It’s December 31st. The year 2014. The last day of the year.
As I stood in front of my bathroom mirror this morning, a wave of uneasiness washed over me. I could’t figure out why exactly. I just felt empty. I felt like another year had gone by just like that. And while it was a year filled with many different events, it still felt ordinary to me – as if nothing significant really happened. I didn’t get married or have a child or graduate from university or receive a job promotion of any sort. Nothing extraordinary happened to me. In fact, I could even go as far as saying that this year was somewhat of a challenge in itself. A challenge in which I wanted to escape from. I went from being in the pits of financial collapse to losing my home to losing my mind (almost) all within the first half of the year, and then the second half of the year was spent trying to recover from it all.
Ok so I guess that is pretty extraordinary, but maybe just not in the positive connotation that normally one would describe “extraordinary” as. But regardless, I still felt empty. I felt as if nothing great had happened. In short, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was looking for more. And that nagging feeling of emptiness was driving me crazy.
I stared at myself in the mirror with a heavy sigh as I removed the wand from my mascara. “What is the point.” Not even a question but bluntly said as a statement. I didn’t understand why I was spending so much effort getting ready for the night’s events, when in reality there was nothing to celebrate. The year was over. Hooray! Time for another year filled with more difficulties to come. OK, so I was being a bit of a pessimistic grump this morning, but give me a break!
But then it hit me. (cue the revelation.)
The reason why I felt so disappointed with my year was because I wasn’t living it for myself. Not one bit. I was instead comparing my year to everyone else’s and feeling disappointed that mine was not in the least bit like theirs. Mine was not filled with an engagement or a marriage or a baby or a new home or a degree or a new career. Mine was difficult. Mine was filled with tears and arguments and hopelessness. It was full of despair and let down and heart ache. It was filled with the unknowns of not knowing how to make it through the next day. It was filled with scraping by and trying to live off food from the dollar store. It was filled with days of trying my best to hold it together. And then later, post-breakdown, it was filled with the daily challenge of trying to re-learn how to function normally again and trying not to be weighed down by the guilt and shame that surround me for failing.
No one wants to remember a year like that. No one wants to celebrate it or flaunt it or talk about how amazing it all was. It’s the kind of thing you want to just forget ever happened. Sweep in under the rug and keep it well hidden from the world around you so you can go on keep pretending that you’re normal. That you are just like everyone else and your life is just as happy and fulfilling.
And yes for a second that is exactly what I had planned for this new year to be. A new year filled with new ways of trying to cover up my past and making the most of what was next to come. But after my bathroom mirror revelation I realized why do I want to do that? Why do I want to hide a whole year of my life? Is it because I am truly ashamed? Is it because I don’t want to risk the idea of people looking down upon me for having so-called “failed” at life? Is it because I am so caught up with seeking other’s approval that the idea of not having their approval is so devastating to me that I have to stop being authentic and true to myself?
I began to question my motives. Why did I care so much about what others thought of me or my life choices? Why did I base my self worth upon other’s opinions? You must know one thing about me and that is that all of my life I have been the biggest people pleaser. I am an approval addict so to speak. I love hearing people’s affirmations. It makes me feel worthy. It makes me feel good enough. It makes me feel accepted. And up until this moment, I had very little idea that this was unhealthy.
I grew up in an environment where it was normal to want to please others and strive for perfection. So to me, it was normal doing this. It was normal to feel like you had to work for approval and love and that you had to be the best at everything. This is how I’ve lived my life – constantly striving, constantly trying to achieve a sense of perfection that did not truly exist. So that when I did come to an ultimate point of failure in my life this past year, it hit me very hard – to the point where it shattered my illusions of perfection, along with my identity.
I dealt with, and am still dealing with a wide range of emotions that have decidedly sprung up in the last few months: guilt, shame, anger, bitterness, grief, depression, anxiety (lots of anxiety actually.) I also feel that in some ways, I lost the person i used to be. And while at first this scared me, now I am realizing that is really a blessing in disguise. The person I used to be was not truly happy. The person I used to be was only happy on the surface. She moved from one illusion to another, trying to deceive herself most of all that her life was perfect, when in reality it wasn’t. She was filled up by the approval of others. Her achievements and successes gave her worth. Plainly, she did not love herself enough, or maybe even at all. Her identity was fragile and that is why she was so easily broken.
And thus the Self Love Challenge was born.
When we base our worth upon what others think, we will always feel incomplete and inadequate. And when we feel this way, our capacity to love becomes very small, because instead of seeking to love others in a healthy way, we instead seek to please and in return receive affirmation of our identities. But the Ancient Greeks believed that, only when we love ourselves and feel secure in ourselves by practicing Philautia, or the love of the self, is when we can truly love others in the way God intended – in a healthy, honest, unconditional way. Even the Bible itself has recorded the importance of self love in Mark 12:31 where it was said to love your neighbor as yourself. Meaning that we must place importance on loving ourselves just as much as we place importance on loving others.
Many people are often misguided into believe that practicing the art of self love is practicing self behavior, but in reality it is far from it. Loving yourself is like honoring yourself. It it believing that you are worthy. That you are enough. That you are deserving of love. Yes, of course there are severe forms of self love such as narcissism, which is when you start to become obsessed with yourself and believing that you are better than everyone, but this is not the same thing as practicing self love. Practicing self love is simply being true to yourself. It is allowing yourself to just be you and nobody else. To not worry about what others think. To not seek other’s approval or acceptance, but to simply approve and accept of yourself. To feel ok in your own identity that you have created rather than seeking identity from others. And after years of not loving myself and molding myself into different forms of what I believe others wanted me to be, I am simply tired of it! I am tired of being someone I am not and of constantly second guessing my own desires.
2015 may be another ordinary year or another challenging year, but regardless it will be a year filled with self love. It will be a year dedicated to learning to be myself and only myself. It will be a year of compassion and patience towards myself. It will, of course, also be a year filled with challenges and self growth, but what journey isn’t difficult? That is the point of a journey is it not? To overcome. To challenge. To learn. To grow.
So this is what I propose. I dedicate this entire year, 365 days to daily challenges of learning the art of self love. Every day I will practice being kind, being patient, and being loving towards myself. I will write about my journey and what I learn. I will share my experiences. I will give encouragement so that others following my journey will be encouraged to begin their own. I pray that this will not only be a new beginning for myself, but that it will also bring hope and freedom to many others who are stuck in the cycle of not loving themselves enough or even at all. Because in truth, it is very important to love yourself.
“So be easy. Take your time, you are coming home to yourself…” – the becoming, wing.
Even though the official start of the challenge begins tomorrow, January 1st, 2015, I will say that the challenge for today is:
The Self Love Daily Challenge – Day 000 (since it is not the official start)
Allow Yourself to be Willing. Be willing to grow. Be willing to learn. Be willing to start anew. Be willing to love yourself.