Self-Love

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I’ve read about self-love for years. I’ve sought out everything I could read on how to love myself. I’m drawn to people who talk about it, write about it and practice it. I think everyone struggles with self-love from time to time but to those of us who have suffered trauma or abuse, loving ourselves often gets set aside for survival. Add in addictive behavior and the choices we make that revictimize ourselves and we’re often left with something that looks a lot more like self-tolerance than self-love.

My Grandma told me before I met my husband that I should marry for money. “After all,” she said, “You can always learn to love him later.” I knew she was joking (she’s been married to my Grandpa for 68 years now) but I think she was hinting at how hard love can be. Not just romantic love but love in all its forms. Sometimes it’s easier to embrace complete strangers than it is to love those closest to us with all their quirks and annoying habits. Imagine how hard it would be to love people if we actually had to hear their thoughts! And we wonder why self-love is difficult sometimes.

My recent experience with life skills coaching with Lisa Neumann at Sober Identity made something very clear to me. I never would’ve admitted before that I didn’t really love myself because that’s just wrong. Of course I love myself. That’s why I stopped drinking. That’s why I work at recovery. That’s why I try to be the best mom I can be. Well…not really. Don’t get me wrong – those are all fantastic endeavors but they were born out of a desire to tolerate myself better, not because I love myself. I know that now because I know what self-love feels like.

I also now know why something is always lacking for me when I read about self-love. You just don’t know until you know and when you do, words fail. Still, I’ll give it my best shot:

Until recently, I mentally divided my life into sections of before and after. I grouped these sections according to traumas, events and lessons. A visualization of my life placed my inner child, teenager, young adult and current me in separate places. I pictured my life like hiking a mountain. When I was on the trail, I couldn’t see how high the mountain was. All I could see were the loose rocks and the looming cliffs I was trying to avoid.

It took climbing the mountain to get to the top and once I was there, all I saw was 360 degrees of me. There were landmarks but they weren’t divided by walls or moats. I saw the entire landscape – the valleys and the peaks. I could see the burnt remains of a forest fire where I lit the match and the dry desert that became a flash flood in the rain. I saw canyons still covered in fog but it was lifting. I saw the lake where I once sat on the edge, my arms stretching out to my reflection like branches drawn through water. Above me was the clear blue sky, so bright I had to shade my eyes. God was everywhere. God had always been there. We are partners in this creation and I am a universe.

I’ve been on a vision quest that has lasted 43 years so far. This is the first time I’ve experienced what it’s like to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and smile, not because my make-up has expertly covered my imperfections but because I see an old friend. Or the experience of calling myself a dummy and sincerely apologizing because it’s so mean. Even these examples can’t capture the tenderness I feel for myself these days.

Love lifts us up where we belong. Cheesy, yes, but don’t blame me. I didn’t write the song. I’m just living it.

33 Comments on “Self-Love

  1. No Matter how old you are or how low you feel about you, it’s never too late!
    No matter how many people have made you feel like you don’t deserve to love yourself, it’s never too late!

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  2. This is a beautiful post. I have been working on self-love and it’s hard. Thanks for helping show the way.

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    • Oops, my post looked like it got eaten so I tried again and now they both show. I guess here’s a good exercise in accepting my mistakes right now!

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  3. This is a truly beautiful post. I’ve been reading Brene Brown on vulnerability and working on accepting myself, and it’s a tough road sometimes. Thanks for your deeply moving words.

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  4. Boy, this is interesting to me. Last week I commented on Lisa’s blog, and said that I’m a work in progress with regard to self-love, but I have hope (thanks to Lisa) that it is an attainable goal. Then I get the pleasure of reading this beautiful post, and get to see hope in action! I am so happy for you, and you provide inspiration to me, Karen!

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    • Thank you! It is definitely attainable. I get so much from Lisa and her blog. I love it when I read something and if feels like it’s speaking directly to me!

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  5. Pingback: Friday Night Pep-Talk 9.1 | Sober Courage

  6. Thank you Karen! Great post, so powerful and it just filled me up with joy for you and us who find this amazing fulfillment in ourself and our lives. To be finally ok in my skin, to be ok with others, to find joy in simple things, to see through new eyes. Life! It is an amazing journey.

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  7. This is so beautiful, Karen, your journey and your writing.

    We may not like what happened to us, we may not have chosen it or controlled it, but it is still us. It is still our story. And to fully love ourselves, I think we have to see ourselves holistically, not divided; we are all parts of the whole. “I am a universe.” I love that.

    Has Ruta introduced you to BigLizzy yet? I just read a special post of hers today and felt I should share it with you. You both have come from past trauma, and you both shine brilliantly. And you both love yourselves FOR yourselves.

    Beautiful,
    Christy

    http://blackboxwarnings.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/from-hades-to-happiness/

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    • I hadn’t discovered BigLizzy yet so thank you for sharing that link. What an amazing post. I’m following her blog now!

      Yes, seeing myself holistically and not divided is a big deal for me and a long time coming. As with everything, it’s a process but there’s no turning back this time. This can’t be taken away. Thank you so much Christy!

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      • You are so welcome!

        Lizzie did that as a guest-spot on BBW, but just click her name in the comments to go to her “full-time” blog. (If you didn’t already; they’re both great blogs.) She’s good people, AND lives in AZ.

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          • Karen-LOVE! Thank you so much for following BigBodyBeautiful, my new friend. Am LOVING your blog so much and now follow you. Heck, I would follow you anywhere. What a bright light you are, honey. It’s so, so good to meet you. We have our sweet Christy to thank for this introduction. Love you both!

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    • Christy, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH for sharing the link to ma stuff and the props here, honey. You’re just the most lovely, gorgeous human being ever. I’m so excited to get to know Karen, too and am now a proud follower of her blog as well. See? You go through your life just helping people and spreading the light, babe. I Love you so much, sis. XOXO

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      • Oh yay!!! So glad to see two beautiful AZ ladies connected! I have a feeling you two will have much love and grace to offer each other.

        Love you both! xo

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  8. Karen, this is such a beautiful post! I love your writing and your honesty – and I love that song! Thanks for reminding all of us to be kind to ourselves.

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  9. I so love when I see someone receive them-self: You are accurate in your sentiment. There are not even words to adequately describe that feeling of looking in the mirror and it’s just all okay … all of it … even the shit we didn’t think would ever be okay. Karen, you work hard as seeing your thinking. You are one of the fortunate few. Thank you for trusting the process. You are a bright light and will help many. The gifts you have opened yourself to receive are innumerable—abundant beyond imagination. I hope we never stop growing. Me

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  10. I love you and am very proud of you…your kids and husband are very lucky!

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  11. This is NOT a cheesy song, and An Office and a Gentleman is not a cheesy movie. I love this post! _

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