*Trigger warning: this post contains references to anxiety, depression, and abuse
There’s a major shift going on in the wellness community right now, which is a shift towards “self love.” You’ve not only heard me personally preach the benefits and miracles associated with self love, but I’m sure you’ve heard it around the world in various social outlets as well. Self love is our ability to put ourself first, and prioritize our needs above the needs of others. The phrase “you cannot pour from an empty cup” is often what brings us to the point of recognizing our own need for self love. As caretakers, mothers, teachers, coaches, siblings, husbands, wives, employees, mangers, etc. we spend most of our day pouring endless amounts of energy into other people. It’s human nature to want to take care of the people closest to us and it is a wonderful trait to have! However, when our own needs fall so far down the priority list that we begin to fall into bad health, sickness, depression, anxiety, or worse, then a shift towards self love is vital.
I often work with clients who come from a world where they have a history of depression, anxiety, abuse, neglect, toxic relationships, lack of self control with eating, obesity, illness, and high stress. Most of what troubles them most can usually be taken care of when we raise their self-love meter. My job is to help guide them in their journey to wellness, whatever that looks like for them. There are pieces of their journey puzzle I can walk alongside them for, and then sometimes there are harder parts that I can only guide them towards but they must make the journey alone.
My journey towards self-love
My own journey of discovering self-love began after I came to the horrible realization that I had been a victim of abuse. I won’t go into the details of the occurrences here (yes, more than 1) but I had gotten to a point in my life when reaching out for help was the next step I needed to take. Once I did, things got worse before they got better. I chose to enter intensive trauma therapy in order to learn how to untwist my reality from my past, and once I did that I was able to embrace the concept of self-love for myself. Please know that not everyone needs to follow this path…..it was just MY path I had to follow. I couldn’t even see myself as worthy of self-love until this hard work had been done first because of how deep the negative roots had gotten.
The work of trauma therapy had worn my body and mind down so much that I was diagnosed with Achalasia towards the end of treatment. I believe 100% this had a correlation with my immune system becoming worn down from working so hard in therapy, life, and as a single-mother. What followed was a year of forceful slow-down that changed the course of my future. I had to learn how to prioritize self-care, self-love and setting healthy boundaries. I learned from top life coaches nutritionists, energetic healers and therapists how to fully embrace my new journey because while it looks different than I originally thought, the dream to change obesity and lack of self-love in the world is still there and more full of fire than ever before. I slowed down, I changed up my routines, and I found what worked for me. Even though I was weak on the outside, I was stronger than ever on the inside. Nothing could change my heart to heal myself or to help others. Self love had empowered me to never give up.
When Self-Love moves from Empowering to Enabling
When someone fully embraces the concept of self-love they are filled with a sense of empowerment. They know the Universe has a plan for their life, and even if the journey is long and hard, they WILL succeed. Weight loss goals become less overwhelming, relationship struggles diminish, parenting obstacles become pebbles instead of mountains, sickness begins to heal. Miracles can happen when we fully embrace self-love. This is a wonderful thing and something I truly hope you all will strive to achieve if you are not prioritizing yourself today. While this obviously is all a positive thing, I want to share with you how we can actually allow self-love to become an enabler of bad behavior if we are not aware. I share this from first-hand experience because it’s important to me that you form good new habits and not go backwards like I have done a few times along this journey.
There have been days when I certainly need extra rest, because my body just can’t handle the energy it takes to work out, or I’m overcome by a fatigue crash. There are days when I still have to work from bed because I was only able to consume 500 calories the day before instead of my normal 1,200 (or whatever it is for that week). There are days when I need to set healthy boundaries and say “no” to social outings because I know that I may be tempted to make bad food choices or drink when I know my body needs a healthy break from that this month.
The scenarios above are healthy ways to take care of yourself and set healthy boundaries. However, too often we can find ourself using them as a crutch. I’ve had to get really honest with myself, and clients, to recognize when we are using what isn’t working well as an excuse to not try harder. For example: Am I really too fatigued to work out today, or do I just not have the energy to go 100%….maybe only 70%? Do I really need to work from bed ALL day today, or do I just need to work 1/2 a day from bed and the rest as scheduled? Do I really feel I can’t make good choices while out with friends…..or is my social anxiety peaking and I’m using this as a convenient excuse to not go out with friends? Do I really need to scale that workout so much because I don’t have the energy, or am I just scared [*this* all the time!]?? Am I eating this “treat” because it really is my way of saying I can relax and enjoy it today, or is it the 5th one this week and perhaps it’s just an excuse to stay off the rails because I don’t believe in myself enough yet to not fail?
As much as we need to recognize the lack of self-love in our life, we also need to be sure we are using it the way in which it can serve us best. We all struggle, we all have something in our life we are working to overcome. Be sure your choices today make you 1% better. If you are finding excuses to get out of your workouts, healthy changes, or priceless time with others who make you better, then be honest with yourself today and decide to return to empowerment.