the things I believed were failures:
- I raised 3 great kids despite the challenges we faced.
- I was hired by a major airline company doing a job I really love.
- I bought the boat!
- I am a published writer.
The list keeps growing. Now before I go to bed every night, I mentally tick of accomplishments of the day. Nothing is insignificant. Today will include menial things like, cleaned the bathroom, loaded the dishwasher, cooked a healthy meal to share with my family. It also includes some big ones like finally believing a coworker when after listening to me share a little bit of my personal life remarked “You are one amazing, interesting person! What an empowering testimony you have!”
I don’t know where this road is going to take me and sure there are days when I feel that doubt and negativity creep in but you know what, I have the tools to combat it now.
If I’m in love, I’m going to love me for who God created, for who my family sees, for the woman my friends believe is worth friendship, for the mother my children still need, and for the soul who was ALWAYS worth loving.
Even when she didn’t believe it.