If there’s one thing I know how to do well, it’s sharing my struggles after I’m safely on the other side. But not this time, and being this transparent is uncomfortable.
Here’s something I’ve learnt lately: doing the work of self-love is unrelenting! Because self-love (like all forms of love) is neither a destination nor a feeling; it’s a verb.
Learning that lesson has not come easily for me because there is always one thing or the other for me to be insecure about:
- My weight (and the constant battle with it)
- The stretch marks that appeared before I even became a teenager
- My boobs which have been too big and not perky enough
- My skin (adult acne any one?)
And my insecurities have not been limited to physical traits either. I’ve had to struggle through whether I was “too much” or “not enough” or irrevocably broken in some way. It’s exhausting!
Between 2013 and 2014, I did some serious work on self-love and accepting myself. That included exercising (I picked up running in 2013) and losing a significant amount of weight because I wanted to be healthier. I stopped trying to cover up the visible stretch marks on my arms because I decided it was foolish to always wear shrugs and scarves even in the summer time. I actively worked on being okay with my acne-ridden face without makeup because covering up with makeup landed me in this vicious cycle where the makeup made me break out even more and then I needed more makeup to cover up. But I also sought medical assistance with my skin, which helped significantly (though it’s still slightly problematic).
One of quotes that helped me in 2014 was:
“You have more to do than be weighed down by pretty or beautiful. You are a fiery heart and a wicked brain. Do not let your soul be defined by its shell.”
So it’s all good, right? I did the work and I emerged triumphant? Well, I certainly thought that but I was clearly wrong. For years, all that work paid off and my confidence, dedication to self-love and total acceptance remained and got me through some tough times. But I hit a wall in 2018.
I graduated from Stanford University with two master’s degrees to show for it but then I had to face the physical toll that the stress of doing that had taken on my body. In about 1.5 years, I had gained back most of the weight that I had worked incredibly hard to lose and keep off for about 4 years. Having to face that without the distraction of school sent me spiraling to depths that I hadn’t reached in a while. How could I have allowed myself get back here? How could I have undone all my hard work? I had so much self-loathing and did not want to exist in my own body.
It’s been a long and tough way up since then, and I’m nowhere near where I know I need to be but I’m working on it and that’s what’s important. I also realize how the foundation of self-love I laid in 2013/2014 has helped (and is helping) me get back up.
While losing weight again is important to me (and I’m working on that), I am also constantly trying to focus on what my body can do and how much stronger I am constantly getting. I just ran 16+ miles (25+ kilometers) this past Saturday and followed it up with a 7-mile (11+ kilometer) run on Sunday. That’s a big deal (for me at least)! I have a strong and able body that carries me through so much, and I am learning to always remain thankful for that.
Here’s another revelation that I’ve had recently:
I AM WORTHY
Whether or not anything changes in my life, body, circumstances, situation, or whatever, I am still worthy. Worthy of love, happiness, joy, fulfillment, everything! My worth comes from God and so it’s never going to change. I remember the day (just this year) I literally said that out loud to myself and how free I felt in that moment. This is a lesson I’ll be going back to for a while.
Another thing I do is leave myself reminders of lessons I need to learn. I mostly do this by putting a message on my phone’s home screen so each time I pick up my phone I see the message. A message stays there until I think there is something else I need to be reminded of in that season of my life. I do this for lessons beyond self-love but some of my favourite self-love related ones have been:
- I am enough
- Be gracious to yourself
These days, you’ll mostly find me without makeup, not getting on the scale obsessively, and actively trying to stay unbothered by what the numbers on the scale say. I am in a much better and healthier place than I was just 5 months ago but I am still learning and growing. This season has made me wiser and now I know that doing the work of self-love has to be intentional and ongoing. Going forward, I’ll be actively creating space and time for that work in my life, and I hope you do too.