To Love Yourself You Must Confront Yourself

A little something I wrote for a class assignment that might resonate with some people...

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There are many, many micro-moments to bigger moments we experience throughout our lives that stack on top of each other to create who and what we are—things we learn in school and through osmosis, stuff we absorb from our parents—their insecurities, frustrations, joys, beliefs, and dreams—both failed and/or realized—social and cultural norms and all the unspoken and spoken expectations…so many things. Over time, these things start to define us, for better or worse. Reversing, or flat out erasing, the negative pieces that get in the way of us realizing our potential can be a long process—after all, it took years for us to become who we are, so unlearning bad habits and traits can also take a long time. In my thirties, I am a much different person than I was in my twenties, but I had to put in a LOT of work to get to where I am. Little hint: the work doesn’t stop.

The major cataclysmic moment for me came in the form of a heartbreak. If you’ve experienced that tugging at your heartstrings, can’t think or see straight, off-the-charts obsessive and possessive kind-of-love, I’m sure you can relate to how difficult it is to recover from it.

Looking back on my twenties now, it’s hard to understand where my head was at; how I became so “crazy;” and why it took me so long to pull myself out of the trenches of an internal war. The biggest culprit was I hadn’t fully developed an identity outside of the things I did. I started figure skating competitively at a really young age.  My earliest memories include twirling around on a thin blade in a sparkly outfit in front of lots of people for cheers and a medal, so for years that’s what I was: the “figure skater.” I was an accomplished dancer, yet another identity. When I entered the working, adult world, I was a “career woman.” My self-worth was wrapped up not in the person I was—my character, what inspired and scared me, what I believed in and stood for.  I defined my self-worth by things like status, self-reliance, financial independence, personal accomplishment—if I couldn’t quantify my success, then it didn’t exist. Take these things away, and I had nothing. I needed to learn to love and accept myself as-is but hadn’t developed the tools to address my weaknesses, confront my emotional obstacles and manifest my personal truth.

Before I could love and accept myself, I had to stop caring so much about how others perceived me. I had to stop wanting everyone to like me; to see me as awesome, pretty, nice, intelligent, and successful. I had to see the flaw in my self-identity being solely wrapped-up in titles and things I was good at. When I fell in love with someone I couldn’t hit the jackpot with, it sent my world into a tailspin because I legit could not handle the idea of failing. I had no reference point for it.

There are so many things in life we can control the outcome of by simple virtue of willpower and effort. Love is not one of them. It’s a two-way street. Sometimes, you’re on an entirely different street than the other person. We usually can’t see it in the moment, and even if we can, it can be hard to call it quits and accept defeat when your biggest fear is failure. I wasn’t failing at love by remaining stuck in a rut and cycle of bad habits and patterns, though. I was failing myself, missing out on the joys of living in the moment, appreciating the journey, dusting myself off and trying again. I had to learn how to live to let go of the things I couldn’t control, and that took years—many more micro-moments and bigger moments that I’ll spare you the details.

Learning to love and accept myself was not an endpoint, and that’s really the point. It's a daily choice. It’s constant, hard work and it doesn’t get PTO, a 401K and nice health benefits. Meeting my husband, getting married, going back to school to pursue my passion as a second career, starting a family—these are all part of the journey of self-love and acceptance that won’t end until my story does. I didn’t wake up one day suddenly confident and accepting of my weaknesses and so-called “failures.” I carried them with me from relationship to relationship, job to job, experience to experience, through every challenge, win, and loss. Each time I got back up, learned something new, grew from it, and moved on. 

We don’t forget important people and defining experiences. They don’t leave us. Like many markers throughout our lives we’ll always remember, but as we grow and evolve, so does our memory and attachment to them. We can be a victim of our experiences, or we can transform them into something beautiful.

I choose, every day, to embrace all the things I've experienced and facets of myself, good and bad, that make up my true identity.

I know it’s my truth because I can’t quantify it.